Where dealing with children’s online safety is concerned, the UK continues to impress. Clearly it was no easy task, but on the recommendation of psychologist, professor, TV personality, parent, and author of the Prime Minister Brown-appointed Byron Review Tanya Byron, the September 2008-launched UK Council for Child Internet Safety – made up of a staggering 140+ companies, organizations, and individuals – this week released its first safety strategy: “Click Clever Click Safe.” A lot of the executive summary is music to my ears. Here’s what I read:
Clearly, we have kindred spirits across the Atlantic (see some similar thinking in ConnectSafely’s“Online Safety 3.0: Empowering & Protecting Youth”). But what we all need to consider adding, now, to our work on both sides of the Pond, I feel, is a *layered* approach to online safety education, mapped to the need and the audience and based on the research showing that not all youth are equally at risk, and the young people most at risk online are those most at risk offline….
One thing I’d add: Levels of Net-safety ed needed
A logical way to organize Net-safety education is to map it to the levels of prevention which the risk-prevention community has adapted from disease prevention, I realized in talking with risk-prevention practitioner Patti Agatston of the Atlanta area’s Cobb County School District. In a conversation started by Nancy Willard of the Center for Safe & Responsible Internet Use, it dawned on me that this tiered approach is exactly what online-safety ed needs as well – and I hope colleagues agree. The levels are simply:
Key take-aways: School, industry, child services
As for the headlines in the UK, the most common was that, starting in September 2011, it’ll be compulsory in British schools for kids aged 5+ to be taught Internet safety (see The Telegraph’s). I hope the universal education piece will evolve quickly to new media literacy and citizenship (online and offline), which by definition include the critical thinking about potentially harmful incoming messages from mean peers, adult strangers, and all sorts of manipulators as well as harmful outgoing messages from young stakeholders in constructive community at school and home and online.
The strategy calls on the Internet industry to move beyond the self-regulation it had apparently hoped for. According to the Times Online, “child safety campaigners have been locked in months of tortuous negotiations with internet industry leaders over what companies could do to make children safer. The industry has agreed [to] a range of new requirements, such as offering parents more rigorous privacy settings which, for example, include a secret password,” including “reluctant agreement … to have progress on safety assessed independently by one of the big consultancy firms.”
And for everybody who works with children, the 140-member Council pledges that: “In England and Wales by March 2010 we will include online safety in the ‘Common Core’ of skills and knowledge for people who work with children and work to make sure this is reflected in qualifications for people who work with children.” The next step is to teach the same experts (mentioned in the Tertiary level above) how to function easily in the media environments youth love (texting, virtual worlds, online games, social network sites, etc.). A clinical psychologist I met in Mexico City couldn’t get an extremely shy teenage boy to talk with him until he went to see the boy in World of Warcraft, where the latter felt comfortable to talk with him; then the boy was able to talk with the psychologist in his office. I heard a similar story from a Texas mother, who was able to keep in touch with her college-student son once they played World or Warcraft together on Sunday afternoons (he at his distant college and she at home).
Some key data in the report
The Strategy reported that…