Yesterday, PFF hosted "Cyber-Safety in a Web 2.0 World: What Parents and Policymakers Need to Know" over at the Cannon House Office Building. The event featured remarks by Representative Melissa Bean (IL-8), sponsor of the SAFER NET Act, and three online child safety book authors.
The rundown just in case you missed it:
Rep. Bean discussed her bill, HR 3461 explaining that online safety concerns need a national response. Her bill, which centers on educational efforts, would establish a public awareness campaign through the FTC, which would also act as a clearinghouse of information about child online safety. (See Adam Thierer's recent paper, "Rep. Beanâ€™s â€œSAFER NET Actâ€: An Education-Based Approach to Online Child Safety")
Although all of the authors featured approached the issue of online safety from a slightly different perspective, all agreed that the Internet and social networking websites are not the devil incarnate. There was much discussion about "fear mongering" among state attorneys general, who in some localities have started a crusade against popular social networking sites. Criticism was also directed at the media, who were accused of exaggerating statistics concerning online dangers.
All panelists also agreed that education was paramount to any efforts to address child online safety. Technical solutions, such as filters, can be part of an online safety plan but should not be solely relied upon to keep your children from objectionable content and contacts.
Most importantly, all authors stressed that overreacting and simply banning your child from using the Internet and social networking sites is not a viable solution. These technologies permeate all aspects of our lives and will probably be even more vital for the next generation. Social networking sites and instant messaging are common ways for teens to socialize and communicate with their friends. Sensible parental involvement and early education can go a long way in making sure children and teens exercise caution and common sense when online.
The online child safety books featured at the event are listed below. All offer sensible, comprehensive advice for parents.
"e-Parenting: Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids," by Sharon Miller Cindrich
Sharon Miller Cindrich
"MySpace Unraveled: A Parentâ€™s Guide to Teen Social Networking," by Larry Magid (with Anne Collier)
"Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens: Helping Young People Learn To Use the Internet Safely and Responsibly," by Nancy E. Willard
"Parental Controls and Online Child Protection: A Survey of Tools & Methods," by Adam Thierer