New Report Reveals Importance of Adult Involvement in Teens' Online Behavior

“Meeting of Minds” reports the result of cross-generational dialogues between adults and teens on ethical behavior

Common Sense Media
Thursday, December 3, 2009

New York, NY/San Francisco, CA - Global Kids, Harvard's GoodPlay Project and Common Sense Media today released Meeting of Minds, a report that highlights the ways in which parents, teachers, and teens relate to the emerging ethical dimensions of life online. The report is the result of a series of cross-generational online dialogues held this past spring about digital ethics, and reveals the critical importance of active adult engagement with teens to help develop healthy attitudes about online behaviors that often have long-lasting and far-reaching effects.

"Youth are largely navigating these new online spaces on their own, without any real adult guidance," said Rafi Santo, Senior Program Associate in Global Kids' Online Leadership Program. "We wanted to facilitate genuine conversation between generations about real-life issues kids are facing, such as how to present themselves online and how to relate to intellectual property. Adults often feel like they're in the dark about new technologies, and teens need guidance navigating the ethical issues associated with them. We hope the report will help to bridge this gap."

"Both adults and teens have important points to bring to conversations about digital literacy and citizenship. Adults bring their wisdom about the world, while teens bring their comfort and understanding of technology," said Linda Burch, Chief Education and Strategy Officer at Common Sense Media. "We are so happy with the quantity and the quality of participation in this dialogue. It's our hope that other groups will follow our lead and facilitate their own conversations between adults and teens on these online ethical issues over the Internet, in classrooms, at dinner tables, through community forums, and even at the policy level so that young people are empowered to be good digital citizens."

The findings from the report revealed that teens' biggest concerns in ethically challenging situations online are repercussions for themselves, rather than the implications of their actions for larger communities. Adults, on the other hand, are more concerned with responsibility to others and to communities when discussing digital dilemmas. For example, a teen who makes a fake profile page about her teacher might think it's funny, while adults are more likely to point out how such an act might hurt or damage the teacher's reputation.

The cross-generational dialogues, the first of their kind, included more than 250 participants from around the world and 2,500 posts from members that yielded rich information about the greatest points of connection and contention between teens and adults. Throughout the dialogues, adults and teens discussed their varied perspectives on how to behave in a digital world through a variety of scenarios concerning online ethics. Conversations ranged from illegal downloading and the creativity associated with remixing, to the factors that go into deciding to meet an online connection face-to-face.

To download the report, click here.

To view the archive of the dialogues, visit

About Global Kids, Inc.
Founded in 1989, Global Kids' mission is to educate and inspire urban youth to become successful students, global citizens and community leaders by engaging them in academically rigorous, content-rich learning experiences. We educate youth about critical international and domestic issues and promote their engagement in civic life and the democratic process. Through our Online Leadership Program we provide teens with opportunities to address community needs, raise awareness about global issues, and develop 21st-century skills through the use of new media. You can read about this work at and

About The GoodPlay Project at Harvard's Project Zero
Supported by the MacArthur Foundation, the GoodPlay Project is an initiative focused on the ethical contours of young people's digital lives. Led by Howard Gardner, we are exploring five issues we believe to be ethically charged in the new digital media: Identity, privacy, ownership/authorship, credibility, and participation. In our research, we study the ethical stances of digital youth with respect to these issues. We also create curriculum to scaffold greater ethical thinking online. To download the white paper on digital ethics that framed the Focus Dialogues, visit:

About Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the media and entertainment lives of kids and families. We exist because media and entertainment profoundly impact the social, emotional, and physical development of our nation's children. As a non-partisan, not-for- profit organization, we provide trustworthy information and tools, as well as an independent forum, so that families can have a choice and a voice about the media they consume. Common Sense Media also works with educators and policymakers to build programs that empower kids to become good digital citizens. Visit for parent media tips, media reviews, and educational resources for classroom use.

Press Contact:
Marisa Connolly
Communications Manager, Common Sense Media
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