REPORT OF THE ONLINE SAFETY AND TECHNOLOGY WORKING GROUP
JUNE 4, 2010
SUBCOMMITTEE ON INTERNET SAFETY EDUCATION
In the late ‘90s, experts advised parents to keep the family Internet connected computer in a high-traffic part of the house, but now parents must account for Internet access points built into many digital devices, including cell phones. Research has told us that many of the early significant concerns regarding children and their use of the Internet, such as predation, exist but not nearly in the prevalence once believed. Other risks, such as cyberbullying, are actually much more common than thought – starting as early as 2nd grade for some children. Meanwhile, “new” issues such as “sexting” garner a great deal of media attention, though recent studies suggest it is not quite as common as initially believed. Given all the above and the finding of the preceding task force (the ISTTF) that not all youth are equally at risk, it now seems clear that “one size fits all” is not a good strategy. Instead, a strong argument can be made for applying the Primary/Secondary/Tertiary model used in clinical settings and risk-prevention programs to Internet safety. This “levels of prevention” method would represent a tailored and scalable approach and factor in the high correlation between offline and online risk. The approach would also work in concert with non-fear-based, social-norms education, which promotes and establishes a baseline norm of good behavior online.
Research also shows that civil, respectful behavior online is less conducive to risk, and digital media literacy concerning behavior as well as consumption enables children to assess and avoid risk, which is why this subcommittee urges the government to promote nationwide education in digital citizenship and media literacy as the cornerstone of Internet safety.
Industry, NGOs, schools, and government all have established educational strategies; however effectiveness has not been adequately measured. At the federal level, while significant progress has been made with projects such as OnGuardOnline and NetCetera, more inter-agency coordination, public awareness-raising, and public-/private-sector cooperation are needed for national uptake in schools and local communities.
• Keep up with the youth-risk and social-media research, and create a web-based clearinghouse that makes this research accessible to all involved with online safety education at local, state, and federal levels.
• Coordinate Federal Government educational efforts.
• Provide targeted online-safety messaging and treatment.
• Avoid scare tactics and promote the social-norms approach to risk prevention.
• Promote digital citizenship in pre-K-12 education as a national priority.
• Promote instruction in digital media literacy and computer security in pre-K-12 education nationwide.
Online Safety and Technology Working Group 7
• Create a Digital Literacy Corps for schools and communities nationwide.
• Make evaluation a component of all federal and federally funded online safety education programs (evaluation involving risk-prevention expertise).
• Establish industry best practices.
• Encourage full, safe use of digital media in schools’ regular instruction and professional development in their use as a high priority for educators nationwide.
• Respect young people’s expertise and get them involved in risk-prevention education.