“Youth Safety on a Living Internet,” the title of the just-released report of the Online Safety & Technology Working Group (OSTWG), is significant. It says a lot about the state of youth Internet safety because it says a lot about the state of the Internet now. This is not just technology or even “content” we’re talking about, as we all know. It’s behavior, or sociality, every bit as much as content. The Internet, as we’re all using it now, is not just the product of humanity’s creativity, learning, and sociality; it mirrors them as well as serves as a platform for them. It is another “place” where our creations and sociality play out in real time.
What does that mean where youth online safety’s concerned? A number of things, our report brought out (I served as co-chair of the OSTWG, along with Hemanshu Nigam, formerly chief security officer of MySpace parent News Corp., now founder of SSP Blue). Here’s just a sampler of what this means for parents, educators, and policymakers:
Because 1) my readers are mostly parents and educators and 2) for the sake of good parenting, school policy, education reform, risk prevention, and law enforcement, it’s crucial, I feel, that we collectively get this part down, I’ve focused here mostly on the Online-Safety Education and Child-Protection Technologies parts of this nearly 150-page report. Please don’t miss their recommendations on pp. 30 and 66, respectively.
But there is so much more (much of it detailed in the coverage links below), including important findings on the state of Internet service providers’ retention of user data and child-pornography reporting for law enforcement, which the statute that formed us required us to look into. You’ll find in the child-pornography-reporting section (p. 85) that great strides have been made in making data preservation and reporting more efficient and effective but that more research and communication among stakeholders is recommended. And you’ll find some candor in the Data Retention Subcommittee’s report concerning the understandable tension between consumer privacy and data retention for law enforcement purposes. All three key voices in the discussion – those of law enforcement, the Internet industry, and civil libertarians – are represented in that discussion (p. 100).
So safety on an increasingly lifelike Internet that’s embedded in kids’ lives needs to be kid-centric, not tech-centric. It’s important to help each other see that this is not scary new territory for anyone who loves and works with young people. We may – and increasingly need to – use some social media and technologies in the process of doing our parenting, teaching, law-enforcement, health care, and social work, so that we can work with them in the media they love. But we’re still just parenting, teaching, etc., doing the parenting and work we’ve long known and loved. Kids can help us with the technology part!
OSTWG report coverage
- The best reporting (not blogging) I’ve seen on the report was at eSchool News.
- “Report to Congress: Media Literacy, Not Fear, Can Protect Youth Online,” by OSTWG Education Subcommittee chair and ConnectSafely co-director Larry Magid at the Huffington Post
- “New report: Youth Safety on a Living Internet,” by Dr. Justin Patchin, co-author of Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying
- “Scare tactics, blocking sites can be bad for kids,” by Elinor Mills at CNET
- “Keeping Kids Safe Online Report Highlights Usual Suspects: Education, Parental Empowerment,” by Emma Llanso at the Center for Democracy & Technology, which was represented on the OSTWG
- “Online Safety and Technology Working Group (OSTWG) Final Report Released,” by OSTWG member and OSTWG Parental-Control Technologies Subcommittee chair Adam Thierer
- “Final report from OSTWG Released: Call for Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy,” by Norton’s Internet Safety Advocate, Marian Merritt
- “Report: Scaring Kids About Online Threats is Counter-Productive” at AVN News
- The report itself – “Youth Safety on a Living Internet” – in pdf at the site of our federal government host, NTIA (National Telecommunications & Information Administration) and downloadable at Scribd.com
- On the report of the last task force I served on, the Berkman Center’s “Key crossroads for Net safety: ISTTF report released”
- Background on my co-chair, Hemanshu Nigam: “Milestone for Net safety: Hemu moves on”
- “Most teen social Web users well-adjusted”