Government Panel Mulls Kids’ Online Safety


By Larry Magid
CBS online
(CBS) Last year, Congress passed the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, which established the Online Safety Technology Working Group (OSTWG) a panel of 29 representatives from Internet companies, academia, non-profits and government to study and report on how to best protect kids online. In April, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced the appointments.

Disclosure: I was appointed as a representative of SafeKids.com and ConnectSafely.org, the non-profit Internet safety group I co-direct along with Anne Collier. I was also asked to head up the group’s Net-safety education subcommittee which was responsible for running last Thursday’s OSTWG meeting at the Commerce Department in Washington.

The first set of presenters was a group of Washington, D.C., public school students who gave a frank appraisal on the state of Internet safety education from the front lines. Although members of this student panel were quite familiar with incidences of cyberbullying and sexting (students sharing naked pictures of themselves), none had any horror stories to report and all seemed to understand the basics for staying safe and maintaining their privacy on social network sites. My favorite comment came from a middle schooler: “The only person who can protect you on the Internet is you.” Based on what the adult presenters later said, she was quite right.

The next presenter, Stephen Balkam of the Family Online Safety Institute, outlined some of the safety messages social-media and Internet companies are offering, including their own site-specific advice and tools and supporting non-profits that provide safety advice. “Millions are being spent,” said Balkam, “but more can be done.” Full story.

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