Thursday, September 24, 2009

Been there and done that!

some of us have been working in cyberrisk management and safety for more than 15 years. We did it when a dial-up speed of 2400 was lightening speed. We did it before kids were online. We did it when those online didn't need protection, since they were mostly university professors, military researchers and geeks. (with the utmost admiration for "geeks" I know and love.)

We have seen some brands rise and then disappear. We have seen experts change sides. We have gone from how we can protect the Internet from government censorship to protecting the governmental websites from 13 year old hackers. ICU became AOL AIM, IRC became chatrooms, AIM profiles became MySpace and Facebook, computing moved to cellphones and handheld devices.

We went from confusion to scare tactics to confusion to scare tactics and now we are moving back to scare tactics.

I am not talking about the fear of sexual predators scaring our teens straight. I am talking about misinformation and hype designed to get so-called experts on TV or giving them a place at the table when they weren't otherwise included for being contrary.

I am very concerned about a trend I am seeing that is designed to exclude law enforcement and legal avenues from the cybersafety arena. Many "advocates" are claiming that the only way to deal with cybersafety is through educational institutions. Police, they claim, have not role here. It's education 100% and there is no room for legislation or the criminal justice system.

I beg to differ. And their tactics will end up throwing the baby out with the cyber-bathwater.

Cybersafety takes a village. Heck, it takes a huge city with multi-million residents. Everyone has a role to play.

1. Educators need to educate. They need to teach our children to tell the difference between credible sources and hype. They need to teach media, technology and information literacy skills. They need to teach our children how to think and be discerning and discriminating consumers of information.
2. Mental health professionals (including guidance counselors) need to help our children understand impulse control and perspective. They need to be there to help them handle issues that we never dreamed our children would have to handle. They need to help them find ways of letting off steam and finding balance and comfort.
3. School administrators need to understand what is going on and what isn't going on during the school day, how to inform students, school personnel and parents about that and learn to manage the risks and find the opportunities. They need to support their teachers, students and the community.
4. Legislators and policymakers must avoid knee jerk responses to issues and craft relevant, and effective policies and laws that can be enforced and will work beyond the current hot issue. (I love Rep.Wasserman-Schultz's and Sen. Menenedez's bills to fund programs that work.) They need to do high level factfinding and support government agencies on the frontlines.
5. Government regulatory agencies need ot help guide the industries they oversee to take a forwarding-thinking approach and find the safety business model. They should provide resources and help in addressing the risks they oversee and promote those that do a good job.
6. Parents need to parent. That takes courage in the face of fire, and the willingness to put your child's development and well being before your design to be their best friend. They need tools, information and resources ot help them juggle the millions of responsibilities they have and keep their kids safer too.
7. The kids, tweens and teens need to have the skills, information and resources they need too. They need to thinkb4theyclick. They need to help each other. They need to help their parents with younger siblings. they need to take responsibility for their actions and to be discerning information consumers (see above, under educators)
8. Law enforcement and the judicial system is there when the other things fail. Sometimes education alone doesn't cut it. They play an important role. And community policing services and SROs are on the frontline when it comes to the intersection between school and safety.

If we look to design systems without law enforcement, they won't work. And we will be back at this end of the pendulum swing in a couple years.

I've been doing this longer than most. I've seen this before.
We need balance and a balanced approach and far fewer "experts" who look to promote themselves at the cost of our children.

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