Sunday, February 21, 2010

ACMA Report: Online risk and safety in the digital economy

Here is the third and final instalment in this series produced by ACMA pursuant to the Ministerial Direction made by the then Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Helen Coonan, in June 2007.
The third report, dated December 2009, but released to the public in early February 2010, makes interesting reading for its change of focus. Even the title of the document Online Risk and Safety in the Digital Economy reflects this change.
The Report identifies two key trends resulting from an overall increase in participation in the online environment:
1. increased used of mobile devices to access the Internet; and
2. increased use of social media and online transactions across all age groups.
The increased uptake of 3G phones and the consequent increase in the use of such devices to access social media platforms, is noted by the Report as giving rise to new issues. The personal and private nature of mobile devices as distinct from computers, reduces the ability of parents to supervise the use of social media on these devices (and the ability to supervise use was observed by the Byron Review to be a key risk mitigation factor). This means that further work needs to be done on identifying and reducing risks created by such access.
Chapter 3 addresses online risk behaviours, particularly bullying. However, it draws attention to the fact that children may be both the perpetrators and the objects of cyberbullying, with a particular focus upon the impact upon teachers. Indeed, the Report also observes: 'problems such as sexual solicitation and cyberbullying are more often perpetrated by friends or peers' (as distinct from the anonymous kinky adult pervert we are used to being blamed for all of the bad conduct and bad behaviour that occurs upon the Internet!)
The Report also outlines the privacy issues being raised regarding Facebook and how these have been dealt with.
This Report makes for interesting and useful reading and displays a pragmatic and balanced approach to some key issues, without the usual hype and scare mongering that goes on in this area. It provides a good overview of some of the initiatives udertaken by overseas governments, particularly UK and Japan. It also contains some nice stats about online usage and most popular Internet activities by age group.

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