Congress-created committee issues online safety report: “Youth Safety On a Living Internet”

Fri, Jun 4, 2010

Current News

June 4, 2010: HOT OFF THE PRESS: Committee created by congressional mandate issues significant federal report on online safety. Two years ago, Congress’ 2008 Broadband Data Improvement Act mandated a study on online safety. As a result, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration created the Online Safety and Technology Working Group (OSTWG).  Just today OSTWG released its final report , “Youth Safety on a Living Internet“, to the Assistant Secretary of Commerce, 4 US Senate Committees and 4 US House Committees.  Participants included representatives from a number of government agencies, educators and media industries, among others. The Group’s Co-Chairs are heavy hitters in the online safety field: Hemanshu Nigam, who formerly headed online security for MySpace, and Anne Collier, the co-founder of NetFamilyNews and ConnectSafely.org.

The report has 4 broad areas: Internet Safety Education, Parental Controls & Child Protection Technology, Child Pornography Reporting, and Data Retention. Some summary recommentations are (we think their recommendations agree with our key mission and values and here provide links to our own articles for your further review):

- Need more focus on continual education of risks of being online, greater promotion of digital citizenship, and less on blocking children’s access

- Need for an online clearinghouse of frequently updated research;

- Need for a consistent message about online safety from the various stakeholders such as educators and law enforcement; a multi-disciplinary approach.

- Need to avoid using scare tactics that discourage kids from online use and promote positive Internet use as a tool;

- Need to get youth to take a more active role in improving their own online safety and that of their peers.

We believe this report signals a significant advance in the online safety effort because it: (i) is professionally prepared by a group of credible experts; (ii) promotes a positive, progressive view of involving youth in technology in contrast to some of the initial ”fear based” approaches; and (iii) perhaps, most importantly, represents a very high level, bi-partisan, and broad based commitment/ownership of numerous congressional committees, administrative agencies and industry groups on some fundamental principals of “where we go from here”. Any groundswell movement requires agreement on the basics. This report appears to be such a broad based agreement on most issues.  Readers should not underestimate the significance of this report.

It only came out today. We expect that stakeholders across the U.S. and globally will digest it in the coming days and we will report on what they have to say. Feel free to give us your thoughts as well at askdoctorwalker@cox.net .

More more information, see also:

- Excellent blog by Larry Magid, who is one of the contributors to the Congressional Report, and who is a nationally recognized online digital safety expert. Yesterday, he wrote an informative blog for the Huffington Post regarding the issuance of the Report.  He is also co-director (with Anne Collier) of ConnectSafely; has a website on technology products, reviews, and policies, and writes the Safe & Secure blog for CNET News.

- Another great blog by Elinor Mills at CNET News.

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