I’m sure by now you’ve seen the news that the co-founder of MySpace has been caught faking his age on his MySpace profile. Quite ironic given the age verification issues social networks are facing these days. But now seems as good a time as any to say that age and identity verification doesn’t mean you can’t have an online persona that is or isn’t based on your true age.
While I would recommend not giving away any personally identifying information on your profile for the sake of safety (including your birthday), the point of having an age and identity verification solution within a social network is to function behind the scenes to verify someone is an adult and help us monitor what is appropriate for our kids.
Last week IDology representatives attended a forum on Internet Safety with Georgia’s Governor Sonny Perdue. This was part of the Governor’s Child Safety Internet initiative (a.k.a. CSI Georgia) and was well attended by teachers, law enforcement, child advocates, parents, and business leaders. Clearly as a community we are all concerned with keeping kids safe on the Internet.
There are two components to CSI Georgia which are prevention and enforcement. Prevention includes strong education and awareness initiatives towards caregivers, teachers and kids about the dangers of the Internet as well as how to stay safe. What I think is often overlooked in these discussions but definitely a strong component of any prevention initiative is the efforts ecommerce companies need to take to protect kids online. On the forum panel was Michael McKeehan, the Executive Director of Internet & Technology Policy from Verizon, which incidentally was the major sponsor of the event and is very committed to CSI Georgia as evident in their $25K grant announced during the event. This effort (and participation) by Verizon shows that the telecommunications industry is one of the leaders in taking proactive steps to protect kids not only in their education efforts but also their business practices as recommended through the CTIA guidelines regarding content access by minors. Boy, how I’m ready for the major social networks to follow the telecommunications industry example and adopt guidelines themselves.
In my personal efforts to further protect kids online through both promoting age verification and providing education, here are some programs you need to check out:
- Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) – this organization offers a “The Internet and Your Child” free safety class for parents and anyone else who supervises children’s online activities. Topics include Windows basics, parental controls, popular Web sites for social networking, hacking, and protecting your privacy from identity thieves. Also instructors go online and pose as children to show participants the types of dangers children may be exposed to online.
- Project Safe Childhood – the US Department of Justice launched Project Safe Childhood which includes a new outreach program called “eSafe Georgia.” eSafe Georgia is a pilot program which involves training high school students to be experts in internet safety, technology and public speaking who will then film presentations about these topics to be presented in middle school assemblies, classes and school newscasts this year. Additionally eSafe Georgia teams will travel to middle school classes to provide instructions about playing “Missing” an interactive internet safety game produced by WebWise Kids.
- The Family Online Safety Institute – an international, non-profit organization that facilitates the meeting of thought leaders in technology and policy in order to find innovative solutions for family online safety. Here you can get access to The ParentalControl Bar which is a free public service that helps concerned parents prevent their children from accessing adult-oriented Web sites as well as some great materials to help you start discussing these issues with kids.
- NetSmartz Workshop by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children – an online resource center designed to provide on and off-line activities to help parents, kids, educators, and law enforcement learn more about internet safety.