Mt. Vernon Register-News

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March 13, 2013

Report: More youth use smartphones as route to Web

(Continued)

"It's pretty clear that kids will do what kids will do," he says. But he acknowledges that having a mobile device can make it that much easier to access.

The key, he says, is to talk to his son about it, and that's what many other tech and communication experts also advise.

"I don't think the technology itself is bad. The benefits vastly outweigh the risks. But parents do need to be aware," says Daniel Castro, a senior analyst with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a research and education think tank based in Washington, D.C.

"Part of it is simply asking, 'What are you doing, and why?'"

Too often, he and others say, adults don't fully understand how the smartphones work — or how their kids might use them differently than they do.

So guidance from parents, teachers and other adults can be lacking, says Danah Boyd, a senior researcher at Microsoft Research who specializes in teens and their tech-driven communication.

"For the last decade, too much of the online safety conversation has focused on surveillance. Surveillance will not help in a world of handhelds, but conversation will," says Boyd, who's also a research assistant professor of media, culture and communication at New York University.

She points to research by Henry Jenkins, the director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has long encouraged parents, schools and after-school programs to focus on how to navigate the online world — from developing judgment about credible online sources to using high-tech skills to help build community and pool collective knowledge.

At the Conkey household in suburban Chicago, brothers Donald and Harry know their parents track the music they buy and might look at their Web surfing history when borrowing their sons' laptops. Mom Brooke Conkey acknowledges that she also may glance at the occasional text.

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