Schools step up web-safety instruction

Web-safety education experts say they have noticed an increase in program implementation.
Web-safety education experts say they have noticed an increase in program implementation.

As part of a new federal mandate that requires schools to teach internet safety to obtain e-Rate funding, schools are reaching out to internet safety awareness groups to establish programs that will educate both teachers and students about secure and proper online behavior.

When the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act was passed last fall, it established an Online Safety and Technology Working Group that would evaluate online safety-education efforts. The law also requires schools receiving federal ed-tech funding to teach students about internet safety.

Although the law was scheduled to take effect this year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has not yet issued any regulations to implement the legislation.

Currently, the FCC is working on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning the requirements in the act, according to a source who is familiar with the process. After that notice is issued, there will be a comment period for the public to respond. Once the comment period has closed and comments have been reviewed, the FCC will issue an order containing information about any new requirements or rule changes for e-Rate program participants.

A spokesman for the Schools and Libraries Division of the Universal Service Administrative Co. (USAC), the agency that administers the e-Rate, said USAC will not add any new e-Rate requirements until a formal FCC order has been issued.

Still, many schools aren’t waiting and are taking a proactive approach instead.

Judi Westberg Warren, president of the internet safety-education group Web Wise Kids, said the organization has seen an increased number of schools reaching out to Web Wise Kids for guidance and information on how to properly educate students and teachers on responsible internet use.

Warren attributes that increase to a combination of the new internet-safety mandate and a general increased awareness surrounding the issue.

“There are no specific federal requirements yet, but we have an awful lot of schools and teachers asking about internet-safety programs–it’s really on the increase,” Warren said.

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