Technology cannot replace parental guidance and law enforcement as the chief method of keeping kids safe online, a new study from the Internet Safety Task Force at the Institute for Policy Innovation warns.
“There is no fail-safe method of protecting children online,” said Bartlett Cleland, director of the Dallas, Texas-based Center for Technology Freedom at the Institute for Policy Innovation. “It takes a multilayered approach.”
No ‘Silver Bullet’
Law enforcement, parents, technology, and social services all have roles to play, but there is no “silver bullet” to take the place of all, Cleland said. The IPI report, titled “Enhancing Child Safety & Online Technologies,” was released in January.
Craig Settles, president of Successful.com, agrees.
“On the home front, there are technologies you can buy to help lock out certain content and access to sites that kids can [otherwise] reach,” Settles said. “But since most kids in late middle school or beyond can work around most technology challenges, this has limited value.
“As the report summarizes, patterns online seem to reflect life offline,” Settles said. “If parents develop the rapport that allows them to talk to their kids openly about Internet issues, behaviors, and possible threats, they can help their kids recognize and avoid bad situations.”
Wanted: Involved Parents
“We found that kids at risk in the real world are at risk on the Internet, while children with involved parents at home are more aware of the dangers lurking on the Internet,” Cleland said.
Law enforcement agencies, Settles added, have to work hard to keep up with the latest advancements in technology.
“Turn [law enforcement] loose with every tool possible to chase down pedophiles and child pornographers without infringing on [law-abiding people’s] privacy and the usual rules of law,” Settles recommended. “But like parents, law enforcement is challenged to keep up with the technology and how both youths and the bad guys use the technology.”
Cleland believes legislators’ role in Internet safety should be to provide “funding for Internet safety education,” not another version of the Child Online Protection Act that makes for great headlines but “does not accomplish anything.”
Troy Stouffer ([email protected]) writes from Baltimore, Maryland.
For more information …
“Enhancing Child Safety & Online Technologies,” January 2009, Internet Safety Task Force, Institute for Policy Innovation: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/pubrelease/isttf/.