I’m here at the Family Online Safety Institute’s annual conference in Washington, DC learning a bit about digital literacy and online safety.

Today’s keynote was delivered by Kyle McSlarrow, President & CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (known as NCTA in the industry). Kyle started off his talk by pointing out that the cable industry as a whole offers broadband to about 92% of American households, so clearly online safety is of great interest to the entire cable industry.

Kyle spoke about PointSmart, ClickSafe initiative which was originally launched to point customers towards the tools and information they need to enjoy the Internet, and all that it offers, in the safest manner possible. The original initiative focused heavily on bringing awareness to these tools, but the members of the initiative felt more could be done.

That led to the formation of the PointSmart blue ribbon group tasked with creating best practices for fostering both digital literacy and online safety. The blue ribbon group produced a report (available at http://www.pointsmartreport.org/) which outlines a number of best practices for digital literacy and online safety.

At the core of the report is the idea that online safety can’t be neatly compartmentalized — it is an issue that impacts a whole ecosystem made up of ISPs, parents, schools, children, and federal agencies. Given the complexity of the issue, the PointSmart blue ribbon group makes a number of recommendations to policy makers. Kyle highlighted a few in his keynote:

  • Create a lead agency to deal with online safety and digital literacy

  • Develop a set of national goals for online safety

  • Supporting digital literacy and online safety through increased federal funding for curriculum development, professional development for teachers, and public awareness campaigns.

Kyle spent the rest of his talk expanding on that last point. NCTA has called for the creation of a national Digital Media Literacy Program to help overworked teachers introduce digital literacy into their curriculums. This program would focus on educating kids and parents about online dangers (some clear, and others not so clear) and how to use all the great tools that are out there. The key to this proposal is that it would be national in scope, and would deliver a consistent message, much like any other subject taught in school.

Of course, we here at Comcast are major supporters of digital literacy, which is why we’re so involved with One Economy and the Digital Connectors program (read the post in which David Cohen introduces the Comcast Digital Connectors program, and take a look at this video shot by Gene Morris). Education, along with technological tools, is the best way to make sure you and your children enjoy all that the Internet has to offer in as safe a way as possible.

As always, be sure to check out http://security.comcast.net/ for more information about general Internet security and access the tools we make available for our customers.