This arrived in my e-mail inbox yesterday:

CDC REVIEW OF ELECTRONIC MEDIA AND YOUTH VIOLENCE
Research Shows Increase in Electronic Aggression

In September 2006, experts from academic institutions, federal agencies, and nonprofit organizations gathered at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, to better understand the varied ways new media technology – blogs, instant messaging, chat rooms, email, text messaging and the Internet – influences youth aggression. The two-day meeting, "Electronic Media and Youth Violence," was held to review current research and to discuss the implications for youth, parents, school staff, and educational policymakers. Data from the review show although rates of electronic aggression are lower than rates of physical and verbal aggression, these rates seem to be increasing. In 2000, 6 percent of internet users ages 10 to 17 said they had been subjected to online harassment; by 2005, the percentage had risen to 9 percent – an increase of 50 percent. 

The complete review can found in the December 2007 supplement of the Journal of Adolescent Health. To access a complete copy of the Journal and the supporting issue briefs, which summarize the research and discuss the implications of these findings for youth, parents, school staff, and educational policy makers, please visit www.cdc.gov/injury.

A few thoughts...

  1. Most parents probably don't do near enough at home to teach and monitor children's appropriate usage of electronic communication tools. We know that schools and religious institutions don't when kids are with them. So why should we be surprised that some children and adolescents are using these tools for inappropriate purposes? It's like Lord of the Flies out there when it comes to adult supervision!
  2. The JAH research articles on this topic are impressive. It's going to take me a while to read through them all. My first scan, however, is that while there seems to be a bevy of top notch, peer-review-quality research there, it's all on the harmful effects of communication technologies and none on the empowering effects of the same. We need good, data-based information on this topic, but I'd like to see academia provide some counterpoint research on the positive aspects too, not just more fear-driven research. I want to also see a two-day meeting on Electronic Media and Youth Empowerment. We're not going to back to a tech-less society. Why can't we get info on both sides of the coin so that we can make intelligent decisions about this stuff?
  3. 'An increase of 50 percent' sounds ominous. An actual rise from 6 percent to 9 percent doesn't. Presentation makes all the difference.
  4. The policy implications from the expert panel crack me up. Essentially the panel said 'The federal government should do very little. The states should do more. School districts and schools should do the most.' In other words, they could have just typed the word 'federalism' on a piece of paper, handed it in, and gone out for coffee. Nice job, folks!