National Press Club

Awareness, Education Can Keep 'Digital Natives' Safe on Net

October 20, 2008 | By Keith Hill

Because kids are "digital natives" to the Internet, that makes them more open to revealing personal information while online, attorney Christopher Wolf told an Oct. 16 Newsmaker audience.

Wolf was one of three panelists talking about online safety.

When kids put personal information online, it creates a digital dossier, he said, adding that teens who expose personal information online are most at risk. Wolf noted that a culture of intolerance has been created because kids are exposed to information from racist groups, and parents have abdicated their responsibility to monitor the sites their children explore.

He said that new technologies are emerging to help keep kids safe and urged Internet companies to take down hateful sights, since they're not constrained by the First Amendment.

Stephen Balkam, CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute, said that the Internet has transformed children's lives. He told the audience that, contrary to popular opinion, 80% of child sexual abuse
occurs in the home, not with children who surf the 'Net.

Parents and government should focus on the three C's, he said: content, conduct, and contact.

Brent Olsen, assistant vice president for regulatory policy with AT&T, told the audience that awareness, education, and tools can help parents be parents in the online world. Noting that
education is the most important element, Olsen said his company provides parents with tips, advice and training in Internet safety.