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Friday, November 26, 2004

The $64k question for online kids

How to keep kids safe on the Internet has long been a controversial issue - partly because, as with no other medium before the Net, it always bumps into free-speech protections. Some think children's safety should be legislated, others feel filtering's the answer, a lot of techies think the problem's overblown, and many people in this field feel families should be able to pick and choose from the complete menu - education for kids, parenting tips, school policies, filtering and monitoring, and the occasional law (such as the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, one of the few legislative efforts that actually took effect in the US). UK dad and technology commentator Bill Thompson thought his daughter had a very reasonable recommendation: "She believes that net safety should be a central part of the [Net and tech] teaching she gets at school, from reception onwards, and that teachers are the ones to show children what is safe and what is not," he writes in a commentary for the BBC. "That way it is unavoidable, it does not rely on parents who may not bother, know or be able to explain, and it becomes part of the general awareness of life that you pick up in school." He adds that it's not the only thing we should be doing to protect online kids (and it would probably be more practicable in the UK than in the US), but better tech training at school (which includes media literacy and critical thinking) would be a big step forward in any country. But I'd like to hear what you feel is the best way to keep kids' experiences with technology safe and constructive. Please email me!


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