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Operation Delete Internet Fear ... Continuing

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  • Nancy Willard
    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 -
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 2, 2009
      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.

      All best.


      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)
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