A full recording of this panel is available on YouTube. View it here.
Thank you so much, Aura, for your partnership and support in putting together this webinar.
On Tuesday, February 15th, the Family Online Safety Institute and Aura, a provider of intelligent safety solutions, convened a panel discussion entitled, “Teen Relationships: The Good, The Bad, & How Parents Can Help in a Digital World.” Stephen Balkam, FOSI’s Founder & CEO moderated the conversation between these leading experts: Dr. David Greenfield of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction; Erica Olsen of the National Network to End Domestic Violence; Rita Smith of DomesticShelters.org; and Ryan Toohil of Aura.
The panelists began their conversation by discussing the importance of having open conversations about tech expectations and responsibilities as teens and young people join online spaces to explore their identities and relationships - particularly as different generations have different expectations for online safety and data privacy. The panelists agreed that conversations around consent are an effective way to establish privacy and safety online and lessen unintended consequences.
The panelists then discussed ways that parents can identify if their child is in an unhealthy relationship. Some of the advice included getting to know who their child’s best friend is in order to be more approachable and have someone else to ask if anything is wrong; knowing how to recognize signs of withdrawal, secrecy, or stress over a device, account, or notifications; and overall how to engage with teens in order to keep them talking.
The conversation then flowed to the topic of parental controls, specifically about managing expectations while implementing them. For example, it is encouraged that parents be open about the use of controls and explain what will happen when a child reaches a particular website before they are implemented. The panelists agreed that it is best to talk early to children about online safety, citing kindergarten to age 7 as appropriate timing, and that while easy technical solutions do exist for monitoring behavior, it shouldn’t replace the opportunity to have safety conversations with your child.
Finally, the panelists gave commentary on what platforms can do as next steps after a user has reported a violation of their service and how to lessen the effects of minimizing the issue. The panel discussed how the pandemic has affected their work, specifically noting that lockdown periods forced isolation between victims and abusers and allowed abuse to persist. And they gave suggestions on how parents can talk to their teens about suggestive, explicit photos, image-based abuse, and consent. The conversation closed after the panelists gave their thoughts on the emerging metaverse.
Founder & CEO
Family Online Safety Institute
For the past 30 years, Stephen Balkam has had a wide range of leadership roles in the nonprofit sector in both the US and UK. He is currently the Founder and CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), an international, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, DC. FOSI’s mission is to make the online world safer for kids and their families. FOSI convenes the top thinkers and practitioners in government, industry and the nonprofit sectors to collaborate and innovate and to create a “culture of responsibility” in the online world.
Prior to FOSI, Stephen was the Founder and CEO of the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA) and led a team which developed the world’s leading content labeling system on the web. While with ICRA, Stephen served on the US Child Online Protection Commission (COPA) in 2000 and was named one of the Top 50 UK Movers and Shakers, Internet Magazine, 2001.
In 1994, Stephen was named the first Executive Director of the Recreational Software Advisory Council (RSAC) which created a unique self-labeling system for computer games and then, in 1996, Stephen launched RSACi – a forerunner to the ICRA website labeling system. For his efforts in online safety, Stephen was given the 1998 Carl Bertelsmann Prize in Gutersloh, Germany, for innovation and responsibility in the Information Society and was invited to the first and subsequent White House Internet Summits during the Clinton Administration.
Stephen’s other positions include the Executive Director of the National Stepfamily Association (UK); General Secretary of the Islington Voluntary Action Council; Executive Director of Camden Community Transport as well as management positions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (London) and Inter-Action. Stephen’s first job was with Burroughs Machines (now Unisys) and he had a spell working for West Nally Ltd – a sports sponsorship PR company.
Stephen received a BA, magna cum laude, in Psychology from University College, Cardiff, Wales in 1977. A native of Washington, DC, Stephen spent many years in the UK and is now has dual citizenship. He writes regularly for the Huffington Post, appears often on TV and has appeared on nationally syndicated TV and radio programs such as MSNBC, CNN, NPR and the BBC and has been interviewed by leading newspapers such as the Washington Post, New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, radio and in the mainstream press. He has given presentations and spoken in 15 countries on 4 continents.
Dr. David Greenfield
Founder and Medical Director
The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction
Dr. Greenfield is the founder and medical director of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and former Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine where he taught Behavioral Addiction Medicine, Sexual Medicine, and supervised residents in psychiatry. Dr. Greenfield also served as Consulting Medical Director of The Greenfield Center @ Lifeskills, a residential treatment program for the treatment of video game and technology addictions. He is a leading authority on Internet and technology addiction and screen use, and is the author of numerous articles/book chapters and the book Virtual Addiction which in 1999 rang an early warning regarding the world’s growing Internet Addiction problem. Dr. Greenfield’s recent work is focused on the neurobiology of Internet, Smartphone, and screen use and how to reduce our overuse of Internet screens. He is credited with popularizing the variable reinforcement (slot machine model) of behavioral addictions and the dopamine-behavioral addiction connection. Dr. Greenfield latest book, Overcoming Technology Addiction for Dummies was published in October 2021 by Wiley, and his recent TEDx talk “How to Manage your Technology so it doesn’t Manage you” was given in December of 2021.
Dr. Greenfield participates with the national and international psychiatric and addiction medicine community by sharing his expertise through lectures, research, and popular presentations. He holds advanced training and board certifications in Addiction Medicine, Clinical Psychology, and Psychopharmacology.
Dr. Greenfield lectures throughout the world, and has appeared on TEDx Hartford, CNN, Dr. Oz. Good Morning America, The Today Show, Fox News, ESPN, NPR and HBO. He has been featured in U.S. News and World Report, Newsweek, People, Time, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and The Economist.
Dr. David Greenfield
Safety Net Director
National Network to End Domestic Violence
Since joining NNEDV in 2007, Erica has advocated on behalf of survivors of gender-based violence by educating and advocating victim service providers, policymakers, and technology companies on issues of technology abuse, privacy, and victim safety. She has provided trainings to technologists, attorneys, law enforcement officials, victim advocates, and other practitioners in the United States and internationally.
Through the Safety Net Project, Erica works with private industry, state, and federal agencies and international groups to improve safety and privacy for victims in this digital age. She regularly provides consultation to leading technology companies on the potential impact of technology design and reporting procedures on survivors of abuse. She also provides technical assistance on technology safety to professionals working with survivors.
Erica’s prior work at the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence included writing curriculum and training statewide on a project focusing on the intersection of domestic violence and disabilities. Erica has a Masters in Social Work from SUNY Albany and a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from the Center for Women in Civil Society.
Vice President of External Affairs
Rita Smith is a nationally recognized expert in domestic violence who has been interviewed by hundreds of newspaper reporters, appeared on many local and national radio and television news shows, including the Washington Post, USA Today, People Magazine, NPR, The Today Show, Good Morning America and Oprah Winfrey Show. She began her career in 1981 as a shelter crisis line advocate and ascended to lead the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) from 1992-2014 where she established the original relationship between DomesticShelters.org and NCADV. Rita doubles as a consultant to the non-profit 501(c)3 Theresa’s Fund Inc., which operates DomesticShelters.org. Smith currently serves as a senior advisor to the National Football League on policy and training issues related to domestic violence and sexual assault.
Chief Technology Officer
Ryan Toohil is chief technology officer at Aura, where he leads the company’s platform, information security, and corporate IT teams. Ryan is a hands-on engineering and technology leader. As VP of Engineering at Endurance International Group, he led platform and new product development for a $500 million business unit and the rapid development, testing, and scaling of new solutions as head of technology for new ventures. Ryan holds a BS in computer engineering from Virginia Tech, and is named on multiple patents in the web services space.