NetSafe Concludes Cybercitizens Conference

Stephen Yagielowicz
QUEENSTOWN, New Zealand — NetsSafe's first international conference on "Cybercitizens: Risks, Rights, and Responsibilities of Participation in the Information Age," has concluded and the message to parents is clear: become as Net savvy as your children.

The NetSafe Conference 08 delved into the topics of cybercitizenry and cybersafety; offering presentations and workshops on "the risks, rights to safety, and responsibilities of citizens in the information age."

"Citizenship is a cornerstone of participation in modern democracies. It is awarded on the basis of meeting specific civic responsibilities. It affords the citizen the rights to safe passage and protection from unlawful harm," stated the show's promoters. "Although Cyberspace is a virtual space, it is real. Just as citizens in physical territories experience risk, have rights to protection, and need to honor responsibilities, citizens in Cyberspace experience risk, have rights to protection, and need to honor responsibilities."

Attendees included educators; researchers; website developers and other industry entities; plus governmental and non-governmental agencies seeking to consider the challenges and opportunities that the Internet offers.

Among the topics under discussion was the escalating trend of self-produced, illegal child pornography being distributed across the Internet by teenagers — and how many parents remain ignorant of what their children are using their camera phones for.

According to NetSafe's Lee Chisholm, the media is good about reporting on the dangers of sexual predators using the Internet to attract victims.

"[But there] is the other side, where they don't have to do that," Chisholm said. "The young people are actually offering to do it themselves."

Symantec's Internet safety advocate Marian Merritt cites the recent flap over teen celebrity Miley Cyrus, aka Hannah Montana, whose sexy self-taken cell phone pictures are now plastered all over cyberspace.

"The unintended result of that notoriety is children think well its ok for them or this is the standard to which I'm held," Merritt said.

Merritt advised parents to monitor their children's Internet use; saying "If the child says, 'oh no, oh mum, I don't want you there,' talk about the reasons why."

The adult industry relies on the ASACP-sponsored Restricted to Adults (RTA) website labeling system to aid concerned parents in keeping their children from harmful materials online — even when those children are producing this material themselves.