Wednesday, California held the first Cyber Security Summit in Sacramento. The focus of this summit was the dangers and opportunities for children on the internet. Various organizations spoke about issues ranging from cyber bullying to online predators to social networking.
Making the keynote address, Mark Klaas, whose daughter Polly's cruel abduction and murder made headlines in the 1993, made it very clear that safety can not be legislated. Legislation "isn't a silver bullet -- you won't find a silver bullet" he told the audience. He spoke instead about becoming as aggressive in the fight against Internet predators as the predators are at finding victims.
Made clear throughout the conference was the idea that education and communication are the keys to keeping children safe in this Internet age. Just like teaching kids to look both ways when crossing a street, or making sure they buckle their seatbelts, talking to them about internet safety is vital to their well-being. This can sometimes be hard for parents and educators since most children and teens know more about technology then they do. "The vast majority of kids are smarter then we give them credit for," said Larry Magid of Safekids.com. It is extremely important that parents recognize this and so become educated themselves -- this way effective communication can take place.
A good example of parents becoming educated on Internet safety is in the story of Katie Canton. Canton, a teen ambassador for Web Wise Kids, told her narrow-escape story of involvement with an online predator. Her parents were able to save their daughter from a horrible fate by using video game technology designed to open the eyes of those kids who are being manipulated by predators. "These games teach on a different level," Canton said. "It's not a lecture, it's not an adult ... it's sort of an experience you learn and retain."
Governor Schwarzenegger, who hosted the event, asked that we "be vigilant, because our children deserve nothing less." He pointed out the staggering statistics of one in five children who have been sexually solicited online, and that he is going to direct his "administration to carry out a series of actions that will build stronger partnerships between governments and between the private and public sectors, between law enforcement and everyone, to fight cyber crime."
One of the most interesting and informative groups to present at the conference was the Teen Angels. Parry Aftab, a former Internet lawyer, presented the Teen Angels as experts in the field of technology and teenagers. The Teen Angels are kids who work to educate other children and adults about safe practices in the Internet and wireless arena. This group of white-shirted teens explained to the adults how kids see the Internet, and how it is not just a dean of evil, but also a world of opportunity. One Angel, Cassy, told how she was using the internet to reach out to at risk youths and runaways. Two other Angels were recently invited to speak at a panel at Yahoo!, helping the company understand how to keep kids safe.
The Summit brought together people of various backgrounds and professions with the same goal -- keeping kids safe Online. Education and communication, for both children and adults, coupled with understanding, common sense and patience is how to do just that.