January 13, 2009

EIE Statement Included in ISTTF

*The following statement was included in "Enhancing Child Safety & Online Technologies: Final Report of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force" released December 31, 2008 to the Multi-State Working Group On Social Networking of the State Attorneys General of the United States:*


The Internet has evolved from a collection of websites to a diverse communicative habitat. Although significant regions of this digital world are safe and well-lit, portions remain dangerous and "untamed". In this ever-evolving virtual space, the risks minors face are complex and multifaceted. A combination of industry best practices, technologies, education efforts, parental involvement, law enforcement and policy solutions are needed to create and sustain a safe digital habitat for our children.

Significant progress has been made: Members of the Internet industry have demonstrated a heightened sense of corporate responsibility. Social networking giants, like MySpace, now proactively employ preventative and conscientious safety policies and technologies, but it is essential that successful best practices be adopted by the social networking industry-at-large for broader impact on youth safety. And, although challenges remain with respect to identity verification and authentication of minors online, of special note are findings by the TAB regarding new innovations in adult verification technologies, which could have significant implications "to reduce minors' access to adult-only sights"[1].

Parents remain the first line of defense in protecting their children online: There is still no silver bullet to protect children online, and parents play a critical role in a layered approach, which is why our Internet Safety 101SM: Empowering Parents Program[2] focuses on educating, equipping and empowering parents to protect children through both technical and non-technical measures.

There is more work to be done: Further research is needed regarding pornography's impact on youth, specifically with respect to fueling youth risky behaviors including the sexual solicitation of other youth and adults online, and youth-generated child pornography. Additional research is also needed to explore the impact of both legal and illegal online pornography on predators and in the sexual exploitation of children, as well as the role and impact of grooming in online victimization[3]. The preventative impact and critical need for aggressive enforcement of existing laws in the U.S. -specifically obscenity statutes-cannot be over emphasized.[4] The Task Force would have benefited from greater involvement from law enforcement officers, clinicians, psychologists, and parents to help paint a holistic picture of Internet dangers and safety solutions.

This report is an important step, but significant challenges remain. We look forward to our continued work alongside the Attorneys General and other stake holders as we press on towards ensuring our children enjoy and safe, healthy and rewarding experience online.

*Donna Rice Hughes, President, Enough Is Enough®*

Find more information regarding the Internet Safety Technical Task Force at: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/research/isttf#

[1] Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies: ISTTF Final Report: 29.
[2] internetsafety101
[3] Although the N-JOV study (Wolak et al. 2004) found that in Internet-initiated victimization deception was rare and youth willingly and knowingly met with their perpetrator, the role of grooming was not examined.
[4] Of youth who experienced unwanted exposure to online pornography, 57% encountered "people having sex" or violent or deviant images". (Online Victimization of Youth: Five Years Later. 2006)