Summary of Panel Findings from the PointSmart.ClickSafe. Summit
June 10, 2008 - Washington, DC
Panel Title: The Parent View: Defining Best Practices in Online Safety and Literacy
Moderator and Panelists:
Director of Policy -
Common Sense Media
Chief Executive Officer - Family Online Safety Institute
Executive Director - The Future of Children
Secretary-Treasurer - National PTA
Founder & Co-President - The Children's Partnership
Parents hold generally positive views of the value of the Internet for their children but also have real concerns about their children's online safety and literacy. Panelists discussed the range of tools and options parents have available to them, under what circumstances each works best, and identified what typical parents might need as they seek to ensure their children are safe online while also developing the ethical and technology skills they will need as adults.
The panel explored a variety of issues, and the most important may have been the ways in which families recognize the Internet and technology as crucial opportunities for children, not just potential dangers. As Laurie Lipper put it, we should make sure children develop all the 21st century skills they need, including Internet safety, but also including Internet savvy.
Other major findings of the panel included:
Needs vary by family. For example, Internet filters and technological solutions are helpful for families with young children, but older children understand the technology better than their parents. Families with older children need help talking with them about media, and establishing rules together.
Convergence means that children can get media from multiple sources, including outside the view of adults. Not all parents understand that, and if they do, they do not feel prepared to manage mobile media.
The content of media children use is extremely important, but many parents have a hard time managing content, because they do not understand the content ratings that are available. Parents need media companies to step up - voluntarily - and be more accountable for the content they make available.
Panel Title: Children's Online Safety in Context: The Health/Prevention Science View
Moderator and Panelists:
President - iKeepSafe
Elizabeth Dowdell, Ph.D.
Associate Professor - Villanova University
Lt. Joe Laramie
Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force
Sophie Reid, MPsych (Clin), Ph.D.
Windermere Fellow & Research Fellow - Centre for Adolescent Health
Michael Rich, MD, MPH
Director - Center on Media & Child Health
From birth through adolescence, today's children face a wide range of physical, mental, and social risks that change as they grow, including those associated with technology and media exposure and use. Some risks associated with children's use of the Internet are extensions of risks that children have long faced; others seem to have emerged within the last decade and are unique to the online environment. At the same time, the Internet has afforded a mechanism to foster pro-social and educational opportunities for children and youth. This interdisciplinary panel discussed developmentally appropriate best practices in managing risk to children associated with the online environment.
Adults must remember that even though young people quickly understand and become facile with multiple forms of technology, they still lack the physiological, emotional, and critical reasoning skills to make wise decisions. They need a societal support system to nurture and educate them to make good choices and to assist them if and when they are in trouble. From the public health and safety perspective, stakeholders can help in the following ways:
Overarching Concepts for each group include:
Engage young people in their environment
Support positive, youth focused, connected programs and interventions
Be role models
Specific Recommendations for each group include:
Parents and parenting support groups
Engage young people in their environment.
Understand how youths use technology.
Support positive programs and interventions.
Break down barriers to communication.
Talk about technology as a way to communicate.
Act in a way that inspires communication.
Begin at a very early age.
Recognize that youth use the Internet and technology differently than their parents.
Inappropriate content (both viewed and posted), and
Inappropriate conduct (all Web 2.0 activities create a digital footprint that determine one's online reputation and follows one to job interviews, college acceptance review boards, future relationships, etc.).
4. Be role models.
Educate one's children according to one's own family values.
5. Set realistic rules for Internet use.
Public health and safety community
Engage young people in their environment.
Treat Internet education as a campaign similar to the anti-smoking or anti-drinking campaigns.
Health professionals, law enforcement and legislators must educate children, not just parents.
Understand and accept their responsibility to youth.
Break down the barriers to working with children placed on each profession by peers.
Find ways to educate and inspire appropriate use of the technology.
Find ways to reach children.
Find ways to inspire children and youths to protect themselves and their personal future.
Prevention message delivery.
Use various ways to get the message to young people and families.
Be proactive in looking for new and exciting ways to deliver messaging.
Appropriate legal remedies.
Legislators must work with multiple disciplines to find a quality way to address Internet issues.
Understand the technology.
Educate teachers about how their students use technology.
Find the right curriculum for each school and grade level.
There is no one safety program or curriculum that is correct for every school or age group.
There is a challenge to find the right one for each environment.
Incorporate technology ethics into all disciplines.
Teach the message throughout the educational process, not just in technology-oriented classes.
Accept responsibility to respond to students' inappropriate use of technology outside the school environment.
Online actions outside school often carry over to the school environment.
If it affects the school environment, school administrators must respond.
Accept the responsibility of the dangers of the technology.
“If you create the playground you have a responsibility to make it safe.” (Michelle Collins)
Partner with families, education and law enforcement.
Industry has financial and technological resources to help families, schools, and law enforcement meet their responsibilities to protect children.
Panel Title: The View from Education
Moderator and Panelists:
Sr. Director, Education Policy - Cable in the Classroom
Director, Instructional Technology & School Library Media - MD State Department of Education
Coordinator, Library/Media Services - Spotsylvania (VA) County Schools
Tracy Weeks, Ph.D.
Director, Instructional Technology & Media - Chapel Hill-Carrboro City (NC) Schools
Lean King, Ed.D.
Superintendent - Encinitas Union (CA) School District
Educators are increasingly focused on providing students with a range of technology and literacy skills to prepare them for work, life, and citizenship in today's globally-interconnected, high-tech world. At the same time, educators are faced with balancing the very real concerns they face about inappropriate or unsafe Internet use by children and youth. This panel shed insights on best practices to balancing safety, ethics, and literacy concerns in schools, homes and other settings.
Panelists noted that technology use by students and in schools continues to rapidly evolve. As access to and use of the Internet has increased, so too have issues - some very serious - related to students' Internet use. However, panelists noted that these issues tend to remain the exception to the rule; most students and educators can and do make responsible use of the powerful new tools and resources offered by the Internet.
Nonetheless, there remains much room for improvement in ensuring that students acquire the critical thinking, analysis, and 21st century communication skills educators believe students need to be successful in life, work, and citizenship in today's society. In addition, panelists acknowledged that school policies and practices have not necessarily kept pace with technological innovation outside of school and that this is increasingly causing issues for educators, administrators, and parents.
Given that most Internet-related behaviors of concern happen outside of school, formal education has an important role to play but it cannot address the issue of children's Internet safety alone. More cross-sector collaboration building formal relationships among education, health care/social service, law enforcement, and industry would be helpful.
There is a need for a concerted effort at the state and local levels to develop comprehensive policies and practices to ensure a) safe, ethical and responsible use of the Internet by students and b) that students acquire the 21st century technology skills and knowledge they need to be successful in today's world, including media and information literacy skills. Virginia is a state that has shown particular leadership in this regard (See: http://www.doe.virginia.gov/VDOE/Technology/OET/internet-safety-guidelines.shtml).
Given the decentralized nature of education policymaking, states should set the general safety, ethical, and literacy framework, while providing technical assistance and resources to school districts for implementation. Among the areas that should be addressed:
A review of curriculum standards that ensures that these topics are every educator's responsibility to teach and to model;
A plan for ensuring equitable access to technology tools and high-quality Internet-related instruction;
Acceptable use policies governing student and faculty Internet use behaviors in and for school; and,
Professional development strategies and resources for educators and administrators.
Content filtering and/or blocking is a requirement for the receipt of some federal education funds. Nonetheless, panelists expressed concerns about an over-reliance on filtering and blocking technologies to ensure children's safety and emphasized the need to locally manage and customize these technological solutions to meet educational needs. Two specific issues were raised in that regard:
As use of the Internet in and for school becomes more commonplace, “over-blocking” of content and online applications can be a problem, especially if schools are expected to ensure students' digital literacy.
Most Internet filters are not designed to screen for the accuracy and quality of information online and instruction is critical for assisting students in finding, evaluating, and making appropriate use of online resources for learning.
Any approach to ensuring children's online safety must focus on defining, teaching and instilling the expected Internet-related behaviors desired in children (and adults). Many of these behavioral expectations for children are not new (e.g., everyone agrees that bullying is inappropriate), but the Internet makes concerning behaviors more transparent than ever before and allows victims to experience the effects of negative behaviors more quickly and at younger ages.
In addressing safety concerns, educators raise very real concerns about equity of access to the Internet and to the acquisition of advanced technology-related skills (e.g., publishing content on the Internet and engaging in online communities).
A number of best practices or promising ideas were presented by the panelists. These include:
Engaging in a serious and systematic effort to provide professional development to teachers and administrators on the whole range of Internet safety and literacy issues, as well as ensuring sufficient Internet access for educators. Work remains in helping educators effectively integrate technology into their daily practice.
Using existing Web 2.0 tools (and beyond) to better engage students, which might include establishing an educational (school/library/individual educator) presence on existing popular websites.
Establishing online sites for children that offer all of the functionality of popular and powerful social Internet tools, but that can be controlled and monitored by educators and school systems. Such educationally-focused “walled-garden” sites would allow educators to employ Internet technologies for instructional purposes while also teaching students about the appropriate use of the Internet and about the ins and outs of these powerful tools.
Creating opportunities for students to be actively involved in delivering Internet safety and literacy solutions in schools, since they have untapped expertise and - in some circumstances - may have a more nuanced understanding of online opportunities and challenges.
The panelists agreed that there are significant public awareness needs and that much more could be done to highlight the whole range of Internet safety and literacy concerns. Such public educational efforts need to be:
focused on increasing public understanding of the positive educational uses of the Internet and on the importance of students acquiring Internet-related skills and behaviors;
targeted to those parents and families who need the information in creative ways online, in print, and on TV (i.e., face-to-face workshops and presentations are not always effective as a primary strategy); and
ongoing (as the technology continues to evolve).
Panel Title: The Internet Industry
Moderator and Panelists:
Sr. Advisor for Communications & Government Affairs - Comcast Corporation
Vice President, Government Relations - Walt Disney Co.
Exec. Dir., Internet & Technology Policy - Verizon Public Affairs, Policy & Communications
Manager, State Government Relations - Symantec Corp.
Senior Fellow and Director - Center for Digital Media Freedom - Progress & Freedom Foundation
Vice President, Public Policy - Cox Enterprises
There is a complex web of companies involved in providing the products and services that consumers, including children and youth, employ to access and use the Internet. Many of these companies have seen both an opportunity and responsibility to educate and empower their users about the risks and benefits of children's Internet use. This panel of industry leaders described current and past best practice initiatives, current challenges and what they see coming in the near future to help families use new products and services safely and effectively.
There was acknowledgement from all the panel participants that a number of best practices for online safety are currently being employed by many individual companies and organizations in the Internet sector, either as a part of their overall corporate responsibility efforts or as a part of brand protection and extension, and that many of these were put in place primarily in response to strong consumer demand. The panelists identified that these best practices tend to include multiple components, such as the provision of parental controls or other tools, information about the use of the controls and information about media literacy, and partnerships with expert third party and/or non-profit advocacy groups.
When looking ahead to the possibility of developing additional best practices, especially those which could be applied uniformly across companies and providers in the Internet industry, the panelists acknowledged a number of challenges. These include the proliferation of platforms; the rapidly changing nature of those platforms; the need for each company or type of provider to “play to its own strength” when it comes to implementing best practices; and, the fact that the Internet itself “knows no borders;” and the fact that no one “silver bullet” solution exists. There was also the acknowledgement of the tension between wanting to provide truly empowering tools to parents while at the same time maintaining the core importance of not censoring content.
The panelists also noted a number of opportunities for developing and implementing new best practices. Key ideas included:
Implementing consistent messaging across companies and segments of the industry. Several panelists indicated that the keys to the messaging were that it had to be simple, powerful and ubiquitous, in the vein of such time-honored campaign slogans as “Give a hoot, don't pollute,” “Only you can prevent forest fires,” and “Stop, drop, and roll.”
Developing more consistent applications for components of best practices already in place - for example, retaining the core components of parental controls/tools for parents and media literacy but offer them to parents in a more consistent way so as to minimize confusion for consumers.
Similarly, develop “one stop shopping” for parents wishing to access information and tools for online safety and media literacy, again in order to minimize confusion.
Developing new partnerships among companies and /or segments of the Internet industry - for example, Internet Service Providers and search engine providers working more closely together on the parental controls that each offers, perhaps to provide more uniformity, interoperability or availability to consumers.
More industry partnerships with non-profit safety advocates who are creating and providing useful online safety information.
Creating a community environment for online safety so as to reinforce parental activity and involvement.