New Federal Law Requires Schools to Teach Web Safety

New Federal Law Requires Schools to Teach Web Safety

Signed into law October 10 by President Bush, the Broadband Data Improvement Act (Public Law 110-385) requires schools receiving federal e-rate discounts on telecommunications services and internet access to educate their students “about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking sites and in chat rooms and cyberbullying awareness and response.”

The legislation establishes an Online Safety and Technology Working Group to evaluate safety education efforts, parental control technologies, and filtering and blocking software. The Federal Trade Commission is charged with carrying out “a nationwide program to increase public awareness and provide education regarding strategies to promote the safe use of the internet by children.”

The legislation effectively supplants the Deleting Online Predators Act, introduced in 2006 and passing the House but stalled in the Senate. DOPA would have required schools and libraries to block access to social networking sites and chat rooms. Many education groups, including ALA, opposed that bill, arguing that teaching children about safe and appropriate online behavior was a better approach.

However, Lynne Bradley, director of ALA’s Office of Government Relations, told American Libraries that the Association is reacting cautiously to the Broadband Data Improvement Act because the e-rate provision was attached hastily and no funding has been appropriated for the education program.

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), sponsor of the bill, which also calls for tracking the penetration of broadband service, said it is the first step toward nationwide broadband access.

Posted on November 11, 2008. Discuss.