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New Report: Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies

19 January, 2009
By Allison Orr

The Internet Safety Technical Task Force has released their report, Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies, which is the culmination of a year-long investigation of tools and technologies that industry and end-users can use to keep young people safe on the Internet.

The ISTTF is a group of 29 non-profit organisations, academics and Internet and technology companies including Microsoft, Google, Yahoo!, Facebook and MySpace.  Their task was to determine to what extent tools available today can be used to keep online space safe, with a primary focus on social networking sites in the US.  This is the third and final report from the Task Force, which summarises the research and provides recommendations.

The research shows that the risks to safety for young people online are not significantly different from those they face offline, and include sexual solicitation, online harassment and bullying, and exposure to problematic and illegal content.  The report finds that sexual solicitation of minors by minors is more common than by an adult, and that while unwanted exposure to pornography does occur online, those most likely to be exposed are those seeking it out.

Harassment and bullying are the most common threats that minors face online and offline.  However, the research has found that minors are not equally at risk online but that those who are the most at risk often engage in risky behavior and have difficulties in other parts of their lives.  According to the report: "The psychosocial makeup of and family dynamics surrounding particular minors are better predictors of risk than the use of specific media or technologies."  The report suggests that the interplay between risks and the role that minors themselves play in contributing to unsafe environments is an area that requires more research.

The Task Force does not recommend or endorse any one technology to protect minors online.  Instead they put forward several recommendations to the Internet community and to parents and caregivers who they recommend should educate themselves about the Internet and the ways in which their children use it.

Read the Full report: Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies
Read the previous reports: Additional Materials

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