About FOSI
Members Group & Staff

Stephen Balkam

Founder & CEO, Family Online Safety Institute

For the past 30 years, Stephen Balkam has had a wide range of leadership roles in the nonprofit sector in the both the US and UK. He is currently the Founder and CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), an international, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, DC. FOSI’s mission is to make the online world safer for kids and their families. FOSI convenes the top thinkers and practitioners in government, industry and the nonprofit sectors to collaborate and innovate and to create a “culture of responsibility” in the online world. 

Prior to FOSI, Stephen was the Founder and CEO of the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA) and led a team which developed the world’s leading content labeling system on the web. While with ICRA, Stephen served on the US Child Online Protection Commission (COPA) in 2000 and was named one of the Top 50 UK Movers and Shakers, Internet Magazine, 2001.

In 1994, Stephen was named the first Executive Director of the Recreational Software Advisory Council (RSAC) which created a unique self-labeling system for computer games and then, in 1996, Stephen launched RSACi – a forerunner to the ICRA website labeling system. For his efforts in online safety, Stephen was given the 1998 Carl Bertelsmann Prize in Gutersloh, Germany, for innovation and responsibility in the Information Society and was invited to the first and subsequent White House Internet Summits during the Clinton Administration.

Stephen’s other positions include the Executive Director of the National Stepfamily Association (UK); General Secretary of the Islington Voluntary Action Council; Executive Director of Camden Community Transport as well as management positions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (London) and Inter-Action. Stephen’s first job was with Burroughs Machines (now Unisys) and he had a spell working for West Nally Ltd – a sports sponsorship PR company.

Stephen received a BA, magna cum laude, in Psychology from University College, Cardiff, Wales in 1977. A native of Washington, DC, Stephen spent many years in the UK and is now has dual citizenship. He writes regularly for the Huffington Post, appears often on TV and has appeared on nationally syndicated TV and radio programs such as MSNBC, CNN, NPR and the BBC and has been interviewed by leading newspapers such as the Washington Post, New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, radio and in the mainstream press. He has given presentations and spoken in 15 countries on 4 continents.

Recently written by Stephen


Good Digital Parenting While Staying At Home

The past several weeks have turned the world on its head. Our households, communities, nation, and world are experiencing rapid change in a way we’ve never seen before. We’ve found ourselves  amidst a global pandemic and a national emergency, struggling to keep up with fear, uncertainty, and countless impacts to our daily lives. 


It’s Safer Internet Day: Should We Be Worried?

Today is Safer Internet Day 2020.  Should this be a cause for celebration or concern?  Do the benefits of being online for us and our children outweigh the risks and potential harms?


Creating a Culture of Responsibility Online

What does it mean to be responsible online? How do we counter what feels like a culture of irresponsibility and hate-fueled online behavior? Who and what will it take to turn this around?


Are Smartphones the New Cigarettes?

My mother, who turns 95 this year, would light up in between the main course and dessert.

Safer Internet Day: Let's Create, Connect and Share Respect

Every February, Safer Internet Day serves as an effective first “checkpoint” in each new year. How far have we come since last year, and what changes and new priorities are steering the course?  In 2018, we find ourselves in challenging times.

Trust and Civility In Our Challenging Times

Ten years ago, we launched the Family Online Safety Institute at a time of extraordinary change and innovation.


Trust, Trolls and Online Safety

These are trying times online.News stories proliferate about bad behavior such as cyberbullying, doxing, swatting and online harassment.  From fake news to hacking to online trolls, the Internet has never seemed so concerning. 


Web Users of the World Unite!

Today, Safer Internet Day is being celebrated in over 100 countries and on every continent. Given the recent political upheavals in the US and in Europe, this is a particularly good time to remind ourselves and our children about the need to practice good digital citizenship online.  To be an upstander and not a bystander if you see bullying or harassing messages or videos.  To report rather than spread abusive, inappropriate or illegal images. And, for us adults, to be good digital role models in spite of the way some of our political leaders behave online.  


The New Realities: Virtual, Augmented and Mixed

It is worth taking a step back and looking at the various forms of reality that are being artificially created and the implications that each of the approaches may have.  And, as important, what impact these new devices and “realities” could have on how we (and our kids) interact with both the online world and the “real” world.  


From Porn to Hello Barbie: Online Safety in Transition

Today, we confront a myriad of new safety issues, concerns, risks and harms, while also benefiting from the wonders that technology can and does bring into our and our children’s lives. Our original worries focused on content, but now the online safety community, as well as parents, teachers and caregivers, are just as concerned about behavioral, emotional and developmental side effects of our hearty embrace of all things digital.  


Three Teachable Moments Every Parent Should Seize

FOSI CEO Stephen Balkam identifies three key moments in your child's life when discussing online safety and reasonable tech habits is important. 


Let's Choose to Create a Better Internet

Safer Internet Day is a good time to reflect on how we, and our kids, promote a safer and more responsible use of digital technology.


7 Steps to Good Digital Parenting

Parenting today's tech savvy kids can seem overwhelming. But you can do it! Take these seven simple, but still challenging steps, to becoming a good digital parent.


7 Steps to Good Digital Parenting

Use these seven simple, but still challenging steps to become a good digital parent.  It is definitely a journey, like parenting itself.  And there is no such thing as perfection.  Just good enough.


Let One Good Thing Lead to Another

Today is Safer Internet Day and this year’s theme is “Let’s create a better Internet together”. Want to learn more? Check out this blog from FOSI's CEO, Stephen Balkam


Annual Gathering of the Online Safety World

Next week, online safety experts from all over the world are gathering in Washington, DC for the Family Online Safety Institute 2013 Annual Conference. Learn more about what will be covered, and how you can join us.


A Platform for Good Debuts in Dublin

Stephen Balkam, Founder and CEO of Family Online Safety Institute, reflects on last week’s introduction of A Platform for Good to a European audience, and what it means for PfG moving forward.


Why Do Kids Have to Be 13 to Join Facebook?

FOSI's CEO, Stephen Balkam, unpacks COPPA's new revisions.

Federal Trade Commission Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on COPPA

In 2011, FOSI filed comments with the Federal Trade Commission regarding the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

Protecting Children's Privacy in an Electronic World

The purpose of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade's hearing was to examine existing protections for children’s online privacy and their adequacy in an increasingly electronic and mobile world. In particular, the Subcommittee will examine the provisions of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the Federal Trade Commission’s recent proposal to revise its COPPA rule.

Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety

In June 2010, FOSI submitted comments to the Australian Parliamnet's Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety.

Federal Communications Commission Notice of Inquiry on the Implementation of the Child Safe Viewing Act; Examination of Parental Control Technologies

In 2009, FOSI submitted information to the Federal Communications Commission on the existence, availability and use of parental control tools and initiatives.