October 30, 2010

FCC Cracking Down On Cyberbullying

The U.S. telecommunications regulator said on Friday that schools receiving subsidies for Internet service will have to teach students about the dangers of cyberbullying and the responsible use of social networking sites.

According to the National Crime Prevention Council, cyberbullying "happens when teens use the Internet, cell phones, or other devices to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person."  This is a problem for nearly half of all U.S. teens.

Cyberbullying is seen as a predecessor to suicide attempts, the third leading cause of death among 10 to 24-year-olds in the U.S.

Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old Rutgers University student, committed suicide after fellow students posted a video of him engaged in sexual activity online.  

In 2006, 13-year-old Megan Meier committed suicide after a classmate and friend's mother bullied her through a fake MySpace account.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said it will issue an order to that schools receive funds from the E-rate program to address cyberbullying and the improper use of social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.

The FCC said the order would place regulations that are in line with the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act.

The agency voted in September to ease rules mandating how schools and libraries use the $2.25 billion they receive to get Internet access.  This E-rate program allows them to take advantage of unused fiber optic cables and high-speed access from state and local networks.

E-rate funded schools must already have Internet safety policies and filters to prevent access to inappropriate content.  The FCC said the new order will ensure that these policies also include online safety education.

The agency also announced that it plans to open the application process for a pilot program that would fund wireless Internet access and mobile learning devices.

The FCC said schools and libraries will be able to apply for the program before a mid-December deadline.

The agency will host a forum on kids' use of mobile technology on December 1st to help further its education agenda.


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