In the spirit of National Internet Safety Month, we welcomed Ernie Allen, co-founder and president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to the Googleplex last week to discuss child protection issues.
For those not familiar with it, NCMEC works closely with federal law enforcement across the U.S. to help prevent child abduction and sexual exploitation and to help find missing children. From serving as the clearinghouse for reports of online child pornography to issuing Amber Alerts when children go missing to reuniting families in the wake of Katrina, NCMEC is at the forefront of efforts to protect society's most vulnerable members.
In a policy talk called "Beyond Milk Cartons: Keeping kids safe in a digital world", Ernie provided an overview of NCMEC's work and chatted with Googlers about the ever-changing landscape of child protection challenges shared by parents, educators, advocacy organizations, and technology companies like Google as we work to help families make smart choices online. Watch Ernie's talk on YouTube.
Technology is an invaluable tool for addressing some of these challenges. In a recent example, a team of Google engineers dedicated their 20 percent time over the last year and a half to build cutting-edge software for NCMEC that uses image and video recognition technology to help NCMEC analysts more effectively sort and review incoming reports of child exploitation. NCMEC analysts sort through tens of millions of images in child sexual abuse investigations, and we've tried to leverage our expertise in organizing huge amounts of data to help make their important work more automated and efficient.
When it comes to keeping kids safe on the Internet, we believe that education for families, support for law enforcement, and empowering technology tools, like our SafeSearch filter and the NCMEC software, are all critical pieces of the puzzle.
Tackling online child safety issues is no small task, but we'll continue our collaboration with organizations like NCMEC, along with other partners in schools, government and industry, to take collective strides in the right direction.
Tips from Google;
When it comes to child safety, we aim to:
- Empower parents with tools to help them choose what content their children see online;
- Educate children on how to stay safe online;
- Protect children through partnerships with law enforcement and industry.
Many users prefer not to have adult sites included in their search results (especially if their kids use the same computer). Google's SafeSearch screens for sites that contain this type of information and eliminates them from search results. While no filter is 100% accurate, Google's filter uses advanced technology to check keywords, phrases, and URLs. You can modify your computer's SafeSearch settings by clicking on the Preferences link to the right of the Google search box.
These Internet safety tips can help keep you and your family safe online.
- Keep computers in a central place. It makes it easier for you to keep an eye on your children’s activities.
- Know where your kids go online. If you have young children, you may want to navigate the Internet with them. For older kids, agree on where they can and can't go before they log on. You can also check where your kids have been by looking at the browser history in your computer's web browser menu. Another option is to use filtering products, like Google’s SafeSearch.
- Teach Internet Safety. It's impossible to monitor all online activity, all the time. As kids get older, they need to know how to use the Internet safely and responsibly when they're on their own.
- Use sharing controls. Many sites that feature user-generated content, including Google's Blogger site, our photo-sharing site Picasa and our social networking site, orkut, have sharing controls that put users in charge of who sees personal blogs, photos, videos, and profiles. Using sharing controls is particularly important when you or your kids share personal information, like names, addresses, or phone numbers, on public sites. In addition to teaching your kids how to use these controls, teach them to respect the privacy of friends and family by not identifying people by name in public profiles and pictures.
- Protect passwords. It sounds obvious, but remind your kids not to give out their online passwords and not to click on "remember me" settings on public computers, like at school or at the library.
- Beware of stranger danger. Teach kids to avoid in-person meetings with people they "meet" online, and not to share personal information with online strangers because people may not be who they claim to be.
- Teach kids to communicate responsibly. A good rule of thumb is: if you wouldn't say it to someone's face, don't text it, email it, instant message it, or post it as a comment on someone's page. Many of today's most popular websites have easy-to-use tools that let users flag inappropriate content that others post online. It's important for kids to know how to flag inappropriate content when they encounter it.
- View all content critically. Just because you see it online, doesn't mean it's true. Teach kids how to distinguish reliable sources from unreliable ones and how to verify information they find online. And make sure kids understand that cutting and pasting content right from a website may be plagiarism, and plagiarism is cheating.