Steve Crown, Deputy General Counsel and Vice President, Entertainment & Devices blogs on the Microsoft on the Issues Blog:

 

I recently spent time in Washington, D.C., meeting with leading child safety experts who focus on addressing technology’s impact on kids. I was eager to gain new insights as we build out our Get Game Smart public education initiative, which we launched in January. I also wanted to hear these experts’ thoughts on ways we can improve Microsoft products and platforms to better meet parents’ needs, a topic I spoke about at a panel hosted by the Progress and Freedom Foundation during my visit (you can listen to it here).

These child safety leaders gave me a great level-set about the challenges we’re all working to address. They confirmed that while parents want their families to embrace the digital age and all the advantages it can bring, many remain uncertain how to do it safely and appropriately. Whether it’s a lack of awareness, our busy lifestyles or the intimidation of new technology, too many parents are not taking advantage of parental controls that can help prevent kids from interacting with strangers online or viewing inappropriate content.

With the rise of handheld devices and increased access to the Internet, it’s harder than ever for parents to monitor what their children see and who they talk to online. It’s no longer enough to keep the PC in the family room. “Sexting,” cyber-bullying and “digital reputations” have come to the fore as some of the toughest issues to manage. As a result, child safety experts are turning their focus to helping kids deal with each other.

We talked about ways to ensure that kids understand that the information they share, the pictures they post and the messages they leave on social networks have a long shelf-life. Inappropriate use of social networks can harm young adults’ social standing, their experiences in college and even their chances in the job market. There is no single response to these challenges. I shared some of the ways we at Microsoft are trying to reach families through our Get Game Smart site, in schools, via retailers, and by engaging with community organizations and social networks.

Throughout my visit, child safety experts noted that schools are one of the most important venues for engaging kids. Microsoft and others have developed curricula for use in schools to highlight these issues and to get children and young adults thinking about how their online actions can have unintended consequences.

We netted out agreeing that we are in this together and we need to keep working together. The most promising opportunities appear to be fine-tuning our outreach to parents and redoubling our efforts to reach kids through schools. I look forward to continuing our discussions with child safety experts and finding more ways we can all keep the digital world as safe and healthy as possible.