Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Best practices for online child safety

Protecting children online is a shared responsibility. The PointSmart.ClickSafe. Task Force, of which we're a member, is an important example of how industry leaders, safety advocates, and community organizations are working together keep kids safe online.

This morning the Task Force released its Recommendations for Best Practices for Online Safety and Literacy, the culmination of a year-long effort.

The most important and timely recommendation from the report (which previous online safety task forces all agree upon) is the need for digital media literacy and safety education that empowers kids, parents, and educators. It's important that kids of all ages learn what it mean to be a digital citizen and how to navigate the online world safely, and it's equally important that parents and educators have the resources and online tools to help kids make the right choices online. That's why we support the SAFE Internet Act, introduced by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), which would establish a $175 million dollar competitive grant program for state and local education agencies and nonprofit organizations to promote Internet safety education.

For our part, Google's approach to child safety has three primary elements. First, we empower families with powerful and innovative tools to create a safe experience online, like SafeSearch, community flagging tools, and granular privacy controls for our products. Second, we partner with law enforcement and industry partners to stop illegal content and activity online -- we're especially proud of our work with NCMEC and the technology we provided them to fight child exploitation online. Third, we support educational efforts -- both Google and YouTube have developed online safety resources for parents and kids, including a Online Family Safety Guide, and we continue to work and support many of the non-profit organizations doing great work in this space including FOSI, NCMEC, Common Sense Media, and iKeepSafe.

We're committed to helping keep our users safe online, and we look forward to continuing our work with the Task Force to explore and share new and innovative ways to do just that.


jeffc1 said...

This report does not reflect contemporary digital marketing to youth realities. Any honest assessment of today's interactive environment would recognize that children and adolescents are digital ground zero in the powerful data collection, profiling and targeted marketing and advertising regime. The report is a kind of Fox overseeing the child protection `henhouse' since so many of the Task Force members are online marketers. The report ignores the call by health and children's advocacy groups for the FTC to prohibit all behavioral targeting to children and teens. It fails to examine how the data collection and targeting activities of Task Force members raises child protection concerns. For example, Google's YouTube is co-branding ads for products associated with the youth obesity crisis. Nor does the report provide a serious assessment of how digital marketing to young people is structured, and what the many psychological and behavioral issues are as a consequence. It appears to be an attempt to quell the growing call to better protect the privacy of children and adolescents in the interactive marketing era. But that is usually the role of such industry-led initiatives.

Stephanie said...

I disagree with Jeffc1 (not sure why he doesn't have a profile). The report is not about 'marketing to youth', nor is it 'a fox overseeing a henhouse'. Washington DC does not think like silicon valley does. I don't think Congress, or parents for that matter really think about 'powerful data collection, profiling, and targeted marketing'... yet. The report is encouraging industry to lead best practices for child safety _themselves_, before lawmakers are forced to step in and create some legislation to regulate children's online experiences. I would encourage Jeff and other developers interested in targeting to this 'ground zero' audience to review the background for the Best Practices report here:

Most interesting is the FCC Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein presentation about "the over commercialization of the internet" (in the 'Governments Role' video). He talks about legislation to make interactive advertising targeting children illegal.

Jeff, read the whole report and the background. I agree that just talking about an issue is not as effective as implementing solutions. I think that developers should focus more on positive, meaningful content over advertising based numbers.