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Friday, June 4, 2010

Online Safety and Technology Working Group (OSTWG) Final Report Released
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The Online Safety and Technology Working Group (OSTWG) has just released its final report to Congress entitled, "Youth Safety on a Living Internet." As I mentioned here last year, this government task force was established by the "Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act," (part of the ''Broadband Data Improvement Act',' Pub. L. No. 110-385) and its mission was to review and evaluate:
  • The status of industry efforts to promote online safety through educational efforts, parental control technology, blocking and filtering software, age-appropriate labels for content or other technologies or initiatives designed to promote a safe online environment for children;
  • The status of industry efforts to promote online safety among providers of electronic communications services and remote computing services by reporting apparent child pornography, including any obstacles to such reporting;
  • The practices of electronic communications service providers and remote computing service providers related to record retention in connection with crimes against children; and,
  • The development of technologies to help parents shield their children from inappropriate material on the Internet.
The task force included over 30 experts from academia, industry, advocacy groups, and think tanks. It was my great honor to be a member of OSTWG and to serve as the chair of 1 of the 4 subcommittees. The four subcommittees addressed: data retention, child pornography reporting, educational efforts, and parental controls technologies. I chaired that last subcommittee on parental controls. Our conclusions will not be surprising to those who have read previous online safety task force reports, which I have summarized in 2009 white paper, "Five Online Safety Task Forces Agree: Education, Empowerment & Self-Regulation Are the Answer." Generally speaking, we concluded that there is no silver-bullet technical solution to online child safety concerns. Instead - and again in agreement with previous research and task force reports - we have concluded that a diverse toolbox and a "layered approach" must be brought to bear on these problems and concerns. Here's how we put it in the report:
  • There's no one-size-fits-all, once-and-for-all solution to providing children with every aspect of online child safety. Rather, it takes a comprehensive "toolbox" from which parents, educators, and other safety providers can choose tools appropriate to children's developmental stages and life circumstances, as they grow. That toolbox needs to include safety education, "parental control" technologies such as filtering and monitoring, safety features on connected devices and in online services, media ratings, family and school policy, and government policy. In essence, any solution to online safety must be holistic in nature and multi-dimensional in breadth.
  • To youth, social media and technologies are not something extra added on to their lives; they're embedded in their lives. Their offline and online lives have converged into one life. They are socializing in various environments, using various digital and real-life "tools," from face-to-face gatherings to cell phones to social network sites, to name just a few.
  • Because the Internet is increasingly user-driven, with its "content" changing in real-time, users are increasingly stakeholders in their own well-being online. Their own behavior online can lead to a full range of experiences, from positive ones to victimization, pointing to the increasingly important role of safety education for children as well as their caregivers. The focus of future task forces therefore needs to be as much on protective education as on protective technology.
  • The Internet is, in effect, a "living thing," its content a constantly changing reflection not only of a constantly changing humanity but also its individual and collective publications, productions, thoughts, behaviors, and sociality.
I encourage everyone to check out the entire report, which I have also embedded down below. I very much hope policymakers will heed the advice found in this and the previous task force reports, which have uniformly found that only such a layered, multi-dimensional approach to online child safety can be effective. The three key prongs to that strategy -- or what I call the "3-E Strategy" -- are education, empowerment and law enforcement efforts. Importantly, OSTWG accomplished our charge without resorting to the "moral panic" tone that some have adopted when approaching these issues and concerns. While there are serious challenges and concerns surrounding discussions about child safety, it's important to acknowledge the important benefits of new media and communications technologies to us and our children. We have done so in this report. We also were careful not to try to unsettle any settled First Amendment law. One of the most regrettable developments of the past 15 years is that so much time has been wasted passing and then litigating legislative and regulatory enactments that have been so clearly unconstitutional under the First Amendment. If the time and resources that were squandered in those legal skirmishes would have instead been plowed into education, empowerment, and enforcement-based efforts, it could have made a lasting difference. More generally, we should always remember the sage advice offered by the Supreme Court in 2000: "Technology expands the capacity to choose; and it denies the potential of this revolution if we assume the Government is best positioned to make these choices for us." OSTWG has charted a sensible way forward in the final report that should hopefully avoid those problems. It is my hope that policymakers take our findings and recommendations seriously and adopt the sort of constructive, practical approach we have outlined in this report. Finally, I want to send out a big THANK YOU! to Hemanshu Nigam and Anne Collier, who very ably and patiently co-chaired the OSTWG. They did a terrific job herding a lot of cats and bringing this report to a successful completion. Well done Hemu and Anne! Online Safety and Technology Working Group Final Report

posted by Adam Thierer @ 4:14 PM | Free Speech , Online Safety & Parental Controls

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Technology changes so quickly, as a parent and grandparent it is difficult to keep up. My children and grandchildren are way ahead of me in understanding how the internet works. It is great that safety concerns for youth are being addressed. I agree we are in need of protective education and technology.I have to admit When there is a question of first Amendment Rights and what is thrown out on the internet without considering age appropriateness I would vote for youth being protected from inappropriate material.

Posted by: Diana Clark at July 25, 2010 8:51 PM

Great report. This is a great report for parents to understand social media and the youth. It is amazing to see how fast it has changed and how the youth have truly embraced social media. Now with all the mobile applications, it is truly becoming an integrated part of their life and this is a great informational report.

Posted by: Fil Lourenco at July 29, 2010 4:46 PM

with the growth of new cell phone applications and social media application youth attached very closely to the internet and this is very good in mean of getting fast information and communication but still it have some bad things. Good report there.

Posted by: cell phones blog at July 30, 2010 11:43 PM

"Education, Empowerment & Self-Regulation Are the Answer" Of course this is the answer and self-regulation also means parents taking a more involved role in their children's internet time. Knowing where their kids are "going" online, laying down clear boundaries etc..This is our first line of defense, and in terms of our children's safety, the most important one.

Posted by: The kids bedding Mom at August 3, 2010 6:25 AM

This may sound a little rude but I hope alot of taxpayer money didn't go into this "study" or "research."

What it boils down to is are parents willing to take a more active role in what their kids are doing online and screening what they are exposed to.

And the extent that the government and other officials should be involved is policing and prosecuting illegal activity such as child pornography and other illegal activities online.

But the bulk of protecting the children from inappropriate internet activities lies with the parents.

Posted by: used roping saddles at August 12, 2010 11:07 AM

Advances in computer and telecommunication technology allow our children to reach out to new sources of knowledge and cultural experiences, but may make them vulnerable to exploitation and harm by some individuals. It is our job to see that no harm comes to our children (parents, siblings, teachers, friends, relatives and others).

Posted by: John at August 13, 2010 4:22 PM

We are on the same page with online safety and our kids/children are the future. From local search to reviews to social networking they are all being exposed this day and age. What it boils down to is though is good parenting. The sad this is there are to many parents out there that do not study what their kids are actually doing.

Posted by: Oddpath online network at September 18, 2010 4:35 PM

We are on the same page with online safety and our kids/children are the future. From local search to reviews to social networking they are all being exposed this day and age. What it boils down to is though is good parenting. The sad this is there are to many parents out there that do not study what their kids are actually doing.

Posted by: Oddpath online network at September 18, 2010 4:36 PM

Looking for a google web page you can have free web pages at r us info. check it out.

Posted by: andy bell at October 4, 2010 9:08 AM

Nice report! In my opinion I believe that steps does need to be made for online safety to protect our kids. But parents need to be actively involve in knowing what their kids are doing online. It is great that we can get information quick and fast by having the technologies as we do. It is to bad that we have crazies out there that has to spoil a good thing.

Posted by: Harvest Life Products at October 6, 2010 1:09 AM

Excellent report on safety. Our kids are our most precious possession and with the age of the internet, it's imperative that we protect them.

Posted by: Josh at October 12, 2010 9:36 PM


Some insurance carriers have reasonable rates for teens and some are very unreasonable. We recommend contacting a local independent agent and have them provide you some quotes.

Posted by: Wyne at November 5, 2010 1:38 AM

This sort of guide should be included when someone signs up for internet. It is better to give it to all for the sake of the users that do have children as some parents have no idea what their child does on the internet.

Posted by: The News Seed at December 12, 2010 5:23 PM

Safety our children is fundamental invite everyone parents be closer them communication from early us dara confidence that know care themselves not always will have beside. Further it is good to have tools to help me take care of us what our children watch on internet

Posted by: Omayra - Eliminar estrias at June 15, 2011 1:56 PM


Posted by: wzpwzp at July 28, 2011 3:31 AM

Good report! Safety our children is fundamental invite everyone parents but sometimes we exaggerate in security issues.

Posted by: aumi | seguros baratos at October 3, 2011 5:58 AM

So at last OSTWG released their final report.So many people were waiting for the result.Lets see what comes next.

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