Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies - a report with common sense recommendations

Submitter Name: 
Brian Beaton
Submitters Email: 

Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies:

To the Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking of State Attorneys General of the United States

"Many youth in the United States have fully integrated the Internet into their daily lives. For them, the Internet is a positive and powerful space for socializing, learning, and engaging in public life. Along with the positive aspects of Internet use come risks to safety, including the dangers of sexual solicitation, online harassment, and bullying, and exposure to problematic and illegal content. The Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking, comprising 50 state Attorneys General, asked this Task Force to determine the extent to which today’s technologies could help to address these online safety risks, with a primary focus on social network sites in the United States."

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Recommendations for Parents and Caregivers

  1. Parents and caregivers should educate themselves about the Internet and the ways in which their children use it, as well as about technology in general. A list of resources is available at http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/research/isttf
  2. Parents and caregivers should explore and evaluate the effectiveness of available technological tools for their particular children and family context, and adopt those tools appropriately. The technologies submitted to this Task Force – especially the well-developed field of parental controls technologies – form the starting point for this exploration, guided by the evaluation begun by the Technology Advisory Board and the Task Force as a whole.
  3. Parents and caregivers should be engaged and involved in the Internet use of their children, discussing it from an early age, setting appropriate limits and instilling good behavior from the start. Being attentive to early signs of harassment, both in terms of children as bullies and victims, is critical, especially because bullying tends to escalate over time.
  4. Parents and caregivers should be conscious of the common risks that minors face and avoid focusing on rare or hypothetical dangers. Their strategies should center on helping their children understand and navigate the technologies and creating a safe context in which their children will turn to them when there are problems. Trust and open lines of communication are often the best tools for combating risks.
  5. Parents and caregivers should be attentive to at-risk minors in their community and in their children’s peer group, especially because youth frequently make their risky behaviors visible to their peers. Helping other at-risk minors get help and support benefits all online youth.
  6. Parents and caregivers should recognize when they need to seek help from schools, mental health professionals, social services, law enforcement, and others regarding use of the Internet by their children.