Authors Assess Parents' and Government's Role in Online Child Safety
WASHINGTON D.C. - As the Internet becomes more entwined in young people's lives, parents are finding they need assistance in teaching their children how to stay safe online. Leading experts at the October 3rd book event "Cyber Safety in a Web 2.0 World: What Parents and Policymakers Need to Know," discussed their respective books on online child safety and the best tools and methods available to parents. The event also featured an address by Representative Melissa Bean (D-IL 8th), author of the SAFER NET Act, which supports educational efforts as the appropriate role of the government in online child safety. Today, PFF is releasing a transcript of the event.
In her remarks, Representative Bean described her bill H.R. 3461, the Safeguarding America's Families by Enhancing and Reorganizing New and Efficient Technology Act. The bill promotes a national public awareness campaign through the Federal Trade Commission and creates a clearinghouse of Internet safety resources. "As the technology evolves we'll have to continue to deal with what those challenges are and we'll upgrade the tips as we go," explained Rep. Bean. "But I'm glad to be a part of this effort, which is a good federal start to extend the awareness about all the resources that you all are working so hard on providing."
PFF Senior Fellow Adam Thierer, moderator of the October event, introduced the authors whose three books he recommends as sensible guides for parents. Thierer is the author of a special report, "Parental Controls and Online Child Protection: A Survey of Tools and Methods."
Nancy Willard, author of "Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens: Helping Young People Learn to Use the Internet Safely and Responsibly," explained that techniques for child safety online need to evolve to effectively address interactive and participatory Web 2.0 applications. Willard stated that fear-mongering, simplistic rules and filtering are not effective. Instead, she advocated education and specifically targeting at-risk youth. "Many young people are using the Internet very safely and competently," Willard stated. "Some people are at risk, some young people are at risk, and others are engaging in irresponsible behavior and that's where our attention needs to be."
Larry Magid, author of "MySpace Unraveled: A Parent’s Guide to Teen Social Networking," with Anne Collier, agreed that attention needs to be focused on children who engage in risky behavior online. Magid praised Rep. Bean's bill for its educational approach and warned of unintended consequence from other, more restrictive legislation that has been proposed. Magid explained that MySpace, a social networking website, is a large source of referrals to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. He stated, "Wouldn't it be a tragedy if one child in America committed suicide, because Congress' well-meaning bill that unintentionally would up depriving that child of a resource that could save their life?"
Sharon Miller Cindrich, author of "e-Parenting: Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids," stated that parents can no longer opt-out of technologies as the Internet is becoming an important means of communication among young people. Instead, she explained that parents need to address online safety issues early on with their children. "We don't protect our kids from a bike accident by not letting them ride a bike," Cindrich explained. "We don't protect them from the measles by not letting them come in contact with other people, and we don't protect them for the dangerous parts of the Internet by not letting them go. We have to educate."
Initial panel remarks were followed by a short question and answer period. Complete statements from the panelists and questions from attendees can be found in the event transcript.
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.