Facebook Teams With PTA in Online Safety Push

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Social networking kingpin Facebook has partnered with the National Parent Teacher Association to develop a program to promote Internet safety and combat cyberbullying and other online blights.

The joint effort will see Facebook broadcast news and information about online child safety to its considerable global audience, which is fast approaching 500 million users.

Facebook pledged to contribute the equivalent of $1 million in resources to showcase the initiative on various sections of its site.

"Nothing is more important to us than the safety and well being of the people, especially the many teenagers, who use Facebook," Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said in a statement. "Only through the constant and concerted effort of parents, teachers, law enforcement and industry can we keep kids safe and help them develop into tomorrow's leaders."

The announcement was timed to kick off the PTA's annual conference on Thursday, and also comes during what has been designated National Internet Safety Month.

Separately, Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) released a survey today finding that 78 percent of parents are concerned about their children's safety on the Internet, and that nearly three-quarters favor school programs to promote digital literacy and safe surfing habits.

Through the Facebook partnership, the PTA said it plans to disseminate information and resources about online safety to its 24,000 local chapters across the country in the hope of reaching every American public school.

The groups also said they would work together to bridge the digital divide by promoting online access and education to low-income and minority families.

For Facebook, online child safety has a public-policy dimension. The company's Washington policy director testified before a Senate panel earlier this year in opposition to expanding an online privacy law designed to protect kids.

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) mandates restrictions on collecting information from kids under the age of 13. But some privacy advocates have been pushing for an overhaul of the statute to cover all minors.

That would be a major blow to Facebook, which sets 13 as the minimum age requirement to create a profile on its site. The company has implemented numerous age-verification mechanisms and forged partnerships with law-enforcement authorities to share information and keep sexual predators out of the community.

Kenneth Corbin is an associate editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.