Panel Finds Education Critical To Youth Safety As Internet Evolves
Report to Congress Says Consumer Education Must Be Aimed At All Involved In Childhood Education, Address a Full Range of Online Risks, and Be Applicable Across Devices
WASHINGTON, DC (June 4, 2010) In its final report to Congress today, the Online Safety and Technology Working Group (OSTWG) recommends that government and private industry empower parents, educators, risk-prevention practitioners, and law enforcement to address online risks to children in ways that match the dynamic, rapidly changing nature of both the Internet and child development. While technology aids such as parental controls continue to help address online threats to children, the Working Group found there is no single technology or regulatory solution to mitigate risk and that education at home and school, including teaching with new media and technology in the classroom, is the most effective approach.
ConnectSafely played a leadership role in the Task Force and in writing the report. ConnectSafely Co-director Anne Collier served as co-chair of the Task Force (along with Hemanshu Nigam) while Larry Magid, ConnectSafely’s other co-director, chaired the Education Subcommittee. Both Anne and Larry played a major role in writing the report.
“We need a child-centric approach to online-safety education,” said Collier. “When we put kids, not technology, at the center of the discussion – relying on research to understand what’s positive as well as negative – we get much better safety results that apply even as media and technology evolve.”
“The key to keeping young people safe on the Internet is to be honest with them,” said Magid. “Don’t exaggerate risks but don’t sugar-coat them either. Young people need to understand that their own behavior can not only make them safe, but help them thrive in this increasingly interactive world.
The report, mandated by the 2008 Broadband Data Improvement Act, charged the OSTWG to analyze the state of online-safety parental controls and education, as well as Internet industry data retention and child-pornography reporting to support law enforcement. The findings, considered an update to the report from the COPA Commission in 2000, is the first commissioned by Congress to consider that children have moved to an era where they are as much producers as consumers of online content, through a myriad of devices.
The report’s recommendations include:
- A web-based clearinghouse to make research accessible for online safety education at local, state, and federal levels;
- Targeted online-safety messaging to be used consistently across federal agencies;
- Elimination of scare tactics as a means for risk prevention;
- Full, safe use of digital media in schools’ regular instruction, pre-K-12, and professional development as a high priority for educators nationwide.
The report acknowledged ways to protect children from threats after educational programs are in place. These include specific parental control technologies, methods for child pornography reporting and limited-use data retention for law enforcement. It also found that private industry is sometimes confused by conflicting views of multiple government agencies that have jurisdiction over online safety issues and recommends a federal coordinating body to help build consensus across government agencies, NGOs, and the private sector.
The OSTWG is comprised of 30 members from the Internet industry, child safety advocacy organizations, educational and civil liberties communities, the government and law enforcement communities. Collectively, its members have 250 years of experience in online safety from a wide range of perspectives. The full report can be accessed here: http://www.ntia.doc.gov/reports/2010/OSTWG_Final_Report_060410.pdf