Students Sound Off on Georgia Campus Carry Bill

JJIE intern Claire Bohrer experimented with Instagram and Facebook videos, interviewing students at Kennesaw State University on a Georgia bill that would allow some students to carry handguns on campus. The bill is likely to be voted on in the state Senate this week.

Check it out on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

If you would like to shoot a short video for us, send it to Roger Newton at

Child Advocates Prepare to Rally in Cincinnati

Chaplain Daniel Rodriguez, a member of the New York Child Action Team, is ready for #CDFcon2012

CINCINNATI - Marian Wright Edelman sees this as a “do or die” moment for American democracy.

The first black woman to join the Mississippi bar, Edelman led the NAACP’s legal defense fund in Jackson in the 1960s. She’s seen her share of social injustice. But rising incarceration, poverty and social disparity in the United States is increasingly harming children and poor people, she says – the country’s most vulnerable groups -- while special interests and money control the political system.

It’s time for citizens to roll up their sleeves, she says.

Starting Sunday, about 3,000 researchers, educators, lawyers, community leaders and young people from around the country will congregate for four days in Cincinnati for the first conference in nine years organized by Edelman and the advocacy organization she founded in 1973, the Children’s Defense Fund. Edelman and her staff have spent the last year planning the gathering, with the hope of galvanizing grassroots action when participants return to their communities.

“This is not a problem-wallowing or hand-wringing conference. It is a strategic, problem-solving conference,” Edelman said in a video inviting people to attend. “It is a conference for those who will stay the course until our children are set on a trajectory toward a hopeful future and are rescued from the pervasive poverty and illiteracy, racial disparities and incarceration that is destroying their futures. It is a conference for sharing and learning about effective community-building models, and steps you can take to implement them in your community, and your schools and congregations, and your cities and states.”

Half the participants will be young people aged 18 to 30, handpicked for their engagement in their communities, their commitment to leadership and social change, and for their diverse perspectives, said Wendy Shenefelt, head of CDF’s national youth leadership and development outreach. They’ll follow a special training track in nonviolent direct action, voter empowerment and community organizing skills, and attend daily wrap-up sessions to discuss what they have learned. In some sessions, youth will meet with civil-rights-era icons to directly learn strategies to implement change, Shenefelt said.

“We’ve tried to invite people of different viewpoints,” Shenefelt said, “We look for people who are already out there doing amazing work and who are seen as leaders in the young advocate world, but then we also look for young people who have gone through challenges, challenges that would have knocked anyone else off their feet but they have worked through them: children of incarcerated parents, young parents, teen parents, who have different opinions of how to fix the problem as well as what the problem really is.”

Youth Today and will be covering the conference with photos, video and stories on Twitter, Facebook  and on this home page. Follow us @youthtoday or @JJIEga or search for tweets from the conference with the hashtag “CDFcon2012.”

Speakers  include poet Maya Angelou, who will deliver the keynote, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who will present a video keynote on the economic importance of a quality early childhood education, and lawyer Bryan Stevenson of the Montgomery-Ala.,-based Equal Justice Initiative, who successfully argued the case against sentencing juveniles to mandatory life without parole before the U.S. Supreme Court this spring.

The Children’s Defense Fund, on Twitter as @childdefender, is already anticipating a lot of Twitter activity by attendees.

“Dear Twitter: Get ready for next week. We're gonna blow you up...,” it tweeted on Thursday.

Photo from @CDFNewYork.

Facebook May Change Rules to Allow Children Under 13

For the first time, Facebook is considering allowing children under 13 to join the social networking site, according to a story in The Wall Street Journal. But a study last year by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found Facebook is already full of children younger than 13. According to the report, 46 percent of 12-year-olds are already using Facebook despite the prohibition, either with their parents’ permission or by lying about their age.

The Wall Street Journal reports Facebook is researching policies and new technologies that will keep young children safe while using the page. Possibilities include giving parents control over their child’s account by linking the parent and child accounts together. Parents would then be able to make decisions about who their child is interacting with on the site and what applications the child uses.

A story in PC World says many parents already allow their young children to use Facebook under supervision. But the new policies could make it easier for parents to control what their children do on the site.


Photo from: Internet Safety for Kids Today

Facebook App Puts Public Inside Foster Care System

“Trapped: Fighting the Odds of U.S. Foster Care”

Each year, more than half a million children come into contact with the foster care system in the United States. Of those, 80 percent suffer from severe emotional problems, according to a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Less than 50 percent receive their high school diploma, and far fewer go into any type of post-secondary education.

Those are some of the statistics, but what’s it’s like to walk in their shoes? What’s it like to face the tough challenges and choices these young men and women deal with on a daily basis?

A recently launched Facebook app aims to answer those questions by offering an interactive, social experience that should help raise awareness about the challenges and outcomes of the system.

Trapped: Fighting the Odds of U.S. Foster Care” allows users to track two fictitious brothers as they make their way through the child welfare system and mature into adulthood, both with extremely different outcomes.

Through the lives of “Jason” and “Jeff,” Children’s Rights, the New York-based non-profit that developed the application, hopes to broaden the public’s understanding of what goes on in a system largely shielded by confidentiality concerns.

“We occasionally read in the press about tragic child deaths or other problems in the child welfare system, but rarely are the public informed on the system-wide issues,” said Ira Lustbader, associate director of Children’s Rights. “’Trapped’ is our initiative to expand public awareness on the issues effecting kids in foster care, and it’s a very exciting concept.”

A typical foster kid is bounced between six to 10 homes, sometimes within a single year, before finding long-term placement, Lustbader said. For those that age out of the system and never find a permanent home – nearly 30,000 youth in 2009 – future outlooks are particularly dim.

“The prospects for kids who age out of the system are bleak,” Lustbader said. “Only 2.5 percent graduate a four-year college, as many as 31 percent spend time homeless and as many as 75 percent of boys spend time in jail.”

These facts are mirrored through the tale of “Jeff,” separated from his brother “Jason” shortly after entering the system.

“Jason” finds his way to a loving and supporting home, ultimately going on to college and landing a successful job. “Jeff,” on the other hand, is bounced between homes for years, eventually aging out of the system. Unable to find work and without any family or other support, he finds himself homeless and without a dime to his name.

The narrative is fictional, but it mirrors a swath of data about outcomes for some foster youth.

Standards and results vary by state. Between 2004-2008, more than half of the children in foster care lived in just nine states – California, Illinois, Florida, Indiana, New York., Michigan, Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania – according to a 2010 report by the Children’s Defense Fund.

At least 25 states failed to meet federal standards for protecting kids in the foster care system, according to FY 2010 data from the Department of Health and Human Services Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System.

“These are unacceptable outcomes from a system that uses tax-payer dollars,” Lustbader said. “The more people know about this, the more noise we make about these problems, [the more likely it is] we can hold the system accountable.”

Children’s Rights is a national advocacy group that has worked to bring change to struggling child welfare systems in more than a dozen states. The non-profit currently has class-action lawsuits active in three states related to the child welfare reform.

Social Media Accounts Potentially Problematic for Scholarship Applicants

school house unlock locker 1 - JJIE Stock photoWhat’s the weight of that old Facebook post or YouTube video? Well, it could be a lot if you’re hunting for college scholarship money.

In a recent survey, about a quarter of college scholarship providers said they check applicant’s online presence before making final awards, or deciding not to.

The survey conducted by Fastweb, a scholarship search site, and the National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA), a contingent of 300 scholarship providers awarding more than $1 billion annually, found that nearly a third of scholarship providers using social media and search to screen applicants have denied scholarship money based on information found online.

Providers use services such as Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google and Twitter to vet perspective applicants.

These scholarship providers largely use social sites to seek out “red flags,” or questionable activity among applicants, that may reflect negatively on the provider.

However, screeners also look for positive traits, honing in on attributes like creativity, communication skills and demonstrations of good judgment. Nearly a quarter of those screening via social media said information found online helped support their original decision, proving social media has the potential to be both good and bad.

Facebook was by far the most popular, with 92 percent using the platform to vet applicants. About a quarter used LinkedIn or YouTube, and less than 10 percent used Twitter in the screening process.

Survey questions were submitted to the 300 NSPA members, of which about a quarter responded. A handful of respondents said they hadn't thought of screening via social media prior to receiving the survey questions, but planned on discussing it with their scholarship committees.

The Report, “Survey Concerning the Use of Web Search Sites and Social Media Sites for Evaluating Scholarship Applicants,” offers these tips for developing a professional online presence:

  1. Use an appropriate email address, such as Do not use offensive or sexually suggestive email addresses.
  2. Google your name and review at least the first ten pages of search results for inappropriate material. Correct any problems, if possible.
  3. Review your Facebook account, removing inappropriate and immature material and anything that may be misinterpreted. Remove pictures or videos that show illegal or questionable behavior. Avoid using profanity. Delete questionable posts by others on your wall. Ask an adult, such as a parent, to review your Facebook page to help you identify problematic material.
  4. Think twice before posting anything offensive, illegal or otherwise inappropriate.

Access the full report here.

Excerpt: "Survey Concerning the Use of Web Search Sites and Social Media Sites for Evaluating Scholarship Applicants"

Photo Credit: Clay Duda/JJIE Stock Photo

Facebook, Marketing and the Clash Over Kids

Millions of young kids are already on Facebook, even though the site can’t legally allow anyone under 13 to create a profile. And if the previous statement were a status update, Facebook would “like” it.

The popular social networking wants all youngsters to be allowed; this way they can begin sharing early. Consider this: When anyone shares on the site, Facebook benefits by allowing marketers to use the data and it makes money. Giving all kids the right to sign up would insure the site’s continued dominance.

Weeks after Consumer Reports announced in June 2011 that 7.5 million kids age 12 and younger are on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg made it clear that he wanted to challenge the 1998 act, known as Coppa, which prevents websites from collecting personal data about kids under 13 without permission from their parents.

As a New York Times article discusses, it’s not known how joining Facebook at a young age impacts kids. Some say it's essentially harmless and fun, while others argue it exposes children to bullying and harassment.

Zuckerberg and others in Silicon Valley, believe that nonstop sharing, at every age, is inevitable, so we might as well allow everyone to do it.

One concern is the default privacy settings Facebook uses, especially considering research shows that most people never change their settings. Many people of all ages are sharing things without realizing it. With young people, the situation only worsens.

Facebook is taking action against the dangers of sharing, although none of these addresses privacy concerns. The following are three examples mentioned in the article:

  1. the site uses a technology to find and remove child pornography;
  2. it's a partner in law enforcement's Amber alert system for missing children;
  3. and, in September, the social network started testing a special e-mail address with a small group of principals and guidance counselors that gives schools an inside track for urgent reports on bullying and fighting.

In contrast, the Federal Trade Commission wants to require websites to get parents' permission before they can track the online movements of kids under 13 for marketing purposes. And a bill recently introduced in Congress, called Do Not Track Kids, would bar websites outright from using kids’ data to target ads to them until they are 17.

New Social Media Guidelines for Alcohol Companies to Prevent Advertising to Kids

general liquor in store 1 - stock photo, Clay Duda/JJIE StaffWant to interact with your favorite alcohol companies on Facebook? Then you better be able to legally take a drink.

Starting September 30, alcohol companies in the United States and Europe now have to consider a set of self-regulatory guidelines designed to prevent marketing their products to kids, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) issued these rules for advertising and marketing on all branded digital marketing communications, including social networking sites, websites, blogs, mobile communications and other applications.

Alcohol marketers already use age gates on their brand websites, requiring people to enter their birth date to prevent minors from accessing the sites. And they are restricted to advertising only to media where at least 71.6 percent of the audience is expected to be old enough to buy alcohol legally. Recent data from Nielson shows that more than 80 percent of people using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are older than 21, so marketing on these sites is allowed.

DISCUS and the European Forum for Responsible Drinking, developed these new guidelines as an attempt to keep up with technological advancements. Monitoring the rules, however, is expected to be a challenge.

A DISCUS spokesperson told the paper that the group will investigate companies that are not reported to be in compliance with the guidelines.

Several other new rules exist to protect people’s privacy and personal information, including the following:

  1. Brand marketing and product promotions must be clearly identified in media-like blogs.
  2. Instructions must be included encouraging people to only forward promotions to adults who are older than 21 years old.

For more information about alcohol, see JJIE’s resources about youth and drugs and alcohol.

Photo credit: Clay Duda/

2011 Research Data Shows Social Media Sites Can Improve Students’ Education

Spending time on social media sites, such as Facebook, can help students do better in school, according to new research by an education professor at University of Maryland.

In a survey of 600 low-income high school students, Christine Greenhow found that students build bonds when they connect with school friends on social networking sites. She said she focused on low-income students because research on this group is lacking but necessary for creating more equal learning opportunities.

“When kids feel connected and have a strong sense of belonging to the school community, they do better in school,” Greenhow told the investigative reporting website California Watch.

Some students also turn to their social networks for tips about college and career choices.

Her paper will be published in the winter, but the debate is still going strong about whether teachers should use social media in their classrooms.

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education released its National Education Technology Plan, which includes a proposal to use social networking as a platform for learning. Some educators are concerned that the sites encourage students to procrastinate and catch up with friends.

Earlier this month, JJIE reported on a study that says social networking teens are more likely to smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs because they see pictures of the activities on the sites.

Greenhow acknowledges the pitfalls, but still believes in recognizing the positive side. She’s been studying adolescent Internet habits since 2007, and also found that high school students are boosting their creativity and technology skills through the sites.

Whether social networking is good or bad, many students are using the sites on a daily basis. Seventy-three percent of wired American teens now use social networking websites, according to the most recent data presented by the Pew Research Center in 2010.

Social Networking Teens More Likely to Drink or Use Drugs, Study Finds

Teens who spend time on social networking sites such as Facebook are more likely to smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs, says a new survey by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA). The report says:

Compared to teens who do not spend time on a social networking site in a typical day, teens who do are:

  • Five times likelier to have used tobacco (10 percent vs. 2 percent);
  • Three times likelier to have used alcohol (26 percent vs. 9 percent);
  • Twice as likely to have used marijuana (13 percent vs. 7 percent).

The CASA study theorizes the increase is due to what kids are finding on social networking sites. “Half of teens who spend any time on social networking sites have seen pictures of kids drunk, passed out or using drugs on the sites,” the report says.

“The results are profoundly troubling,” the study says. “This year’s survey reveals how the anything goes, free-for-all world of Internet expression, suggestive television programming and what-the-hell attitudes put teens at sharply increased risk of substance abuse.”

According to the Chicago Tribune, some experts are wary of the correlation between social networking and teen substance abuse. But many agree that parents need to keep a watchful eye on their teen’s Internet habits.

Win $100 Every Week During Facebook Contest

Our digital communication team announced it will run a six-week contest on our Facebook page with a chance to win a $100 gift card and a JJIE VIP Swag Pack. The contest began Aug. 11, 2011 and will continue until Sept.14, 2011.

Entering is really simple. Just “like” the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange page (,) answer one question (which is not required), and then tune in to the Ishto see if you won.We've seen a lot of growth over on Facebook, and we'd like you to join that community. Head on over now. If you're not already a fan of the page, you'll be taken directly to this week's question. If you are already a part of our Facebook community, click on the "See Saw" tab on the left navigation menu.

Good luck!