The Federal Communications Commission has adopted rules implementing the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act. Like the Act, the FCC’s rules require elementary and secondary schools that have applied for discounted Internet access services through the FCC’s E-rate program to certify that the school’s Internet safety policy provides for the education of minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms and increasing cyberbullying awareness.
This requirement builds off existing rules that schools participating in the E-rate program certify that their Internet safety policy includes a technology protection measure, such as filtering software, that protects against Internet access through the school’s facilities to visual depictions that are (1) obscene, (2) child pornography, or (3) harmful to minors. An earlier audit administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (which administers the E-rate program) had found that a school violated this requirement by allowing access to certain social networking websites. In its Order, the FCC clarified that social networking websites are not per se “harmful to minors,” noting that a contrary conclusion would be inconsistent with the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act’s focus on educating minors about how to interact with others on social networking websites. The FCC also quoted a recent U.S. Department of Education report, which found that social networking websites have the potential to support student learning.