I just realized that I forgot to blog last month about the release of the Family Online Safety Institute's (FOSI) "State of Online Safety Report 2008." As Stephen Balkam, CEO of FOSI, notes in the preface, the report is "[an] attempt to take an international snap shot of the incredibly diverse and innovative attempts to keep kids safe online, while also respecting free expression." It features chapters on 9 different countries, including the US, the UK, Australia, Germany, Mexico, Canada, Austria, Netherlands, and Belgium.
Each chapter was authored by an online safety expert from those countries. Stephen Balkam was kind enough to invite me to submit the chapter on the state of affairs in the United States and it is included as Chapter 1 in the report. My contribution is based largely on material pulled from my big PFF report, Parental Controls & Online Child Protection: A Survey of Tools and Methods.
FOSI hopes to improve and expand the report in coming years to give analysts, policymakers, the press, and other interested parties an in-depth feel for the state of play in many other countries. But it already serves as a uniquely importantly resource for those who want a snapshot of online safety efforts internationally. Here's more of what Stephen had to say in the preface of the report about the current state of global online safety efforts:
The state of online safety is in flux. At no time in (our brief, digital) history, have so many tools to filter, monitor and control content and behavior been available to parents, teachers, employers and other concerned adults. And yet, the flood of digital images, videos, text and sound tracks threatens to overwhelm our defenses. Governments and regulators take steps to deal with this issue with vastly varying levels of success and legality. The large, amorphous â€œinternet industryâ€ makes efforts to self-regulate and offer assistance and help to parents and consumers with mixed results. Parents, themselves, awaken to the realization that they have a vital and growing role to play in protecting their kids. And educators, researchers and the non-profit organizations do what they can to track, study, and respond to the new realities of our always on, digital world.
[I]f there is one recurring theme, it is the ever changing, technologically challenging, transitory-ness of this subject that makes it so invigorating and infuriating at the same time. There is no one law, no one technology, no one awareness campaign that will fix this. We are embarked on a journey without end. As we catch up with and provide solutions to technologies and content that could prove harmful to kids, new devices, new strange meeting places spring up
and thwart our earlier efforts and consign them and their websites to the archives. ...
And yet, we must not give up or abdicate our responsibilities as parents, as teachers, as industry leaders or as government officials. We have a generation to guide and young lives to protect. We also must preserve our centuries old freedom to speak and to assemble and to express ourselves in our infinitely varied ways, so that this generation of kids will inherit these rights and take on the unenviable task of protecting the next generation from whatever and wherever the new technology and the ingenuity of programmers take us.