WASHINGTON, D.C. — Participants in the first Internet/Online Summit focusing on children and families announced today a series of initiatives that demonstrate how the private sector is working toward creating a safe, new medium that enhances education, encourages exploration of the world and enriches the future of American kids.
The initiatives range from easy-to-access listings of some of the Internet�s best sites to upgraded technology that provides parents with a constantly improving digital toolbox for safeguarding youngsters. “These initiatives are part of an on-going effort by the private sector to create a safe medium that provides education and entertainment for American families,” said Christine Varney, chairperson of the Summit.
Considered together, the announcements made today and actions taken over the last two years demonstrate the diversity of concrete ways the private sector is addressing concerns about safety in cyberspace expressed by American families without infringing on the free speech of adults. Among the the many announcements by individual companies and organizations at the Summit are:
- A new “cyber collection” of links to more than 700 “Great Sites” for kids reviewed, evaluated, annotated and organized in categories by a team of children’s librarians, a project of the American Library Association. The librarians, who also are Web specialists, have made the collection available at www.ala.org/parentspage/greatsites/. The ALA site is an example of the kind of support increasingly available to parents guiding children to quality content on the Web. The hundreds of sites range from links to the Negro Baseball League and the Titanic to a Girl Tech Games Cafe and The World’s Tallest Buildings. Subjects include standards like arts, history, science, along with dinosaurs, games and other kid’s favorites.
- A package of new features offered by America Online to its 10 million subscribers that improve parental controls and encourage their use by creating a new level of control appropriate for 13 to15-year-old teens; adding a permanent parental control button to the AOL Welcome Screen; making the choice on whether to use Parental Controls an automatic part of registering a new screen name; and, launching a new AOL Neighborhood Watch area and on-line campaign to provide information on safety and security and raise awareness of safe online behavior. The company also will begin placing its distinctive “Notify AOL” alert button in key areas of the service to make it easier to report inappropriate content or behavior directly to AOL’s Community Action Team or even to page an AOL guide to a chat room for assistance.
- In cooperation with the Internet Online Summit, The Children’s Partnership will disseminate a new information resource for families entitled “Keeping Kids Safe Online – Tips and Tools for Parents.” The brochure will provide parents with information about the benefits and risks of online communications and media as well as specific parenting tips for using email, the world wide web and “chat rooms.” The brochure will explain what parental control tools can do, and will be distributed through a variety of channels to parents across the country over the next few months. Information also will be posted on The Children’s Partnership website at http://www.childrenspartnership.org
- An e-mail program designed by Disney On-Line for use by children on Disney’s Daily Blast, the online service for kids. D-Mail incorporates sophisticated parental controls that must be designated during registration and can be tailored to individual children. Disney Online also announced plans to release an extensive, family-oriented search and directory tool pointing families to thousands of kid-appropriate sites. Disney introduced at the Summit the new CyberNetiquette Comix, a public education program giving families a fun, interactive ways to learn lessons in online safety with Comix features such as The Three Little Pigs in “Who’s Afraid of Little Sweet_Sheep?”
- The creation of a children’s page on AT&T; WorldNet Service linked to websites appropriate for children. The new site and its links provide a convenient way for families to navigate and learn about the Internet and online world together while furthering the company’s focus on connecting people to content rather than providing it. AT&T; continues to offer two effective Internet filters, Cyber Patrol and Surfwatch, as well as top-of-the-line search engines to help families locate quality content for kids. AT&T;’s participation in the Summit is an extension of its ongoing commitment to supporting parents, teachers, librarians and other adults helping children master the new technology. In 1997 alone, AT&T; provided about $1.5 million in grants to four advocacy and education organizations to expand their work with children and the Internet.
- An online survey, to be conducted by the FamilyEducation Company, seeking information on how families use the Internet, how families feel about the safety of children in cyberspace and other issues affecting families in the new medium. The company, in conjunction with its partners, will use thousands of local websites to conduct a dialogue on issues surrounding families and the Internet and will use the websites to share resource lists of family-friendly Internet sites and services.
- A new Internet filtering software product, GuardiaNet, created by Landmark Community Interests of Norfolk, Virginia. The new server-based filter operates by screening words in context, as well as by RSACi. It is customizable for up to four children in a family, can incorporate lists of sites devised by third parties, and will be available as of December 12
- An enhancement to The Learning Company’s Internet filter software, Cyber Patrol, that will allow parents to restrict their children’s participation in web-based chat rooms and message boards to those that are monitored. The new add-on feature prevents children from participating in unmonitored chat and message areas and reduces the possibility that children will encounter unsavory behavior on-line. The new feature expands the software’s existing ability to restrict access to content deemed inappropriate by parents and to restrict the personal information a child can send into cyberspace. The customizable software, which screens sites using a proprietary list, also offers families the option to screen by PICS or RSACi as well as a CyberYES list of kid-friendly Web sites.
- A series of “smart surfing workshops” to be offered in five cities next year by MCI to provide training to parents and children on avoiding and dealing with the bad online as well as finding and benefiting from the good. Families will be taught the basics of Internet use, how to monitor their children’s use of the Internet, how to use filtering software and how to encourage family-friendly Internet navigation.
- An educational program linked to the 1998 Winter Olympics that — beginning in January — will allow students to use a special Web site to learn concepts in science, math and social studies in a fun and offbeat way. The program, developed by the Public Broadcasting Service in cooperation with IBM and CBS, will be previewed Tuesday morning at the Summit and details will be released at a news conference the same day.
- SurfWatch Software Inc., a division of Spyglass, Inc. (NASDAS: SPYG), announces the development of a demonstration site for a Platform for Internet Content Selection (PICS) standards-based rating system that will allow the use of SurfWatch filtering with any PICS compliant browser. PICS is an industry-standard for rating Internet content that is supported by companies such as AT&T;, Disney Online, IBM, Netscape, Microsoft, and Oracle. This site was created in conjunction with the University of Michigan and will be displayed at the Summit.
- A broad series of initiatives by Time Warner aimed at teaching kids about online safety that include using Time Warner’s Cartoon Network to publish a newsletter on safety issues, host chats on online safety, and loans Hanna Barbera characters, such as Fred Flintstone and Scooby-Doo, to America Online for safety education. Through DC Comics, Time Warner will host chats on Internet safety, using characters like Batman and Wonder Woman as part of the national public education teach-in and publish a newsletter teaching on-line safety. Through Kids WB, the company will host chats and use cartoon characters of the network for the national teach-in. Through the Pathfinder Network and the Roadrunner cable Internet Service, Time Warner will host a chat Dec. 3 featuring the Children’s Partnership and other Summit participants on Internet safety, as well as make information on on-line safety easily available to subscribers.