July 29, 2014
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McQuade responds to Internet survey concerns Research

In my previous post, I questioned News 10 NBC’s handling of a story about a Greece pastor who voiced his concern over RIT research that surveyed area school children about their Internet habits. That post generated a couple questions about Dr. Sam McQuade’s research. We decided it would be best for Dr. McQuade to answer these questions directly. Here are his responses:

Comment 1:

Herb, thanks for the question and seeking to check some facts before
rendering judgment in this matter.

Please be advised that all versions of student, parent and teacher
surveys were available at www.rrcsei.org until fairly
recently, when, with substantial assistance from Time Warner, the Cyber
Safety and Ethics Initiative redesigned the Web site. In the process,
and after all surveys were completed in January 2008, the surveys
were pulled off-line. I anticipate they will be reposted in the
relatively near future as RIT releases findings of the study.

The complete set of sex-related questions included in the student
surveys are as follows by grade levels:

Survey (Grades) 2-3

28.Has someone online on the Internet ever asked you private things
about
your body? Yes No

29.Has someone online on the Internet ever told or shown you private
things about their body? Yes No

Survey 4-6

15) During the last school year (Yes No)?

Has someone online asked you for pictures of yourself without your
clothes on?
Has someone online shown you pictures of themselves without their
clothes on?
Has someone online asked you to talk about private things about your
body?
Has someone online talked to you about private things about their body?

Survey 7-9

15) During the last school year, have you used the Internet to (Yes No):

Give personal information about yourself?
Talk about things that are very private?
Accept an invitation to meet someone in person?
Ask someone to meet in person?

17) During the past year (Yes No)

Has someone online asked you for pictures of yourself without your
clothes on?
Has someone online shown you pictures of themselves without their
clothes on?
Has someone online asked you to talk to them about sexual things?
Has someone online talked to you about sexual things?

Survey 10-12

7) During this school year, how much time did you typically spend each
week on each of the following activities? (For each activity please
type the
number of hours)

Flirt
Talk about things that are very private
Discuss what your body looks like or sexual things you have done
Discuss what your body looks like or sexual things you have done
Discuss what your body looks like or sexual things you have done
Viewing or downloading pornography online

9) To what extent during this school year did your parents supervise
you while
you engaged in the activities listed below? (If you did not engage in
a particular
activity, skip it and go onto the next activity.)

No Supervision; A Little Supervision; Some Supervision; A Lot of
Supervision; Constant Supervision

Visiting online relationship or dating sites
Viewing or download pornography online

15) Please indicate how many times during this school year you

Never; Once; Twice; Three; Four or More Times; Not Sure

Were exposed to unwanted pornographic or other sexual material online
Had someone online ask you about your sexual activities
Had someone chat with you about sex online

28) On how many separate occasions during this school year you have
used a
computer or electronic device to…

Never; Once; Twice; Three; Four or More Times; Not Sure

Ask another person to engage in sexually oriented chat m m m m m
Ask another person to engage in physical sexual acts via chat m m m m m

29) On how many separate occasions during this school year you have
used a
computer or electronic device to…

Never; Once; Twice; Three; Four or More Times; Not Sure

Send pornographic or sex-related material to someone else
Send pornographic or sex-related images of yourself to someone else
Download and view pornographic or sex-related content
Download and view pornographic or sex-related content involving
people of your own age or younger
Download and view pornographic or sex-related content involving
people older than you
Post pornographic or sex-related images of yourself in a public place

The above questions comprised a relatively small proportion of
overall questions asked of any age/grade level. They were reviewed in
advance by dozens of professionals and educators including people
whose job it is to protect children involved in research studies.

I do not regard the above sex-related questions as “lewd”. I do
regard them as being developmentally appropriate given what we know
from prior studies of 10-17 year olds has occurred via the Internet
since 1996 (see national survey reports of University of New
Hampshire funded by Congress and the National Center for Missing and
Exploited Children). Many of the sex-related questions asked
repeat those asked in prior studies, including those funded by Congress.

Incidentally, RIT will not be releasing any district-specific data,
rather “aggregated findings” derived from 40,000+ survey responses
from 14 participating school districts.

Hope this helps to clarify. Thanks again for the question.

SM

Comment Two

In response to ethical issues raised about ways in which parents were
not informed about the specific nature of questions, readers of this
blog may wish to also consider the following:

ALL QUESTIONS OF ALL SURVEY INSTRUMENTS were vetted by
representatives of all school districts and other knowledgeable
professionals associated with the project, including RIT’s
Institutional Review Board, as required by Federal Regulations that
govern research involving human subjects, and legal counsels
representing RIT and participating school districts.

ALL QUESTIONS OF ALL SURVEY INSTRUMENTS were, according to rules
established by RIT, available in hard copy and online for a period in
advance of the survey as required by New York State law.

SPECIFIC WEBLINKS to view all survey questions were also provided to
parents via U.S. Mail.

I personally attended numerous parent, PTA, PTSO and other public
meetings to answer questions about the study and survey questions
well in advance of the pilot surveys being administered in five
school districts prior to May-June, 2007 and afterward in Greece
Central School District.

In addition, news about the study was made public via numerous media
outlets in advance of surveying, including by WXXI talk radio and
television, by newspaper articles and op-ed endorsements of the
research by both the Greece Post Messenger and Rochester Democrat and
Chronicle, and via county, state, regional and national conference
presentations and symposia, including one made to the Monroe County
School Boards Association.

All questions were based on sound research evidence found PRIOR to
RIT’s research, including national studies funded by the U.S.
Congress through the National Center for Missing and Exploited
Children and undertaken by Researchers at the University of New
Hampshire between 1999-2007.

The notion that sex-related questions asked of youth is something
new, irrelevant or unethical is incorrect – unfortunately, data now
substantiate that kids are exposed to sexual content online very
early in life, and once they become adolescents often seek out such
on their own. Further, data reveal that parents are unfortunately not
aware and in some instances may be incapable of knowing what their
kids are doing or experiencing online.

The real questions ought to be about how society can help youth make
responsible decisions, what parents need in order to better supervise
their children when they deem it appropriate, and what schools and
other institutions should consider doing to help make children safer
when using computers and other IT devices like cell phones. That is
what the research is designed to accomplish.

SM

 

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