Operation Delete Internet Fear ... Continuing
- Hi all,
As you may recall, in early October I wrote to you about some legislation
that is pending in Congress related to Internet safety. These are two bills
- the Wasserman Schultz HR 3630 and Menendez S 1047. In her testimony, Rep.
Wasserman Schultz specifically stated: Our bill will establish a competitive
grant program so that *non-profit Internet safety organizations* can work
together with schools and communities to educate students, teachers, and
parents about these *online dangers.*
Throughout the text of HR 3630, there is reference to ³Internet crime
awareness and cybercrime prevention.² The funding would be through US DOJ.
As I indicated, what I told the committee was:
It is essential that we establish 21st Century learning environments in
schools, enriched with web 2.0 technologies and that fear-based messages
about Internet risk was a major barrier to doing this. The Speak Up folks
have told me that students report that after teachers receive Internet
safety training they place greater restrictions on their Internet use.
There is clearly a need to provide universal digital media safety and
literacy instruction - but that it was inappropriate for the federal
government to be directing this - and to be providing funding for Internet
safety organizations to compete with the private sector. Do we really want
US DOJ controlling the creation of curriculum and provision of professional
Some young people are clearly at greater risk online - generally those also
at greater risk offline - and effective online risk prevention and
intervention programs are clearly necessary to address these concerns. These
clearly are the kinds of activities the federal government ought to be
supporting - under conditions that will support innovation but also have a
substantial likelihood of success.
I have been trying to work behind the scenes to find a way to shift this
legislative language. But as I do not have a lobbyist in DC and am not from
one of the DC-based Internet safety organizations, so far I have been unable
to create change. I have been warned that my opposition to this legislation
would alienate the people in Washington. So I had to take a good look at
myself and ask, who do I really care about - DC organizations or educators,
librarians, and ed tech folks throughout the country? Am I willing to stand
up against the people I have worked with and say, "no, this is not okay and
I am going to oppose this?"
My opinion is that if this legislation passes, there will be three harms:
The information that we need $125 Million to educate young people about
"Internet danger" will, in and of itself, generate more fear, which will
interfere with our ability to infuse schools with web 2.0 technologies.
The educational effort funded by DOJ will likely continue to be very
fear-based. All of the messages they have funded so far have been and so
this is very likely to continue. And I do not think the federal government
should be controlling the creation of curriculum.
Congress will think that its work is done and so we will not be able to
establish and fund a multidisciplinary programs - involving justice,
education and mental health - to effectively address the concerns of those
young people who are at higher risk online.
Later this week, Senator Menendez's staff person is presenting at the Family
Online Safety Institute. I have indicated that if by this point in time,
there are not indications of an interest in changing the legislation to
address these concerns, I will be asking educators to send messages
indicating opposition to this legislation. I do not know if this will
accomplish change. I would lay odds not - it does not seem that my message
is communicating against those with greater Washington connections.
So for the rest of this week, I am going to send messages to you - one a day
- where I am going to try to more effectively outline the issues as I see
them. I hope this will be helpful because these issues are also relevant to
what I think needs to be occurring in states and communities. We need to
endure 21st century learning environments. It is important to ensure that
all students know what the online risks are and how to make safe and
responsible choices. And it is imperative that risk prevention programs are
put into place to address the concerns presented by the minority of young
people who are at higher risk online.
And then early next week, if there appears to be no inclination to change
the legislation, I will again ask that you communicate - this time to the
House committee members (where this bill will come up first) as well as to
your own representative.
Thanks in advance. I would also be happy to respond privately or publicly to
any questions or even challenges to what I have said. Also, if you know of
others who should be in on this discussion - like state discussion lists - I
would encourage you to forward my messages. As I said, these are also issues
that need to be addressed at the state and local level.
Nancy Willard, M.S., J.D.
Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use
Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats: Responding to the Challenge of Online Social
Aggression, Threats, and Distress (Research Press)
Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens: Helping Young People Learn to Use the
Internet Safely and Responsibly (Jossey-Bass)