Support the AWARE Act

The Adolescent Web Awareness Requires Education (AWARE) Act of 2009 is again under review in congress, and it matters to all of us that it passes.

Proposed by Florida State Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and supported by a companion bill from Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the AWARE Act will help create quality internet safety curriculum, and educate students and teachers on responsible, effective internet safety and ethics training across the country.

We are facing a crisis of ignorance about safe and responsible online use, and it’s one that will only be remedied through strong, quality education. New research from Staysafe Online U.S. K‐12 Cyberethics, Cybersafety and Cybersecurity Curriculum highlights the shocking lack of education for students and teachers, for more information about the lack of internet safety education in schools, read my blog Huge Gaps Exist in Internet Safety Education.

Unfortunately, there are special interest groups opposing this Act, some even among the internet safety proponents who have their own agenda. This is regrettable as our families, schools, and most of all our students need the AWARE Act to pass.

Below is a letter of support signed by 25 organizations, companies, and key professors urging Congress to pass this bill. Lend your voice to this cause.

The time to act is now. Contact your state representatives and senators and let them know of your support.

Linda

March 4, 2010

The Honorable Bobby Scott, Chairman
The Honorable Louie Gohmert, Ranking Member
House Committee on the Judiciary
Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security
U.S. House of Representatives
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Re: Support for H.R. 3630, the Adolescent Web Awareness Requires Education Act of 2009

Dear Chairman Scott and Ranking Member Gohmert:

On behalf of the undersigned organizations and thought leaders dedicated to educating parents, children, and educators about Internet safety and new media literacy, we thank and commend the Crime Subcommittee for holding a hearing last Fall on cyber-bullying and other online dangers. We strongly support swift passage of H.R. 3630, the Adolescent Web Awareness Requires Education Act of 2009 (“AWARE Act”). This urgently needed legislation will equip parents and teachers with tools to teach children how to safely, securely and ethically use the Internet. It will also support peer-driven Internet safety initiatives and develop public education campaigns to promote awareness of online risks and improve the health of young people.

Educators and parents must be prepared to help children learn how to navigate the digital media world, find and use age-appropriate and educational material and best avoid dangers while online. Indeed, federal law currently requires schools receiving E-Rate funding to provide Internet safety education to students. However, it also prohibits E-Rate funding from being used to provide that education. State and local agencies place the majority of responsibility of teaching Internet safety on educators who are simply unprepared to provide this education. As a result, students receive little to no education on safe and ethical Internet use. The AWARE Act helps fill this gap.

The AWARE Act is carefully crafted and bipartisan. The legislation establishes a grant program through which state education agencies (SEAs), local education agencies (LEAs) and nonprofit organizations will compete for funding. Because the program is both competitive and collaborative, it will promote innovative approaches and safeguard against ineffective and outdated methods.

The legislation contains tough accountability and transparency measures for grantees that are among the most stringent of any legislation providing funding for a federal grant program. Grant seekers must not only describe goals and target populations for education before receiving funds, but also publish annual reports analyzing their success or failure. The legislation requires that federal agencies modify grant guidance within six months of receiving these reports to make sure the most effective programs are being used.

The legislation further requires annual reports to Congress so that policy makers understand grantee findings, program effectiveness and best practices. Another key pillar of accountability in implementing the grant program is the use of research in both front-end and ongoing research and evaluation. We believe the accountability and transparency measures in the AWARE Act serve as a model for future legislation. Support for H.R. 3630, the Adolescent Web Awareness Requires Education Act of 2009

As a final measure of accountability, we strongly recommend any legislation sent to the President contain focused inter-agency cooperation. Specifically, the grant programs administered by the Department of Justice should be implemented in cooperation with the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. This focused inter-agency cooperation is good public policy. Better understanding the concerns related to youth risk online requires collaboration and sharing insight at all levels, including government, nonprofit, academia and industry.

Congress can most immediately and effectively impact potential online risks by enacting Internet safety and digital media literacy measures in schools to prevent harm from occurring in the first place. We know that infusing basic online safety and digital citizenship messages for all students at the K-12 level is critical.

Education builds lessons for a lifetime. Until educators are fully immersed in the new digital reality of today’s students, we need legislation like the AWARE Act to enhance the skills of educators, transform the traditional role of classroom teaching, and provide students with hands-on opportunities to use technology safely and ethically for generations to come.

Thank you for your consideration of our views. We look forward to working with you and your staff on this important issue as legislation moves forward in the House.

Respectfully Submitted,

cc: Members of the House Committee on the Judiciary
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Rep. John Culberson Support for H.R. 3630, the Adolescent Web Awareness Requires Education Act of 2009

  • Marsali Hancock, President, Internet Keep Safe Coalition
  • Frederick S. Humphries, Jr., Managing Director, U.S. Government Affairs, Microsoft Corporation
  • Pablo Chavez, Managing Policy Counsel, Google
  • Tekedra M. Jefferson, Senior Vice President, Global Public Policy AOL Inc.
  • Tim Sparapani, Director, Public Policy Facebook
  • David Hantman, Vice President, Global Public Policy Yahoo! Inc.
  • Peter Davidson, Senior Vice President, Federal Government Relations, Verizon
  • Vonya B. McCann, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, Sprint
  • Hemanshu Nigam, Chief Security Officer, MySpace News Corporation
  • Linda Criddle, President LOOKBOTHWAYS Inc. & President Safe Internet Alliance
  • Kyle McSlarrow, President & CEO, National Cable & Telecommunications Association
  • Steve Largent, President & CEO CTIA, – The Wireless Association
  • Todd Thibodeaux, President & CEO, CompTIA
  • James P. Steyer, Founder & CEO, Common Sense Media
  • Stephen Balkam, CEO, Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI)
  • Judi Westberg Warren, President & CEO, Web Wise Kids
  • Michael Rich, MD, MPH “The Mediatrician”, Director, Center on Media and Child Health (CMCH), Director, Video Intervention/Prevention Assessment (VIA)
  • Children’s Hospital Boston, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School
  • Associate Professor of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public Health
  • Jonathan Cohen, Ph.D, President & Co-Founder, The Center for Social and Emotional Education (CSEE),  Adjunct Professor in Psychology & Education, Columbia University
  • Adjunct Professor in Education, City University of New York
  • Davina Pruitt-Mentle, Ph.D. Director Educational Technology Policy, Research and Outreach Curriculum and Instruction STEM & C3 Initiatives
  • Amanda Fitzgerald, Director of Public Policy, American School Counselor Association
  • Benny Ellerbe, Executive Directo,r Optimist International
  • Oli Thordarson, Chairman of the Board, Technology Leadership PAC
  • Scott Dow, CEO, Woogie World, Inc., Children’s Way Foundation
  • John Palfrey, Law Professor, Harvard Law School
  • Denise Tayloe, President, Privacy Vaults Online, Inc.
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