When it comes to children's online safety, the policy debate is often framed by those who demonize the Internet and advocate for greater federal regulation, which often does little to actually protect children while also placing significant burdens on free expression. But a keynote panel entitled "Padora's Box: Youth and the Internet" that I attended last week at the 2007 RSA Conference in San Francisco
was a breath of fresh air because the participants largely emphasized education, including Internet "literacy," as well as the use of technological tools to protect children and track the bad guys.
The panelists included Dr. Sharon Cooper
, a pediatrician who treats victims of child abuse and who is also an instructor at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) where she focuses on Internet crimes against children; Drew Oosterbaan, who prosecutes child exploitation and obscenity cases for the Justice Department; Kevin Poulsen, a senior editor at Wired News; and Chris Kelly, the Chief Privacy Officer for Facebook
, a popular social networking site.
Mr. Oosterbaan of DOJ made the sobering point that the Internet's unique ability to allow people to quickly and cheaply communicate has allowed pedophiles to create an online community that reinforces their reprehensible tendencies; whereas would-be child predators in the past were much more insular and perhaps less likely to act out.
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