Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Michigan's CSI: Cyber Safety Initiative

I'm happy to say that Michigan's Attorney General, Mike Cox, has finally completed the Michigan Cyber Safety Initiative, an Internet safety program for K-8 students and the community at large.

However, I hope this program doesn't cause more harm than good. I'm afraid that schools and parents will be even more restrictive on the websites that students are allowed to access due to online predators.

On the Michigan CSI home page, Attorney General Cox points out
"Shortly after I took office in 2003, I established a Child and Public Protection Unit and to date we have arrested more than 137 Internet predators who were seeking to harm Michigan children."

and while I applaud his success at putting these creeps behind bars, I think the online predator problem is blown out of proportion. Let's do the math: 137 arrests in 4 years, divided by the number of people (including students) who use the Internet...

Cox goes on to say

"Putting these criminals behind bars is not enough; we must also proactively combat the problem by educating children and adults."

Again, I couldn't agree more, but I fear that for many adults (and schools) the easiest way to "combat the problem" is by restricting Internet access for children.

For further reading I would point out two recent articles. The first was referenced by Will Richardson on his blog:

"Internet safer than it seems": http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_6012067

and another article entitled "Panel attemps to debunk myths about online predators": http://www.darkreading.com/document.asp?doc_id=126644 which includes this quote from David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire:

"While authorities work with parents to try to protect kids, the kids most at risk have little trust in their parents. They've been victims of physical or sexual abuse, or have substantial conflicts in their family."

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