Monday, November 17, 2008

Kids Online Conference

Last week, I was excited to be part of the first-ever Kids Online: Balancing Safety and Fun "unconference" at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. . It came on the heels of the 7th Internet Identity Workshop, and both conferences were organized by Identity Commons, which addresses the many identity and privacy issues encountered online.

The day brought together many leaders of online services for children up to age 12. It combined small-group and full-group discussion of how companies like New Moon can improve children's online safety. This hit home for me as our online practices and guidelines at are specifically designed to maintain a safe and fun environment for girls 8-12. I learned that our moderation practices meet the highest standard of safety which sure felt good. I also learned that the cost of moderation is high for sites that do it well and that there are many pressures to shortcut the moderation. All the companies also discussed ways to generate revenue (to cover the cost of moderation) without exploiting children by allowing advertising. It's a challenge, that's for sure!

But what about spaces like Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube, which say they are only for consumers age 13+ (wink, wink), but which our kids are eager to join? Is it possible to keep our kids safe there? So far, the consensus is no. But, we talked about solutions for this and other questions throughout the day. Even better, we're going to regroup monthly to plan additional meetings with one another, as well as organize online safety conferences for parents and kids.

I came away hopeful that this meeting will lead to continuing improvement of online safety for our kids. The Internet changes every day, and it’s essential we always be looking for the next way to protect our kids.

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