Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in trying to keep children safe online. For more than a decade, various groups and individuals representing parents, children, educators, law enforcement, government, and industry have weighed in with suggestions.
Now, however, a worthwhile report has emerged from a coalition that is notable in equal parts for its diversity, its lack of political agenda, and its candor. The coalition was brought together by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association as an element of its “PointSmart.ClickSafe.” initiative to promote online safety and media literacy.
The coalition includes industry leaders like Verizon, Comcast, Cox, Google, Yahoo!, AOL, and Symantec. It also includes groups like Common Sense Media, the Internet Keep Safe Coalition (iKeepSafe), PTA, Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), and the Children’s Partnership.
Following a summit in Washington in June 2008 and a year-long effort, the coalition has now issued a report titled “PointSmart.ClickSafe: Task Force Recommendations for Best Practices for Online Safety and Literacy.” It’s online at www.pointsmartreport.org.
The “best practices,” 20 in all, are grouped in three categories: “before children go online, “during a child’s online activities,” and “when problems arise.” You can read the particulars here.
What I find noteworthy about the report more broadly, however, is its candor in admitting the sizable number of obstacles in trying to keep kids safe. Kids know more than their parents about technology. Kids lack impulse control. It’s hard to verify identities and ages. Technology keeps changing … the list goes on and on.
Given this daunting list of variables, many activist groups would turn to the government for a “solution.” But, thankfully, not this coalition – and that’s also noteworthy. “Best Practices … provide the most direct potential benefits, because they empower the private and nonprofit sectors to create solutions and allow government to focus on broad policy guidelines rather than detailed, prescriptive, onerous or problematic laws and regulation,” the report states.
As the FCC and several other federal agencies pursue their own studies of media and online safety, they would do well to take note of NCTA’s PointSmart.ClickSafe. This effort demonstrates that the industry, with input from a wide range of responsible advocacy groups, is indeed able to keep its own house in order without a government housekeeper.