In November, the Federal Communications Commission proposed new rules stating that schools and libraries receiving federal e-Rate funding would have to submit proof they’ve implemented web-safety education programs along with their applications.
The new rules came in response to legislation passed late last year requiring schools to teach their students about safe and responsible internet use. But many schools didn’t wait for the FCC’s action, instead taking a proactive approach to compliance with the new law.
Judi Westberg Warren, president of the internet safety-education group Web Wise Kids, said earlier this year that her organization has seen an increased number of schools reaching out to Web Wise Kids for guidance on how to properly educate students and teachers about internet safety.
Warren attributed the increase to a combination of the new internet-safety mandate and a general growing awareness about the issue.
“We have an awful lot of schools and teachers asking about internet-safety programs–it’s really on the increase,” Warren said in October. “We’re really excited about that, because it means that schools are concerned about this issue and want to find good methods to educate their kids.”
Meanwhile, schools looking to teach about internet safety got some additional help throughout the year.
New research came out in January suggesting that simply reaching out to teens via eMail can help them learn safe and responsible internet use. Members of an internet safety task force in July suggested several ways to improve cyber safety for children, focusing on three key areas in particular: education before a child gets online, control while the child is online, and having set procedures if problems arise. And earlier this month, the Federal Trade Commission and other government agencies released a new booklet that helps parents and teachers steer kids safely through the online and mobile-phone worlds.
So far, schools looking to teach internet safety have had to do so on their own dime. But a bill introduced in Congress earlier this year could change that.
The School and Family Education about the Internet (SAFE Internet) Act, sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., would “create a grant program to support existing and new internet safety programs that meet guidelines based on the cyber safety strategies found to be most effective.”
“The way to meet the challenges and opportunities the internet presents isn’t to deny our children access to this great resource, but to make sure they know how to use it wisely,” Menendez said. “Just as we make sure our children know not to talk to strangers, not to bully kids on the playground, and not to give out their personal information, we have the same responsibility to teach them to apply these values online.”
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