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Research Question: When it comes time to teach children and young teenagers about the benefits of using the Internet and technology, does the iCarly website downplay the dangers children can face if they use technology, The Internet, or the website improperly?
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Rationale: When I was surfing and exploring the website for iCarly, I noticed that the website does a fantastic job at presenting the positive aspects of Internet technology. The website spends a great deal of time focusing on the “good” features of the Internet. However, I am curious and a little surprised to find out that the website does not focus too much on the dangers of the Internet itself and how it could affect young children who do not know how to use it properly. The website should focus a little more on the category “how safe is it” with the sub categories of personal privacy, online interaction, and parental controls. The reason for this is the parents have decided that the website is good for children who are 8 years old and up. This way they are old enough to not be exposed to things that are too old for their age.

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Methods: When it came time to gather my information and begin my research for this project I started with online research and content analysis to obtain the information I needed, which helped me to best answer my research question. The first thing I did was explore the entire iCarly website. The majority of my research was from the iCarly website and the common sense media website. I also watched some of the iCarly television shows just to gain a better understanding of what the show consisted of. I tried to find information in the Sarah Banet-Weiser book about my topic but there was very little information to help with my research. I carefully analyzed the content of all the different information sources I looked at to see if I could somehow connect all my research findings. What I came up with was, I was able to identify "real-life" dangers/downsides of Internet technology through the use of the iCarly website. I was able to identify ways in which children and young teens misused Internet technology on the website by posting things they should have kept private. I researched the effects that the Internet has on children and teens today by exploring different ways in which they used the website depending on the age of the child or young teen. I was able to integrate my research of the website with some of the iCarly episodes.

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A well-organized presentation of data/evidence and results: When it comes to teaching children and teens about the benefits of using technology and the Internet, the iCarly website promotes the usage of the Internet and other technology as well. The iCarly website focuses on user-generated content and it also looks at how children and teens use technology today. Much of the show is focused around the Internet, so the website related to the show is user-generated and accessible. The website has user-generated content so the parents are reassured that the website is monitored by administrators to make sure there is no offensive content or language portrayed. The website is free of copyright infringement issues so all the viewers have to worry about is the advertisements.
The website has gotten many mixed reviews from parents, children, and teens. There are three main categories in which the website is based on and within these categories are different sub categories. . These categories are the “good stuff”, with the sub categories of the educational value, messages that are sent to the viewers, and the user-created content (which is the biggest part of the website). The next category is “what to watch out for”, with the sub categories of violence, cyber bullying, sex, language, consumerism, and drinking, drugs and smoking (which is a non issue with the entire website). The final category is “how safe is it”, with the sub categories of personal privacy, online interaction, and parental controls.
Overall, the website was determined to be good for children 8 years old and up. What the parents need to know about the website is, it is a safe and fun place for children and teens to upload their own videos that will be featured on the website. Children and teens can also post comments or comment on other posts. They just need to be careful about entering the different parts of the websites where the advertisements are. Also younger children can still go on the website it might just be a good idea for the parent to sit with them and view the site with their child. The website is a great tool for families to talk about when it comes to media in their life. The website can be a great stepping stone in bringing together children and their parents when it comes to the internet and technology use. The parents can monitor their children’s online use while still being able to give them the freedom they want to be able to explore the Internet safely. Children and teens can also play games on the website and the parents do not have to worry about the games being violent. The iCarly website is entertaining for kids and teens as long as they stay safe and use the Internet properly.

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Thoughtful discussion of key findings, which integrates the thesis statement with evidence from the research project & the course readings: After I was done exploring the iCarly website there were a few things I found interesting. Firstly, under the “What to watch out for” category, they point out that the iCarly website raises some issues about cyber bullying and violence. I think the website should promote a section about the ways in which parents can approach their kids to talk about Internet safety. This would include violent behavior and cyber bullying. This way children could learn about the issues from celebrities. Another way children and teens can learn about how to properly use technology and the Internet is by asking their parents about topics after they learned about them on the website. This way the child or teen is making the conscious decision to confront their parents about Internet safety.
The iCarly website is a huge tool in helping to provide children and teens with the facts to help them practice responsible digital behavior, if they are taught at an early enough age. The website could do this by promoting the Common Sense Media’s “Rules of the Road” – advice that helps kids practice responsible online behavior. There could also be a PSA that would feature iCarly’s Miranda Cosgrove and Nathan Kress, who will share tips from Common Sense Media about avoiding and reporting cyber bullying. This should be one of the more important ideas for the website because children and teens are interacting with digital media every day. It is second nature to them and an important part of their lives. We want to keep our children safe so we need to teach them how to keep themselves safe as well. We want our children to have engaging, entertaining, healthy, and safe experiences online. If the iCarly website partnered with Common Sense, they would both be able to help young people simplify and improve their digital experience. For the parents, the website can feature a special section just for them. For this section the parents would be able to write down their thoughts on a discussion board section. This way the website administrator could read the parents thoughts and change anything on the website if necessary to keep the children safe.
The ICarly website needs to stay “kid friendly”, but in a more safe way. There needs to be a lot of bright, inviting colors and bold text that is easy to read. However, the firs page the children should see when they go on the website is “10 Rules of the Road” and the PSA. There should also be pictures featuring children and the characters of the show interacting with different forms of digital media, which I believe would make the website feel more welcoming to kids.
Finally, when it comes to technology and the Internet I believe the iCarly website is doing a great job in many areas of interest when it comes to children and teens. However, one of the main things the website lacks is information about Internet safety and how to use the Internet properly. I believe the website really needs to find a way to promote digital responsibility so that kids who go on the website and use it are getting the information in a way that is more subtle that will help them as they grow up and keep them safe. This way they learn how to use technology, the Internet, and the website properly and they can stay safe and have fun at the same time.image031.png
~Marjorie Thomas

iCarly and The Internet

RationaleSince it's premier in 2007, iCarly has been a popular show amongst children and young teens. From 2009 to 2011, this program has consequtively won the cleverstocks. As popular (and as controversial) as this progam is, there has yet to be any scholarly research published about it. After watching an episode of iCarly entitled "iRocked the Vote", I noticed that while the show does send out the message that the internet can empower kids, it also seems to downplay the dangers of the internet, and instead, turns said dangers into comedy. By researching the show and the small amount of literature about its take on internet safety, I endeavored to find out if this show does in fact turn the dangers of the internet into something that can be laughed at.
Research QuestionWhile teaching children and young teenagers about the benefits of using internet technology, does iCarly downplay the dangers children face if they use such technology improperly?
MethodologyI relied on a relatively diverse array of sources which helped me gather data for this project. First and foremost, I relied on the program itself, which I used to pick out the episode which I believed contained scenes which best depicted the characters misusing internet technology. I then conducted internet research to find any other useful information that could give me better insight into how iCarly - and Nickelodeon as well - both use and promote the internet.
Presentation of DataiCarly Episode:iRocked the Vote: I decided that the best way in which to begin my research was to start with the specific episode that initirocekd-vote-2.jpgially prompted my research. The episode entitiled "iRocked the Vote", premiered during the second season of iCarly on February 7, 2009. In the beginning of the episode, Carly and her friend Sam tell the viewers of the web show to vote for David Archuleta so that he can win a singing competition. When he wins, a news program does a story about how it was Carly's show, and her audience, that swayed the votes in David's favor. Here we can see that that program itself is teaching children that the internet is in fact a powerful tool and the ideas that you broadcast over this medium can spread to mass audiences quickly. It's also showing children that, through the internet, their voice can be heard and they can use that voice to prompt change and make a difference.
In the next part of the episode, Carly and Sam feel bad for the loser, Wade Collins, and they invite him onto the show in an attempt to help revitalize his career, which they believe has been ruined due to their webcast. Unfortunetely, Collins turns out david-icarly.jpgto be less than receptive to their hospitality (to put it mildly), so Carly and her friends decide to create a video of outtakes (which show Collins in a decidedly unflattering light), and premier it on their web show. This is the part of the episode in which I believe we see the program begin to downplay the dangers of the internet. Carly, Sam, and Freddy broadcast the video on their web show with the explicit purpose of ruining the reputation of Wade Collins. This is internet bullying at its finest, camouflaged by jokes, slapstick comedy, and really bad attempts at a British accent. Never in the episode do we see that there are repercussions for the characters actions; in fact, Carly and her friends are made to look like heroes. You would think that this would be the end of it, but then you would be wrong. In the final minutes of the program, Carly gives out the address to the hotel which Collins is staying at, along with his room number, so that her fans can go there and continue with the public ridicule. This is a blatantly illegal action, and again, Carly and her friends recieve no form of punishment. Not only does this episode feature the characters misusing internet technology, but it glorifies the misuse as well.

Common Sense Media: After searching iCarly on the Common Sense Media website, I found that there were two very interesting reviews about the show which were posted by parents. In both reviews, the parents speak out about the lack of internet safety precautions shown on iCarly. One reviewer said, "No parental supervision is apparent, kids are broadcasting onto the internet and there are no safety precautions being taken" (Common Sense Media). Another reviewer mentions the pilot episode specifically, saying "I cannot be more dissapointed with the pilot due to the use of real names, friends, and showing the residence and the inept doorman on the internet. This is acommon_sense_media_title.pngn open invitation to stalkers...not safe internet practices for children" (Common Sense Media). The reviewer brings up a valid point here. Privacy is a huge issue when it comes to children and young teens using social media in todays climate. In reality, predators search the web looking for kids who aren't thinking and post their addresses, phone numbers, etc. on the internet. However, on iCarly, the characters provide an "open invitation" for predators to waltz right into their home - like the reviewer says - but nothing ever happens. the reviewer goes on to say, "to suggest this opens discussion assumes that parents watch with children" (Common Sense Media). common_sense_media_blog.png Not only does the second reviewer berate the show itself, but also Common Sense Media andn other websites that portray iCarly as a show that helps to promote discussion amongst parents and their children about internet safety. The last part of the review really made me think about the whole "iCarly promotes discussion amongst parents and their kids" thing in a new way. In a sense, she's absolutely right - how many parents actually sit and watch iCarly with their kids? To say that this show opens up a forum for discussion assumes that eight to twelve year old kids make a conscious decision to confront their parents about internet safety. I highly doubt that the kids who watch this program immediately run to their parent or guardian after an episode and say "I want to learn about safe internet practices now". (Click either image to link)
Business Wire Press Release:According to a Business Wire press release published on March 28, 2011, Common Sense Media is partnering with Nickelodeon on a campaign designed to "provide kids with tools to help them practice responsible digital behavior" (Business Wire). This initiative will include a website the promotes Common Sense Media's "Rules of the Road" - advice that helps kids practice responsible online behavior. There will also be PSA's featuring iCarly's Miranda Cosgrove and Nathan Kress, who will share tips from Common Sense Media about avoiding and reporting cyberbullying. Executive Vice President of public affairs for the Nickelodeon Kids and Family Group, Marva Smalls, says "kids are interacting with digital media every day. It is second nature to them and an important part of their lives. Nickeolodeon provides kids with information to help them have engaging, entertaining and healthy experiences online. By partnering with Common Sense, we will help young people simplify and improve their digital communications" (Business Wire). At Nick.com, The Big Help Experience will feature videos, lessons, anti-bullying quizzes, and other interactive material for kids. To promote this campaign, Nick.com is giving out digital rewards to the avatars of children who participate. For the parents, there will also be a discussino board and "Rules of the Road" section. the interactive website - with PSA's - launched on March 28th.
iCarly PSA:I found a clip on the Nickelodeon website which featured the iCarly cast - Sam, Carly, and Freddy - talking abotu cyberbullying. The clip starts of with Freddy telling Sam and Carly that he is being threatened online by a girl at school. He asks the girls what he should do to stop the cyberbullying, prompting Carlicarly_psa.pngy to rattle off safety rules for kids to follow to prevent cyberbullying. At the end, Carly tells the audience to go to NetSmartz.org if they want more information about cyberbullying. A public service announcement about internet safety featuring characters from, arguably, the most popular show on Nickelodeon, in which the internet is basically a character in and of itself, is a great idea. However, the PSA contains some very obvious flaws. Firstly, the way in which the characters speak in the PSA is very childlike and robotic. It's entirely possible that older kids who watch this PSA would think that it was too childish, and brush it off. PSA's featuring actors who are about the same age as their target audience need to focus on speaking to the viewers, not lecturing them. Young teens don't want to feel like their being treating like children by kids who are the same age as they are. (Click PSA picture to link)
The Big Help "Digital Citizenship Hub":For the last part of my research, I decided to take a look around the new Nickelodeon/Common Sense Media websitthe_big_help.pnge. I can say that the first think I noticed was that the website itself looks very "kids friendly". There are a lot of bright, inviting colors and bold text that is easy to read. The first thing that you see when you visit the site is the "10 Rules of the Road". I though that, for the most part, the rules were pretty staright forward and could be benefitial to kids. Some of those rules include guard your privacy, think before you post, and assume everyone is watching (Digital Citizenship Hub). There are pictures featuring children interacting with different forms of digitaten_rules_of_the_road.pngl media, which I believe makes the website feel more welcoming to kids. It's also easy to find the videos featuring tips about internet safety. I found it interesting that the one and only celebrity PSA on the homepage featured Miranda Cosgrove of iCarly. They have links that lead you right to a message board, or you can be redirected to commonsensemedia.org. I tried to take one of the quizzes to see what it was like, but you have to download the newest version of flash player to do that, which I think could be a setback for those kids who aren't allowed to download things like that to their computer. I think that the "digital reward" idea is great because it gets kids actively involved with the website and makes it fun for them. The one thing that wasn't easy to find was the section where parents can go to get information and post on blogs. (Click "10 Rules" image to link)
Final Remarks:In an age where children and teens are learning behavioral cues from the shows that they are watching on television, it's important that networks recognize the need to infuse positive messages into their shows. When they show the improper use of the internet by children without consequences, the kids watching are going to think that they can do the same things and get away with it. Because iCarly relies so heavily on the internet (which basically becomes like its own character), they need to teach kids that there is a right way andn a wrong way to use this tool. It can be a really great thing, but it can also be really dangerous if you don't know what to look out for. I find it interesting that iCarly and Nickelodeon are doing all of these great things to promote internet safety outside of the show. While I appload their effort, they should be doing more on the actual program with cyberbullying and the dangers of the internet. If you didn't go to the Nickelodeon website, you wouldn't even know that the network is doing things to combat cyberbullying at all. I think that there needs to be a way to promote digital responsibility through the show so that kids who watch the program are getting the information in a way that is more subtle, but more powerful.
Sources:
"Cyberbullying". iCarly. Nickelodeon. Web. 6 Apr. 2011. http://www.nick.com/videos/clip/oth_icarly_PSA2.html?xid=googlevideo-oth_icarly_PSA2.

Common Sense Media. Common Sense Media Partners with Nickelodeons the Big Help on Digital Citizenship and Anti-Bullying Campaign. Business Wire. 28 Mar. 2011. Web. 6
Apr. 2011. http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20110328005459/en/Common-Sense-Media-Partners-Nickelodeon.

"Digital Citizenship Hub". The Big Help. Common Sense Media. Web. 6 Apr. 2011. http://www.nick.com/thebighelp/digital-citizen-hub-page.html.

"ICarly". Common Sense Media. Web. 6 Apr. 2011. http://www.commonsensemedia.org/tv-reviews/icarly.
"ICarly (TV Series 2007– ) - IMDb." The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Web. 26 Apr. 2011. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0972534/.

-----Caitlin Gainsborg

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