Archive | October, 2013

Internet Governance Forum tackles child protection vs. child rights

Bali, Indonesia — I’m at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF #IGF2013) in Bali where I’m participating in a workshop on child protection vs. child rights. As a child safety advocate, I’ve long argued that young people need “digital literacy” to understand how to safely navigate the online world. That can be protecting their emotional well-being by helping them avoid or deal with cyberbullying but it can also be helping young people understand how to protect their privacy online or to make sure they’re not posting images or other content that could harm their reputation. It also involves teaching empathy and social-emotional learning to help youth better understand how to treat their peers, whether they be close friends or people they only encounter online.

My personal approach to child safety is to start by assuming that “the kids are all right” and — as a default — treat children and teens respectfully by providing them with the tools and information they need to protect themselves and respect others. I’ve long said that the best Internet filter is the one that runs between the child’s ears, and have never been a huge fan of widespread use of parental control or monitoring software, except when parents have seen a real need to use it for their kids. It’s not that I’m against using tools that limit or monitor what kids do, it’s just that I think the tools need to be used thoughtfully, only when necessary, and not be a substitute for good parenting or helping kids develop their ability to do what’s right without external controls.

Yet, there are those who feel that most kids need to be controlled or monitored, and there are plenty of companies selling such tools. Schools too often use control software not only to block porn and sites that advocate violence or drug and alcohol use but often also block social networking sites, YouTube and other media that kids commonly access away from school.

To explore this issue, I organized a panel at IGF titled “Child Protection vs. Child Rights.” Article 13 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that “The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds.” Yet in the very countries that have ratified this convention, parents and schools are denying young people access to some types of content in the name of protection.

There are no simple answers. There are lots of adults who strongly believe in free speech rights for kids yet at the same time feel it’s necessary to limit their access to certain types of content and media.

Panelists include John Carr, Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety (UK); Janice Richardson, European Schoolnet and Insafe (Belgium); Nevine Tewfit, Ministry of Communications (Egypt); Yannis Li, Dot Kids Foundation (Hong Kong) and Larry Magid, (US). The moderator is Anjan Bose, ECPAT International (Thailand).

Larry Magid is co-director of and founder of


Facebook lets teens post publicly: Why that’s a good things

Digital citizenship includes rights as well as responsibilities

ConnectSafely to host Safer Internet Day in US

Safer Internet Day 2014

Safer Internet Day, which has been celebrated throughout the world for the last 10 years, is about to get a big boost in the United States.

The project, which is organized by Brussels-based Insafe and the European Commission, includes annual awareness events on or before the second Tuesday of February – for the coming year, February 11. It’s a well-established campaign in Europe and other regions and gained official recognition in the US in late 2012, when the Department of Homeland Security signed a joint agreement with the European Commission to work together in building a better Internet for youth. This year ConnectSafely, with the support of DHS and a key member of Congress, was designated by Insafe as the US host going forward.

Our plan is to make the US celebration of Safer Internet Day a highly collaborative project, with supporters from the Internet industry and partners representing a broad array of youth-serving organizations.

Safer Internet Day 2014 will be celebrated on 11 February 2014. The tagline for the campaign is “Let’s create a better internet together”


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Cyersecurity is everyone’s business

by Larry Magid

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month

I wish it were possible to simply delegate cybersecurity to the “big guys.”  Why not just let the government and big companies handle it?

If only it were that easy.  While it is essential for the government and big companies  to protect their own infrastructure and do all they can to help consumers, it’s also up to all of us to protect our own networks and devices — and that includes families.

Cybersecurity is patriotic

Not only will basic security precautions and device “hygiene” protect you and your family, it will help protect the rest of us too. It’s like public health. If you don’t get a flu-shot, you’re putting me at risk because — if you get sick — you might pass it on to others. Security flaws, too, can be infectious. You can pass them on to people you interact with directly or — if your computer is turned into a “zombie” as part of a “botnet,” your machine could unwittingly be recruited into a malicious army that attacks millions of other devices.

Only you can prevent social engineering

Even if laws and corporate best-practices could protect us against malware and hacks (which they can’t), there is nothing an officials could possibly do keep people from using poor passwords, failing to use PINs on mobile devices or refrain from clicking on bogus links and compromising their user credentials to phishing attacks.

A Parents’ Guide to Cybersecurity

Free booklet helps parents secure family tech and explain security to their kids

My colleagues and I at just published A Parents’ Guides to Cybersecurity (PDF), a free booklet that provides information on how to protect devices and home networks and answers parents’ top 5 questions, pointing out, for example, that children and teens can be caught by the same kinds of security problems that affect adults (drive-by downloads, links to malicious sites, viruses and malware, etc.). But  there are some special ways criminals get to kids, such as links to “fan sites” that contain malicious links or “free stuff,” messages that look like they’re from friends, offers of free music or movies or ring tones or anything else that a child might be tempted to download. Also, kids are particularly vulnerable to identity theft because they have clean credit records.

The guide also provides advice on how to talk with your kids about security, how to protect your family’s computers and mobile devices and why it’s so important to use strong, secure and unique passwords.

And, as my co-director pointed out in her blog post about kids and cybersecurity, kids love videos (which are sometimes the source of malicious links),  kids use family computers (so their activities affect all users), kids can be big fans (but not all fan sites are legit) and kids need to protect their social media and smartphone passwords to make sure others don’t break in and impersonate them (a form of bullying).

National Cyber Security Month

October is National Cyber Security Month, a time when companies, non-profit organizations and government agencies  sponsor public awareness campaigns around security. The month-long campaign is part of Stay Safe Online, the coalition of companies, organizations and government agencies behind theStop Think Connect which, according to executive director Michael Kaiser, encourages consumers to “stop and make sure you’ve taken the safety security precautions you should have, think about the consequences of your actions and behaviors to protect you against phishing or posting inappropriate content, and connect and enjoy the Internet.”

For more on this and a 10-minute audio interview with Kaiser, see my postCyber Security Alliance chief: We’re all connected” over at CNET News.

Cybersecurity where kids are concerned

By Anne Collier

October is  National Cybersecurity Awareness Month in the United States. It’s an increasingly important kind of awareness for everybody to have, because, in this very social media environment, security – of our data, identity and property – is just as “crowd-sourced” as media is now. And we all know that kids are doing as much, if not more, sharing and producing as everybody else. So here, from our brand-new guide at, are some kid-specific cybersecurity pointers for parents:

Kids love videos. So malicious links can turn up in popular video-sharing sites like YouTube. Ask your children if they’ve ever seen links that could take viewers to inappropriate or illegal content in other sites and ask them what they do when they encounter them. If they were familiar with the scam they probably ignored them but these bogus links can be cleverly disguised. Ads, too, can either link kids to content that isn’t appropriate or scams and third-party sites that capture sensitive information. Young people need to be wary of “make a new friend” links, dating sites, and gossipy-sounding scams that look like invites from friends or tempt them to “find out who’s talking about you” or “…who has a crush on you.”

Kids often use family computers. Since most kids don’t have credit cards, you might think that they’re not vulnerable to financial crimes, but if children share a computer or device with parents, their online activities can affect all users, including any online shopping, banking or work parents do at home (be careful when logging into your work network from a shared computer). And parents will want to be aware that, if kids check browser history, they can be exposed to sites their parents visit on the family computer.

Kids can be big fans. Like a lot of adults, but sometimes with even more devotion (or time), kids and teens follow and chat online about their favorite celebrities in all kinds of fields. There are lots of celebrity sites, and the ones operated by the celebrities themselves or entertainment news publishers are fine. But kids need to be extra wary of fan sites that turn up in search results but aren’t actually run by the celebrities and the people who cover them. It’s not always easy to tell, but at least they’re usually lower down in the search results.

Kids are social. There are social reasons why kids are hacked. One form of bullying is using a password a child has shared to break into his or her social media account and post embarrassing messages or images or use the account to spread spam or post links to malicious sites. Teach your kids not to share passwords, even with their closest buddies, and always to close out of accounts when they’re finished using computers shared with other people – especially those used in public, such as at school or public libraries. Browsers and cookies “remember” passwords all too well unless you use the browser’s “private” or “incognito” mode or remember to delete your cookies and history as we explain at

Kids’ IDs are valuable to thieves. It may surprise you that kids are sometimes the target of identity theft – where a criminal gets enough information about them (e.g., name, address and social security number) to apply for credit or commit a crime in a child’s name. Children are susceptible because most have perfect credit (they’ve never borrowed money so they’ve never been late in paying) and don’t find out their identity’s been compromised until much later, such as when they want to apply for student loans or credit cards.

For lots more cybersecurity tips for families – our data, software, identities, hardware and networks – check out “A Parents’ Guide to Cybersecurity,” which can be downloaded in PDF format for free. [ConnectSafely is part of the Stop.Think.Connect. Network of nonprofit organizations, corporations and government agencies promoting informed digital citizenship.]

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