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Parental Controls &

Online Child Protection:
A Survey of Tools & Methods

Version 4.0
Summer 2009

Adam Thierer
The Progress & Freedom Foundation
(www.PFF.org)
Washington, D.C.

For the most recent version of this report, please visit:
www.pff.org/parentalcontrols

PFF Special Report
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No
Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. To view a copy of this license, visit
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/ or send a letter to Creative
Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. Introduction: Why Parental Controls Are Important .............................................. 11

A. A Broad View of Parental Controls ........................................................... 14
B. Parental Controls and the Law.................................................................. 18
C. Parental Controls, Personal Responsibility, and a Free Society ............... 20

II. Household Media Rules and Informal Parental Control Methods........................ 25

A. Household Media Consumption Rules ..................................................... 26
B. “What Rules” & the Importance of a Good (Media) Diet ......................... 29
C. Teaching Good Etiquette in a Multimedia World ..................................... 33
D. Third-Party Pressure, Ratings, and Advice ................................................ 35
E. The Ultimate Parental Control: The Power of the Purse .......................... 42

III. Ratings Systems and Technological Controls for Various Media .......................... 45

A. How Many Homes Really Need Parental Controls? ................................. 45
B. Understanding the Role and Limits of Parental Controls ......................... 52
C. Television .................................................................................................. 57
D. Movies ....................................................................................................... 77
E. Music and Radio ........................................................................................ 81
F. Video Games ............................................................................................. 86
G. Wireless and Mobile Media .................................................................... 103
H. Internet, Computing, and Social Networking ......................................... 113

IV. The Importance of Media Literacy and Consumer Education ............................ 145

A. Why Media Literacy Is Important ........................................................... 145
B. Promoting Media Literacy and Consumer Education ............................. 146
C. Private or Industry-Led Consumer Education Efforts ............................. 157
D. A Voluntary Code of Conduct / Industry Pledge to Parents ................... 160

V. Getting Serious about Online Child Abuse ........................................................ 169

A. Putting the Problem in Perspective ........................................................ 169
B. Wrong Solution: Mandatory Age Verification ........................................ 177
C. Wrong Solution: Extensive Data Retention Mandates ........................... 190
D. Wrong Solution: Increased Intermediary Liability .................................. 193
E. Right Solutions: Education, Empowerment, and Enforcement .............. 195

VI. Conclusion....................................................................................................... 201

VII. About the Author ............................................................................................ 205

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VIII. Appendix: Thoughts on Mandatory Controls, Restrictive Defaults and “Universal”
Ratings ................................................................................................................... 207

A. Why Mandatory Controls or Defaults Will Backfire ............................... 208
B. Why Mandating Universal Ratings Would Be a Mistake ........................ 215

X. Appendix: Review of Five Online Safety Task Forces......................................... 223

XII. Appendix: Glossary of Key Terms, Laws & Cases .............................................. 241

XIV. Related Progress & Freedom Foundation Publications ..................................... 251

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LIST OF EXHIBITS

Exhibit 1: Teens & Their Technology Use, 2009 ............................................................................ 15
Exhibit 2: A Layered Approach to Parental Controls and Child Protection .................................. 23
Exhibit 3: More Families Using Household Media Rules ............................................................... 29
Exhibit 4: Sample “Media Diet” of Children’s Television Programming ........................................ 31
Exhibit 5: The Media Food Pyramid: Crafting a Balanced (Media) Diet ........................................ 32
Exhibit 6: Independent Media Reviews and Rating Systems ........................................................ 40
Exhibit 7: Industry-Supported Efforts that Highlight Parental Controls ........................................ 41
Exhibit 8: Formula for Calculating the Percentage of Households without Children.................... 47
Exhibit 9: Households without Children Calculation for 2007 ...................................................... 47
Exhibit 10: Breakdown of U.S. Households With and Without Children....................................... 48
Exhibit 11: Steady Decline of Homes With Children Present ........................................................ 48
Exhibit 12: Ages When Parental Controls Most Likely Needed ..................................................... 50
Exhibit 13: Who Needs Parental Controls? ................................................................................... 52
Exhibit 14: Internet Education Foundation’s Ratings Equivalency Matrix ................................... 55
Exhibit 15: TV Ratings .................................................................................................................... 58
Exhibit 16: TV Content Descriptors ............................................................................................... 58
Exhibit 17: “TheTVBoss.org” Website ........................................................................................... 60
Exhibit 18: NCTA’s “ControlYourTV.org” Website ......................................................................... 62
Exhibit 19: The “Weemote”........................................................................................................... 65
Exhibit 20: VCR & DVD Player Usage ............................................................................................. 67
Exhibit 21: Projected Growth of DVRs........................................................................................... 68
Exhibit 22: DVR Sales & Prices ....................................................................................................... 69
Exhibit 23: Projected Growth of VOD ............................................................................................ 70
Exhibit 24: Projected Average Prices for Selected Video Technologies ........................................ 72
Exhibit 25: Educational / Entertainment Viewing Options for Children ....................................... 74
Exhibit 26: The MPAA Movie Rating System ................................................................................. 77
Exhibit 27: MPAA’s “Red Carpet Ratings” Service ......................................................................... 78
Exhibit 28: The RIAA’s Explicit Content Parental Advisory Label .................................................. 82
Exhibit 29: Apple iTunes Parental Controls ................................................................................... 83
Exhibit 30: ESRB Video Game Rating Categories ........................................................................... 87

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Exhibit 31: ESRB Content Descriptors............................................................................................ 88
Exhibit 32: Parental Awareness & Use of Video Game Ratings is High ......................................... 89
Exhibit 33: Video Game Ratings By Year ....................................................................................... 90
Exhibit 34: ESRB Ads and Promotional Materials .......................................................................... 91
Exhibit 35: FTC “Secret Shopper” Surveys Show Improved Retailer Enforcement ....................... 94
Exhibit 36: Microsoft Xbox Parental Control Set-Up Menus ......................................................... 95
Exhibit 37: GetGameSmart.com .................................................................................................... 97
Exhibit 38: Microsoft Xbox Chat Blocking Controls ....................................................................... 98
Exhibit 39: Books Featuring Advice about Video Games and Kids .............................................. 100
Exhibit 40: Coin-Operated Games Rating System ....................................................................... 101
Exhibit 41: Snapshot of Teen Use of Mobile Media in 2009 ....................................................... 104
Exhibit 42: Verizon Wireless Content Rating System .................................................................. 106
Exhibit 43: Gregory Smith’s 8-Step Plan to Protect Children from Online Risks ......................... 113
Exhibit 44: Various Online Safety “Metasites” ............................................................................ 116
Exhibit 45: Books about Online Safety and Sensible Media Use ................................................. 119
Exhibit 46: Internet Filtering and Monitoring Software for PCs .................................................. 122
Exhibit 47: Filter and Monitoring Software Review Sites ............................................................ 123
Exhibit 48: Internet Security and Parental Control Websites for Major ISPs and Broadband
Operators..................................................................................................................................... 124
Exhibit 49: Major ISP Online Safety Sites .................................................................................... 125
Exhibit 50: Vista Operating System Parental Controls ................................................................ 127
Exhibit 51: “Glubble” for the Firefox Web Browser .................................................................... 128
Exhibit 52: KidZui Web Browser .................................................................................................. 129
Exhibit 53: “Safe Search” Filtering Tools ..................................................................................... 131
Exhibit 54: Kid-Friendly Internet Search Engines and Web Portals ............................................. 132
Exhibit 55: Child- and Teen-Oriented Websites & Virtual Worlds .............................................. 133
Exhibit 56: A Snapshot of Teen Online Social Networking Activity, 2006 .................................. 135
Exhibit 57: MySpace.com’s Safety & Security Website ............................................................... 137
Exhibit 58: You Tube “Abuse & Safety Help Center” ................................................................... 140
Exhibit 59: Virginia’s “Guidelines and Resources for Internet Safety in Schools”....................... 146
Exhibit 60: Virginia’s Model Bill for Internet Safety Instruction .................................................. 147
Exhibit 61: Media Literacy Organizations or Efforts .................................................................... 148

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Exhibit 62: NCTA’s “Cable in the Classroom” .............................................................................. 149
Exhibit 63: The Federal Government’s “OnGuardOnline.gov” Website ..................................... 153
Exhibit 64: Digital Media Provider Voluntary Code of Conduct .................................................. 162
Exhibit 65: NCTA’s “Point Smart. Click Safe” Website ................................................................. 164
Exhibit 66: What Major Child Safety Task Forces Said about Age Verification ........................... 178
Exhibit 67: COPA Commission Recommendations ...................................................................... 228
Exhibit 68: “Point Smart. Click Safe.” Recommendations for Best Practice ................................ 236

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— Author’s Note —

In this report, I have attempted to provide a comprehensive
survey of the wide variety of parental control and online child protection
tools and methods that exist today. I have undoubtedly missed some
things, however. I encourage readers to send me suggestions about what
should be included in subsequent editions of this report. I continue to
publish frequent updates to this report (available online at
www.pff.org/parentalcontrols) to ensure that I have painted the most
thorough, up-to-date picture of the amazingly diverse universe of
parental control tools and methods.

Second, there are many books and studies that deal with how
best to raise your children and the role media and technology should (or
should not) play in their lives.† This report takes a different approach.
Even though the report contains a variety of recommendations and
helpful tips for parents, I have done my best to avoid a “preachy” tone
because I believe that every family will bring different values and
approaches to the challenging task of raising children and dealing with
unwanted media exposure. My goal here is to provide parents with an
exhaustive inventory of the tools and methods at their disposal that can
assist them in that effort, however they choose to go about it.

— Adam Thierer‡


Some of my personal favorites include: Sharon Miller Cindrich, e-Parenting: Keeping Up with Your
Tech-Savvy Kids (New York: Random House Reference, 2007), www.pluggedinparent.com; Nancy E.
Willard, Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2007), www.cskcst.com;
Larry Magid and Anne Collier, MySpace Unraveled: A Parent’s Guide to Teen Social Networking
(Berkeley, CA: Peachtree Press, 2007), www.myspaceunraveled.com; Lenore Skenazy, Free-Range Kids:
Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-
Bass, 2009), http://freerangekids.wordpress.com.

Adam Thierer (athierer@pff.org) is a senior fellow with The Progress & Freedom Foundation and the
director of PFF’s Center for Digital Media Freedom. The views expressed in this report are his own.

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“Technology expands the capacity to choose; and it denies the
potential of this revolution if we assume the Government is
best positioned to make these choices for us.”

U.S. Supreme Court,
U.S. v. Playboy Entertainment (2000)

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I. Introduction:
Why Parental Controls Are Important

What effect does media exposure have on our children? That question has
generated heated debates from one generation to the next.1 From the waltz to rock and
roll to rap music, from movies to comic books to video games, from radio and television
to the Internet and social networking websites—every new media format or technology
spawns a fresh debate about the potential negative effects it might have on kids.2
Parents, educators, academics, social scientists, media pundits, and many others all
offer their opinions, but rarely is any consensus reached.

Inevitably, these social and cultural debates become political debates, especially
if a full-blown “techno-panic” ensues.3 Indeed, each of the media technologies or
outlets mentioned above was either regulated or threatened with regulation at some

1
“Parents, in their desire to protect and control their children, tend to oppose new cultural products
and influences. For the same reason that the young welcome the culture of their day and age, the
older generation usually opposes it.” Tyler Cowen, In Praise of Commercial Culture (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 1998), at 185.
2
As Jason Illian, author of MySpace, MyKids notes: “Every time a new medium is introduced, it garners
attention. And when problems arise, we are quick to place blame on the new technology, when in
reality, the same problems we have always had are simply revealing themselves in new ways.” Jason
Illian, MySpace, MyKids (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2007), at 19-20. Similarly, Henry
Jenkins, author of Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers, argues that, “Even a cursory glance at the history of
communications technology shows a recurring pattern. Urban youths become adopters of new media,
carving out a social space that serves their own subcultural needs, which immediately becomes the
subject of adult concern. A single tragedy sparks a full-scale moral panic, which governments then
leverage to their own advantage.” Henry Jenkins, Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers (New York: New York
University Press, 2006), at 223. Finally, a recent report by the U.K. government noted that “New media
are often met by public concern about their impact on society and anxiety and polarisation of the
debate can lead to emotive calls for action.” Safer Children in a Digital World, Byron Review on
Children and New Technology, Department for Children, Schools and Families, [U.K.] task force report,
March 2008, at 3, www.dfes.gov.uk/byronreview/pdfs/Final%20Report%20Bookmarked.pdf. For other
examples, see Tom Standage, Those Darn Kids and Their Darn New Technology, Wired, April 2006, at
114-5; James A. Monroe, Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History (New Haven, CT: Yale
University Press, 2003).
3
Alice Marwick, To Catch a Predator? The MySpace Moral Panic, First Monday, Vol. 13, No. 6-2, June
2008, www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2152/1966; Anne Collier, Why
Techopanics are Bad, Net Family News, April 23, 2009, www.netfamilynews.org/2009/04/why-
technopanics-are-bad.html; Wade Roush, The Moral Panic over Social Networking Sites, Technology
Review, Aug. 7, 2006, www.technologyreview.com/communications/17266; Adam Thierer, Parents,
Kids & Policymakers in the Digital Age: Safeguarding Against ‘Techno-Panics,’ Inside ALEC, July 2009, at
16-17, www.alec.org/am/pdf/Inside_July09.pdf; Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation,
Technopanics and the Great Social Networking Scare, PFF Blog, June 10, 2008,
http://techliberation.com/2008/07/10/technopanics-and-the-great-social-networking-scare.

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point in its history. And the cycle continues. For example, during recent sessions of
Congress, countless hearings were held and bills introduced on a wide variety of media
and content-related issues. These proposals dealt with broadcast television and radio
programming,4 cable and satellite television content,5 video games,6 the Internet,7 social
networking sites,8 and other types of online content. Many of the policymakers and
groups supporting these efforts argue that parents are essentially powerless to stop the
flow of objectionable media content in their homes. Therefore, in the name of
protecting children, they argue government regulation is necessary.

For example, during a 1996 conference on media and culture, Sen. Joseph
Lieberman (I-CT), one of the most vociferous media critics in Congress, succinctly
articulated this “parents-are-powerless” concern:

Parents and families are being cut out of the picture. This is to me the real heart
of the crisis. The sheer power and pervasiveness of the media is accelerating the
breakdown of the family, and depriving parents of their ability to shape the
development of their children, to instill their values, and to exercise the
authority that we as a society have treated as one of our most precious rights.9

4
See Adam Thierer, FCC v. Fox and the Future of the First Amendment in the Information Age, Engage,
Feb. 20, 2009, www.fed-soc.org/doclib/20090216_ThiererEngage101.pdf
5
See Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Thinking Seriously about Cable and Satellite
Censorship: An Informal Analysis of S. 616, The Rockefeller-Hutchison Bill, Progress on Point no. 12.5,
April 2005, www.pff.org/issues-pubs/pops/pop12.6cablecensorship.pdf; Adam Thierer, The Progress &
Freedom Foundation, Moral and Philosophical Aspects of the Debate over A La Carte Regulation,
Progress Snapshot 1.23, Dec. 2005, www.pff.org/issues-pubs/ps/ps1.23alacarte.pdf; Adam Thierer,
The Progress & Freedom Foundation, “Kid-Friendly” Tiering Mandates: More Government Nannyism
for Cable TV, Progress Snapshot 1.2, May 2005, www.pff.org/issues-
pubs/ps/ps1.2familyfriendlytiering.pdf
6
See Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Fact and Fiction in the Debate over Video
Game Regulation, Progress Snapshot 13.7, March 2006, www.pff.org/issues-
pubs/pops/pop13.7videogames.pdf; Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Video Games
and Moral Panic, PFF Blog, Jan. 23, 2009,
http://blog.pff.org/archives/2009/01/video_games_and_moral_panic.html
7
See Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Congress, Content Regulation, and Child
Protection: The Expanding Legislative Agenda, Progress Snapshot 4.4, Feb. 6, 2008,
www.pff.org/issues-pubs/ps/2008/ps4.4childprotection.html; Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom
Foundation, Saving Online Free Speech: A Voluntary Code of Conduct for Internet Operators, Progress
Snapshot 2.19, Aug. 2006, www.pff.org/issues-pubs/ps/2006/ps_2.19_conduct_net_ops.pdf
8
See Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Is MySpace the Government’s Space? Progress
Snapshot 2.16, June 2006, http://www.pff.org/issues-pubs/ps/2006/ps_2.16_myspace.pdf
9
Senator Joseph Lieberman, “Opening Remarks of Senator Joseph Lieberman” in Sex and Hollywood:
Should There Be a Government Role (Menlo Park, CA: Kaiser Family Foundation, 1996), at 73-4.

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To counter this trend, Sen. Lieberman continued, “we may have to consider
more restrictions on the ways entertainment products are distributed.” 10 This same
concern continues to motivate calls for government regulation or oversight of media
today. For example, when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched a
Notice of Inquiry regarding implementation of the “Child Safe Viewing Act of 2007,” FCC
Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein argued that:

Parents across the country are locked in a near constant struggle to protect our
children from a barrage of media programming filled with content they consider
inappropriate. Too many parents feel like they are losing control, and they are
frustrated by a relentless march of coarse material they view as too violent, too
sexual, too commercial or too unhealthy for their children.11

Importantly, however, in his 1996 address, Sen. Lieberman also noted that there
may be other constructive ways of dealing with this problem before resorting to
government regulation. For example, he argued that the power of public pressure and
shame—from both the general public and policymakers—could influence the character
of modern media. More importantly, Sen. Lieberman discussed the potential for
increased information and parental empowerment to change matters for the better:

We should also continue to push the television industry to offer the public more
information with a voluntary rating system, as we have with the V-chip
legislation. The advantage of a television ratings system is that, not only will it
provide parents with fair warning, it can empower them to be more informed
and active consumers. It can also trigger a whole world of new technologies to
shield children from the excesses of our cultural marketplace without negatively
affecting the adult viewing audience.12

Sen. Lieberman’s predictions have proven quite prescient, and not just for
television. The vision he articulated—that of a more fully informed and empowered
citizenry—is, in many ways, the world we find ourselves in today.

Indeed, as this study will illustrate, there has never been a time in our nation’s
history when parents have had more tools and methods at their disposal to help them
decide what constitutes acceptable media content in their homes and in the lives of their

10
Id., at 76.
11
Statement of FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, Regarding Implementation of the Child Safe
Viewing Act; Examination of Parental Control Technologies for Video or Audio Programming, MB
Docket No. 09-26, March 2, 2009, http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-09-
14A3.pdf
12
Id., at 75.

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children.13 As Sen. Lieberman hoped, these new tools and rating systems are providing
parents with ample “fair warning” about media content and simultaneously making it
easier for them to “shield children from the excesses of our cultural marketplace.”
Finally, as Lieberman also hoped, this is being accomplished “without negatively
affecting the adult viewing audience.”

In other words, these new tools
and rating systems are helping to reverse There has never been a time in our
the trends Sen. Lieberman and others nation’s history when parents have
feared. Consistent with the desires Sen. had more tools and methods at
Lieberman articulated, new parental their disposal to help them decide
control tools are empowering parents “to what is acceptable in their homes
shape the development of their children, and in the lives of their children.
to instill their values, and to exercise the
authority that we as a society have
treated as one of our most precious rights.”

This study will document the many tools and techniques that parents now have
at their disposal to better control media contentThere
and raise
hastheir children
never been as they see
a time in fit.
our nation’sdon’t
That is not to say that media and communications technologies history when
continue to play a
14 parents have had more tools
major role in our society and culture. But, as will be shown throughout this report,
parents have been empowered with tools, controls,and methods
strategies,atand
their disposal that
information,
can help them devise and then enforce a media plan for their families thatwhat
to help them decide is with
is in line
their own values. acceptable in their homes and
in the lives of their children.
A. A Broad View of Parental Controls
Parental controls will be defined broadlyThere
throughout this report
has never been to include
a time in any
tool or method that parents, guardians or schoolsour nation’s
might use tohistory
restrict when
or tailor the
media content that children consume. The “restrict parents have
or tailor” had more
qualifier tools Too
is important.
often, parental controls are viewed as being merelyandrestrictive
methodsinat their disposal
character. That is, they
are used to block or filter media content. Thattoishelp themone
certainly decide what is
important use for
acceptable in their homes
parental controls; perhaps even the most important use for many families. But content and
in controls
tailoring is an equally important part of the parental the lives of their children.
mix.

13
And the pace of technological innovation continues at an impressive
There haspace.
never As the Microsoft
been a time in
Corporation pointed out in comments to the FCC in April 2009: “*M+any technologies
our nation’s history when that were mere
concepts just a short time ago are already available in the marketplace. Thus, parents have several
parents have had more tools
advanced options today to select the content that is appropriate for their families, and those options
and
continue to develop and evolve.” Comments of Microsoft Corp., methods at their
Implementation disposal
of the Child Safe
Viewing Act; Examination of Parental Control Technologies toforhelp
Videothem
or Audiodecide what MB
Programming, is
Docket No. 09-26, April 16, 2009, at 16-17, acceptable in their homes and
in the lives of their children.
http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520213768
14
Jacqui Cheng, Report: Kids’ Use of Tech Growing Exponentially, Ars Technica, June 10, 2009,
http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/news/2009/06/report-kids-use-of-tech-growing-exponentially.ars
There has never been a time in
our nation’s history when
Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) parents have had more tools 14
and methods at their disposal
to help them decide what is
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

Content tailoring refers to parents’ use of any tool or method that enables their
families to see, hear, or consume content they would regard as “better” (i.e., more
educational, enriching, or ethical) for them. This is perhaps the most exciting part of the
parental controls story today. Parental control tools and methods exist now that make it
easier than ever before to tailor media content and consumption to a family’s specific
needs and desires. For example, as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
noted in a 2006 report about the video marketplace, “through the use of advanced set-
top boxes and digital video recorders, and the introduction of new mobile video
services, consumers are now able to maintain more control over what, when, and how
they receive information.”15

Exhibit 1: Teens & Their Technology Use, 2009

Regardless of which approach to media that parents prefer, this study will
document the many tools and methods at their disposal to restrict or tailor media
content in the lives and their lives of their children. Section I highlights the various
formal and informal household media rules that parents can use to restrict or tailor
media to their preferences or values. Section III will then provide a sector-by-sector

15
Federal Communications Commission, Twelfth Annual Video Competition Report, MB Docket No. 05-
255, Feb. 10, 2006, at 4, http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-06-11A1.pdf

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survey of the rating systems and technological tools available to parents if they wish to
take advantage of more stringent controls.

This study will also discuss online child protection efforts, primarily in Section V.
Many parental control technologies help parents shield their children from potentially
objectionable media content, including Internet content. But the debate about online
child protection has another, more serious, dimension because of concerns about child
pornography or child predation. I refer to this problem as the “bad-people” problem,
vis-à-vis the “bad-pictures” (objectionable, but legal media content) problem.

All too often, the bad-pictures and bad-people problems get conflated when, in
fact, they are two very different issues that deserve different treatment and solutions.
Much, if not all, of the bad-pictures problem can be dealt with by parents on their own
without resorting to any government
regulation. But, in addition to parental
oversight and education, the bad- The best answer to the problem of
people problem demands a government unwanted media exposure is for
role, primarily in the form of stepped up parents to rely on a mix of
enforcement efforts and penalties to technological controls, informal
combat child predation and child household media rules, and, most
pornography. Importantly, in many importantly, education and media
cases, policymakers are currently literacy efforts.
misallocating resources by sometimes
obsessing over regulatory solutions to The best answer to the problem of
the bad-pictures problem when they unwanted media exposure is for
should be putting their time and resources into handling
parents tothe
relyfar
onmore
a mixserious
of bad-
people problem. Section V of this report will discuss that problem
technological in greater
controls, detail and
informal
call on lawmakers and law enforcement officialshousehold
to redoublemedia
their rules,
effortsand,
on this
mostfront.
importantly, education and media
As Section IV will illustrate, education is also a vital part ofefforts.
literacy parental controls and
online child protection efforts. In fact, if there is one thing that this report will seek to
impress upon the reader it is that, regardless Theofbest
howanswer
robusttothey might beoftoday,
the problem
parental control tools and rating systems are unwantedno substitute
media forexposure
education—of
is for both
children and parents. Thus, the best answer toparents the problem of unwanted
to rely on a mix of media
exposure or contact with others is for parents totechnological
rely on a mix of technological
controls, informalcontrols,
informal household media rules, and, most importantly,
householdeducation
media rules,andand,
media
mostliteracy
efforts. And government can play an importantimportantly,
role by helping educate and
education and media empower
parents and children to help prepare them for our new media environment.
literacy efforts.

That was the central finding of a blue-ribbon panel
The best of experts
answer to theconvened
problem of in 2002
by the National Research Council of the National unwanted
Academy of Sciences
media to study
exposure how best
is for
to protect children in the new, interactive, “always-on”
parentsmultimedia
to rely on aworld.
mix ofUnder the
leadership of former U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, the group produced a
technological controls, informal
report outlining a sweeping array of methods and technological
household media controls for dealing
rules, and, most with
importantly, education and media
literacy efforts.
Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) 16

The best answer to the problem of
unwanted media exposure is for
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

potentially objectionable media content or online dangers. Ultimately, however, the
experts used a compelling metaphor to explain why education was the most important
tool on which parents and policymakers should rely:

Technology—in the form of fences around pools, pool alarms, and locks—can
help protect children from drowning in swimming pools. However, teaching a
child to swim—and when to avoid pools—is a far safer approach than relying on
locks, fences, and alarms to prevent him or her from drowning. Does this mean
that parents should not buy fences, alarms, or locks? Of course not—because
they do provide some benefit. But parents cannot rely exclusively on those
devices to keep their children safe from drowning, and most parents recognize
that a child who knows how to swim is less likely to be harmed than one who
does not. Furthermore, teaching a child to swim and to exercise good judgment
about bodies of water to avoid has applicability and relevance far beyond
swimming pools—as any parent who takes a child to the beach can testify.16

Regrettably, we often fail to
teach our children how to swim in
the new media waters. Indeed, to The current state of parental control
extend the metaphor, it is as if we are tools and online child protection efforts
generally adopting an approach that is also important because it has a
is more akin to just throwing kids in profound effect on the legal and
the deep end and waiting to see what regulatory status of many modern
happens. To rectify this situation, a media providers or various types of
serious media literacy agenda is speech and expression.
needed in America. Media literacy
programs teach children and adults
The current
alike to think critically about media, and to better analyzestate of parentalthe
and understand control
messages
tools and online child protection
that media providers are communicating. Section IV of this report will argue that efforts
government should push media literacy effortsisatalso important
every level of because it has aprocess.
the education
And those efforts should be accompanied by widespreadprofound public
effect awareness
on the legalcampaigns
and to
regulatory status of many modern
better inform parents about the parental control tools, rating systems, online safety
tips, and other media control methods at theirmedia providers or various types of
disposal.
speech and expression.
Collectively, these efforts represents an education and empowerment approach
that government(s) can adopt to help families deal with media content as opposed to
the traditional regulatory approaches generally Thefavored
current state of parental
by lawmakers. control
This approach,
tools and online child protection
which I also refer to as the “Rules, Tools, Schools, and Talk” strategy, has the added efforts
benefit of clearly falling within the boundariesisofalso theimportant because
Constitution, whichit has a
is important
for reasons discussed next. profound effect on the legal and
regulatory status of many modern
media providers or various types of
Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, Nationalspeech
Researchand expression.
16
Council, Youth, Pornography,
and the Internet (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2002), at 224.

The current state of parental control
Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) tools and online child protection efforts 17
is also important because it has a
profound effect on the legal and
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

B. Parental Controls and the Law
The current state of parental control tools and online child protection efforts is
also important because it has a profound effect on the legal and regulatory status of
many modern media providers or various types of speech and expression. Public policy
discussions about content regulation have long been tied up with thorny debates about
what constitutes the proper “community standard” for determining the appropriateness
of certain types of speech or media content.

The reason for that is because it has traditionally been difficult for individual
households to tailor media content—especially broadcast television and radio content—
to their specific needs or values. In essence,
the off button on TVs and radios was the
only technical control at a parent’s disposal. If it is the case that families now
In that environment, many believed that have the ability to effectively
government needed to act as a surrogate tailor media consumption to their
for parents given the lack of control families own preferences—that is, to craft
had over their media decisions and their own “household
encounters. In other words, because it was standard”—the regulatory
difficult for families to enforce their own equation should also change.
“household standard,” the government
needed to step in and create a baseline
“community standard” for the entire If it is the case that families now
nation. Unfortunately, those “community standards” have thewere quite
ability amorphous and
to effectively
sometimes completely arbitrary. Worse yet, those tailorregulatory standards to
media consumption treated
their all
households as if they had the same tastes or values.
own preferences—that is, to craft
their own “household
For example, in the context of broadcast television and radio programming,
standard”—the regulatory the
Supreme Court famously held in the 1978 Pacifica equationcase should
that FCC
also oversight
change. and
regulatory penalties (i.e., fines or license revocation) would help prevent “uninvited”
programming from acting as an “intruder” into the home.17 By a slim 5-4 margin, that
logic became the law of the land for broadcasting andIf itremains so today.
is the case that families now
have the ability to effectively
Similar arguments would be put forward bytailor
policymakers in the mid-1990s
media consumption when
to their
they sought to impose restrictions on Internet and ownvideo game content.is,Courts
preferences—that to crafthave
rejected these efforts, however. In striking down the their Communications
own “household Decency Act’s
effort to regulate underage access to adult-oriented websites, the
standard”—the Supreme Court
regulatory
declared in Reno v. ACLU (1997) that a law that placesequation a “burden
should onalsoadult speech is
change.
unacceptable if less restrictive alternatives would be at least as effective in achieving”

If it is the case that families now
have the ability to effectively
FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S. 726, 727-8 (1978). tailor media consumption to their
17

own preferences—that is, to craft
their own “household
Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) standard”—the regulatory 18
equation should also change.
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

the same goal.18 And several lower courts have rejected regulation of video game
content on similar grounds.19

What is most interesting about these recent Internet and video game decisions is
that the same logic could be applied to many other types of media outlets and
content—including broadcasting. Indeed, this study reveals that many “less restrictive
alternatives” are available to parents
today to help them shield their
children’s eyes and ears from content
they might find objectionable, Household-based controls need not
regardless of what that content may be. be perfect to be preferable to
government controls. That is
If it is the case that families now particularly true because of the First
have the ability to effectively tailor Amendment values at stake here.
media consumption to their own
preferences—that is, to craft their own Household-based controls need not
be perfect
“household standard”—the regulatory equation should also to be preferable
change. Regulationto can no
longer be premised on the supposed helplessnessgovernment
of householdscontrols.
to dealThat
withis content
particularly
flows if families have been empowered and educated true because
to make of the First
content determinations
for themselves. Amendment values at stake here.

Household-based
In fact, in another recent decision, the Supreme controlsthat
Court confirmed need not
this would
be perfect to be preferable
be the new standard to which future government enactments would be held. In United to
States v. Playboy Entertainment Group (2000),20 government controls.
the Court struck Thata islaw that
down
required cable companies to “fully scramble” particularly true because
video signals transmittedof theover
Firsttheir
Amendment values at stake here.
networks if those signals included any sexually explicit content. Echoing its earlier
holding in Reno v. ACLU, the Court found that less restrictive means were available to
Household-based
parents looking to block those signals in the home. Specifically,controls needcase,
in Playboy not the
Court argued that: be perfect to be preferable to
government controls. That is
[T]argeted blocking [by parents] enables particularly true because
the government of the First
to support parental
Amendment values at stake
authority without affecting the First Amendment interests of speakers and here.
willing listeners—listeners for whom, if the speech is unpopular or indecent, the
privacy of their own homes may be the Household-based
optimal place of controls need
receipt. not put,
Simply
be perfect to be preferable
targeted blocking is less restrictive than banning, and the Government cannot to
ban speech if targeted blocking is a feasiblegovernment
and effectivecontrols.
means of That is
furthering its
compelling interests. 21 particularly true because of the First
Amendment values at stake here.
18
Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844 (1997).
19 Household-based
See Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, controls
Fact and Fiction in the Debateneed not
over Video
be perfect to be
Game Regulation, Progress Snapshot 13.7, March 2006, www.pff.org/issues- preferable to
pubs/pops/pop13.7videogames.pdf government controls. That is
20 particularly
United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group, 529 U.S. 803 (2000). true because of the First
21 Amendment values at stake here.
Id. at 815.

Household-based controls need not
Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) be perfect to be preferable to 19
government controls. That is
particularly true because of the First
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

More importantly, the Court held that:

It is no response that voluntary blocking requires a consumer to take action, or
may be inconvenient, or may not go perfectly every time. A court should not
assume a plausible, less restrictive alternative would be ineffective; and a court
should not presume parents, given full information, will fail to act.22

This is an extraordinarily high bar the Supreme Court has set for policymakers
wishing to regulate modern media content. Not only is it clear that the Court is
increasingly unlikely to allow the extension of broadcast-era content regulations to new
media outlets and technologies, but it appears certain that judges will apply much
stricter constitutional scrutiny to all efforts to regulate speech and media providers in
the future, including broadcasting. As constitutional law scholar Geoffrey R. Stone of the
University of Chicago School of Law has noted:

The bottom line, then, is that even in dealing with material that is “obscene for
minors,” the government cannot directly regulate such material... Rather, it must
focus on empowering parents and other adults to block out such material at
their own discretion, by ensuring that content-neutral means exist that enable
individuals to exclude constitutionally protected material they themselves want
to exclude. Any more direct regulation of such material would unnecessarily
impair the First Amendment rights of adults.23

This is why parental control tools and methods are more important than ever
before. The courts have largely foreclosed government censorship and placed
responsibility over what enters the home squarely in the hands of parents.

C. Parental Controls, Personal Responsibility, and a Free Society
And that is how it should be. Decisions about acceptable media content are
extraordinarily personal; no two people or families will have the same set of values,
especially in a nation as diverse as ours.24 Consequently, it would be optimal if public

22
Id. at 824.
23
Geoffrey R. Stone, The First Amendment Implications of Government Regulation of ‘Violent’
Programming on Cable Television, National Cable and Telecommunications Association, Oct. 15, 2004,
at 10, www.ncta.com/ContentView.aspx?hidenavlink=true&type=lpubtp5&contentid=2881
24
As Justice Potter Stewart argued eloquently in his dissent in the 1966 case of Ginzburg v. United
States: “Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian
regime. Long ago those who wrote our First Amendment charted a different course. They believed a
society can be truly strong only when it is truly free. In the realm of expression they put their faith, for
better or for worse, in the enlightened choice of the people, free from the interference of a
policeman’s intrusive thumb or a judge's heavy hand. So it is that the Constitution protects coarse
expression as well as refined, and vulgarity no less than elegance. A book worthless to me may convey

Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) 20
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

policy decisions in this field took into account the extraordinary diversity of citizen and
household tastes and left the ultimate decision about acceptable content to them.
That’s especially the case in light of the fact that most U.S. households are made up
entirely of adults.25

The ideal state of affairs, therefore, would be a nation of fully empowered
parents who have the ability to perfectly tailor their family’s media consumption habits
to their specific values and preferences. Specifically, parents or guardians would have (1)
the information necessary to make informed decisions and (2) the tools and methods
necessary to act upon that information. Importantly, those tools and methods would
give them the ability to not only block objectionable materials, but also to more easily
find content they feel is appropriate for their families.

Will we ever be able to achieve such
a world of parental control perfection? It is
unlikely since both content and technology
will continuously evolve and make that goal The ideal state of affairs would be
elusive. But household-based controls and a nation of fully empowered
strategies need not be perfect to be parents who have the ability to
preferable to government regulation. That perfectly tailor their family’s
is particularly true because of the First viewing habits to their specific
Amendment values at stake here, as the values and preferences.
Supreme Court noted in the Playboy
decision. Absent removing all media Household-based controls need not
be perfect
devices from a home, it would be impossible to eliminate to be preferable
all unwanted to
or unexpected
encounters from life.26 Parental control tools and government
methods willcontrols. That provide
not always is
particularly true because of the
perfect protection, but they can act as training wheels or speed bumps along the media
First Amendment
paths that children seek to go down without destroying values
those paths at stake as
altogether
government censorship would do. Therefore, to reiterate, our goal here.should be to give
parents more information and tools such that they can make media consumption
decisions at the household level so that governmentHousehold-based
need not make controls
them forneed
us. not
be perfect to be preferable to
It is also worth noting that older mediagovernment controls.
sectors (books, That is
magazines, or
particularly
newspapers, for example) offer far fewer parental controls, but true
havebecause ofreceived
generally the
the maximum protection of the First Amendment. It First
onlyAmendment
makes sense values at stake
to accord similar
here.
First Amendment treatment to new digital media providers and content. As we move
toward a fully converged media world, where the same content flows across multiple
Household-based controls need not
something of value to my neighbor. In the free society to which be our
perfect to be preferable
Constitution has committedtous, it
government
is for each to choose for himself.” Ginzburg v. United States, 383 controls. That is
U.S. 463 (1966).
25 particularly
As Section III.A will make clear, less than one-third of U.S. households truechildren
include because of the
under theage
First Amendment
of 18 and many of those homes do not need or want parental control tools. values at stake
26 here.
Of course, this is the case outside the home as well. Consider ball games, shopping malls, and even
parks and playgrounds.
Household-based controls need not
be perfect to be preferable to
Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) government controls. That is 21
particularly true because of the
First Amendment values at stake
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

media platforms and devices,27 it will be essential to apply a consistent set of First
Amendment protections to ensure that all technologies and speakers are treated
equally in the eyes of the law.28

In summary, as both a normative and practical matter, there is no reason that
government officials should be in the business of choosing what is appropriate for
children. That is true of the books or magazines they read, the television programs or
movies they watch, the music they listen to, the games they play, or the websites they
visit. Public officials should not act in loco parentis when parents have the power to
make content and communications decisions on their own. Raising children, and
determining what they watch, play, read, listen to, or download, is a quintessential
parental responsibility. Simply stated, as Tom W. Bell of the Chapman University School
of Law argues, “The state ought not do for us what we can just as well do for
ourselves.”29

Of course, it isn’t easy. Parenting is tough work; it is probably the most
challenging task most of us will undertake as adults. Luckily, as this report will hopefully
prove, parents have more tools and methods at their disposal than ever before to help
them carry out this difficult responsibility.

Ultimately, there is no silver bullet tool or method that will get the job done on
its own. We will need to adopt a “layered” approach to parental controls and online
child protection to do the job right. This four-layer strategy of “Rules, Tools, Schools,
and Talk” is developed throughout the rest of this report.

27
Henry Jenkins, founder and director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program and author of
Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, defines convergence as “the flow of content
across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the
migratory behavior of media audiences who will go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of
entertainment experiences they want.” Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New
Media Collide (New York: New York University Press, 2006), at 2.
28
See Adam Thierer, Why Regulate Broadcasting: Toward a Consistent First Amendment Standard for the
Information Age, Catholic University Law School, 15 CommLaw Conspectus, Summer 2007, at 431-482;
http://commlaw.cua.edu/articles/v15/15_2/Thierer.pdf; Adam Thierer, FCC v. Fox and the Future of
the First Amendment in the Information Age, Engage, Feb. 2009, www.fed-
soc.org/doclib/20090216_ThiererEngage101.pdf
29
Tom W. Bell, Free Speech, Strict Scrutiny, and Self-Help: How Technology Upgrades Constitutional
Jurisprudence, 87 Minnesota Law Review, 2003, at 774,
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=422621. Bell continues:
As a general matter… technological advances that give private parties increasingly refined means of
manipulating information have led—and should lead—courts to reduce the permissible scope of
state action. Just as we upgrade computer software to benefit from progressively better hardware,
in other words, we should upgrade First Amendment jurisprudence to benefit from progressively
better self-help.

Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) 22
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

Exhibit 2:
A Layered Approach to Parental Controls
and Child Protection

Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) 23
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

II. Household Media Rules and
Informal Parental Control Methods

Before outlining the many media-specific parental control tools and technologies
that are available today (summarized in Section III), it is important to realize that
household-level rules and informal parental control methods exist that are equally
important elements of this story. In fact, in many ways, these household efforts
represent the most important steps that most parents can take in dealing with
potentially objectionable content or teaching their children how to be sensible, savvy
media consumers. Indeed, to the extent that many households never take advantage of
the technical controls discussed in Section III, it is likely because they rely instead on the
informal household media rules discussed here in this chapter.

Importantly, courts are increasingly taking into account the importance of such
household media rules and methods, as is witnessed by the Eastern District of
Michigan’s 1999 decision in Cyberspace Communications, Inc. v. Engler:

Parental control is the most effective method in overseeing where the
child ventures. This can be as simple as placing the computer in a
common area of your home, like the living room, so the child can
anticipate the presence of an adult…. *or+ not placing the computer in the
children’s bedroom where they have the seclusion for unbounded
exploration. A parent could also place a lock on the computer until such
time as a parent can supervise the child. If the parent cannot directly
supervise the child’s computer usage, then set limits, much like what
shows a child can and cannot watch on television. There are software
programs that log all the websites so that a parent can have a record and
the child knows that they have to adhere to limits. Finally, the Court takes
judicial notice of the fact that every computer is equipped with an on/off
switch.30
And, as will be shown below, everything the court said here regarding computers
is equally true of other media technologies; there exist myriad ways parents can
establish firm ground rules about media exposure and consumption.

30
Cyberspace Communications, Inc. v. Engler, 55 F. Supp. 2d 737 at 750-51 (E.D. Mich. 1999), aff’d 238
F.3d 420 (6th Cir.2000).

Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) 25
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

A. Household Media Consumption Rules
To begin, there are formal and informal household “media consumption rules.” A
2003 Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that “Almost all parents say they have
some type of rules about their children’s use of media.”31 More recent Kaiser surveys
have bolstered that finding. For example, a 2006 Kaiser survey of families with infants
and preschoolers revealed that 85 percent of those parents who let their children watch
TV at that age have rules about what their child can and cannot watch.32 Of those
parents, 63 percent say they always enforce those rules. About the same percentage of
parents said they had similar rules for video game and computer usage. Likewise, a June
2007 Kaiser poll revealed that:33

 65 percent of parents say they closely monitor their children’s media use;
 73 percent of parents say they know a lot about what their kids are doing online;
 87 percent of parents check their children’s instant messaging “buddy lists;”
 82 percent of parents review their children’s social networking sites; and,
 76 percent of parents look to see what websites their children have visited.

Similarly, a poll commissioned by Common Sense Media and Cable in the
Classroom revealed that 85 percent of
parents and legal guardians of children ages
6 to 18 who go online say they have talked
To the extent that many
to their child in the past year about how to
households never take advantage
be safe and smart online.34
of technical controls, it is likely
because they rely instead on the
Parents use a wide variety of
informal household media rules.
household media consumption rules. Some
can be quite formal in the sense that
parents make clear rules and enforce them
To the extent that many
routinely in the home over an extended period of time. Other media consumption rules
households never take advantage
can be fairly informal, however, and are enforced on a more selective basis. Regardless,
of technical controls, it is likely
these household media consumption rules can be grouped into four general categories:
because they rely instead on the
(1) “where” rules; (2) “when and how much” rules; (3) “under what conditions” rules;
informal household media rules.
and, (4) “what” rules.

31
Kaiser Family Foundation, Zero to Six: Electronic Media in the Lives
Toofthe
Infants,
extentToddlers
that and
many
Preschoolers, Fall 2003, at 9, www.kff.org/entmedia/entmedia102803pkg.cfm
households never take advantage
32
Kaiser Family Foundation, The Media Family: Electronic Media
of intechnical
the Lives of Infants, Toddlers,
controls, it is likely
Preschoolers and Their Parents, May 2006, at 20, www.kff.org/entmedia/7500.cfm
because they rely instead on the
33
informal
Victoria Rideout, Kaiser Family Foundation, Parents, Children & Media,household
June 2007, media rules.
www.kff.org/entmedia/entmedia061907pkg.cfm
34
Common Sense Media, New Poll Finds That Parents Are Taking Proactive Steps to Keep Kids Safe and
Smart on the Web, Press Release, Sept. 25, 2007, www.commonsensemedia.org/news/press-
To the extent that many
releases.php?id=86 households never take advantage
of technical controls, it is likely
because they rely instead on the
Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) 26
informal household media rules.
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

(1) “Where” Rules: One of the most important steps that parents can take to
better control their children’s media usage is to establish firm rules regarding where
their children can do so. “We don’t have to say no to having TVs, video games, or
computers in our homes,” argues Dr. David Walsh, president and founder of the
National Institute on Media and the Family, “but we should say no to where some of the
screens go.”35

For example, parents can assign a specific television or computer for most media
usage and then take steps to ensure that those devices have screening or filtering
controls installed and programmed. Additionally, parents can require that their children
consume media (TV, Internet, video games, etc.) in a specific room or area of the house
where they can keep an eye or ear on what their kids are doing.

At a minimum, parents can start by at least getting televisions, computers, and
game consoles out of kids’ bedrooms so they can better monitor media usage by their
children. According to a 2005 Kaiser survey, 68 percent of 8 to 18 year-olds have
televisions in their bedrooms.36 Parents who let their kids lock themselves in their rooms
with media devices have surrendered their first line of defense in protecting their
children from potentially objectionable content.37 Luckily, the reverse appears to be
true for computers. A 2006 Pew Internet & American Life Project survey of media usage
by teenagers revealed that 74 percent of homes with teenagers have their computers in
an “open family area.”38 That result was consistent with Pew surveys taken in 2004 and
2000.

(2) “When and How Much” Rules: Parents can also limit the overall number of
hours that children can consume various types of media content, or when they can do
so. (Several technological tools mentioned in Section III can help parents accomplish
this.) For example, parents can impose restrictions on the times of the day that children
can consume media with rules like, “No TV or video games after 8:00 PM,” or, more

35
David Walsh, No: Why Kids—of All Ages—Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It (New York: Free
Press, 2007), at 269.
36
Kaiser Family Foundation, Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-Olds, March 2005, at 10,
www.kff.org/entmedia/entmedia030905pkg.cfm
37
“One of the most beneficial Nos is to keep TVs, video games, or computers out of kids’ bedrooms.
Sending your kid to her room isn’t a punishment when she can catch up on her favorite shows or
‘whatever else is on.’ Once her door is closed, you don’t know where your child goes on the Internet,
what she is watching, or for how long. Keeping media out of the bedroom increases school
performance and decreases the risk of obesity. Say yes to screens in a common space in the house.
This may be a bit nosey, but it will help you keep track of your kids’ screen time and virtual activities.”
Walsh, op. cit., at 269-270.
38
Amanda Lenhart and Mary Madden, Pew Internet & American Life Project, Teens, Privacy, and Online
Social Networks, April 18, 2007, at 8, www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/211/report_display.asp

Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) 27
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

stringently, “No TV or games on a school night.” The 2007 Pew Internet & American Life
Project survey mentioned above found that 58 percent of parents limit the amount of
time their children can spend watching television; 59 percent limit how much time their
kids can play video games; and 69 percent limit how much time their children can spend
online.39 A 2008 survey conducted by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA),
which represents the video game industry, revealed an even greater degree of parental
involvement, finding that 80 percent of parents have placed time limits on video game
playing in their homes.40

(3) “Under What Condition” Rules: “When and how much” rules represent a
carrot-and-stick approach to media consumption / exposure. Parents can incentivize
their children by requiring that other tasks or responsibilities be accomplished before
media consumption is permitted. For example, many of us are familiar with this very
common household media rule: “You have to finish your homework before you get to
watch any TV.” Similar rules can be used for video games and other types of media. My
mother effectively used a conditional media rule with me as a child when she rewarded
weekly achievement in school by letting me pick out a comic book at a local pharmacy.
On the weeks I didn’t do so well in school, I didn’t get my Batman or Spiderman fix!

More creatively, parents can formulate a “media allowance” for their children
(especially as they get older) to allow them to generally consume the media they want
but only within certain boundaries. Again, incentives can be used with this approach.
For example, better grades at school might be rewarded by adding one more hour of
media time to their overall weekly media allowance.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released data on child-parent interaction that
illustrates how the use of household media rules appears to be growing. The Census
Bureau’s data is part of a report entitled A Child's Day.41 The last Child’s Day report was
conducted in 1994, and the most recent one in 2004, but the data for 2004 was just
recently released. The latest results are very encouraging and reveal that, “Parents are
taking a more active role in the lives of their children than they did 10 years ago,”
according to a Census Bureau press release.42 As the adjoining exhibit illustrates,
parents are crafting more TV rules for their kids today than they were in the past.43 The

39
Id., at 9.
40
Entertainment Software Association, Essential Facts about the Computer and Video Game Industry:
2008 Sales, Demographics and Usage Data, 2008, at 8, www.theesa.com/facts/pdfs/ESA_EF_2008.pdf
41
www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/2004_detailedtables.html
42
U.S. Census Bureau, Parents More Active in Raising Their Children; More Children Get Television
Restrictions, Press Release, Oct. 31, 2007, www.census.gov/Press-
Release/www/releases/archives/children/010850.html
43
See Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Latest Census Numbers on Kids, Parents &
Media, PFF Blog, Dec. 14, 2007, http://blog.pff.org/archives/2007/12/latest_census_n.html

Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) 28
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

survey also found that parents were reading to their kids more and enrolling their
children in more extracurricular activities and lessons.

Exhibit 3: More Families Using Household Media Rules

B. “What Rules” & the Importance of a Good (Media) Diet
The efforts described above represent commonsense approaches parents can
use to establish basic ground rules about how media are consumed in the home. But
what about the substance of the media that are being consumed within these
preestablished boundaries? This represents the fourth, and most important, category of
household media rules: “what” rules.

Parents regularly enforce household rules about what their children can watch,
listen to, play, or surf. For example, a poll conducted by the group TV Watch in June
2007 found that 73 percent of parents monitor what their children watch, including 87
percent of parents whose children are ages 0-10.44 Similarly, according to the Pew
Internet & American Life Project, 77 percent of parents already have rules for which TV
shows their kids can watch, 67 percent have rules for the kinds of video games they can
play, and 85 percent have rules about which Internet websites they can and cannot

44
Hart Research, Hart Research, TV Watch Survey of Parents, June 2007,
www.televisionwatch.org/junepollresults.pdf

Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) 29
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

visit.45 Another poll commissioned by Common Sense Media and Cable in the Classroom
revealed that more than 93 percent of parents of children ages 6 to 18 who go online
say they have taken action to make sure the Web sites their kid visits meets with their
approval.46

How can parents do more to encourage their kids to consume media content
that they feel is appropriate and enriching? Although every family will have a different
set of values and preferences, when it comes to media consumption, parents need to
think about what constitutes a sensible “media diet” for their own families. As the
American Academy of Pediatrics notes, “You watch what foods your kids eat, the toys
they play with and how much sleep they get. But are you watching what they learn from
TV? Like maintaining a balanced diet or
regular bedtime, establishing healthy TV
habits is one of the most important
things you can do for your family.”47 Although every family will have a
Likewise, Patricia Greenfield, UCLA different set of values and
distinguished professor of psychology preferences, when it comes to media
and director of the Children's Digital consumption, parents need to think
Media Center, notes that “No one about what constitutes a sensible
medium is good for everything. If we “media diet” for their own families.
want to develop a variety of skills, we
need a balanced media diet,” she
argues. “Each medium has costs and benefits in terms Although everyskills
of what family
eachwill have a 48
develops.”
different set of values and
Toward that end, parents should consider preferences,
taking a when
“food itpyramid”
comes toapproach
media to
media consumption: Teach kids the importance of a balanced media diet think
consumption, parents need to while also
about what constitutes
teaching them the types of things that you think they should probably avoid altogether. a sensible
49
The federal government has a recommended “media diet” forfor
food pyramid their own families.
nutritional purposes,
of course. But just as government doesn’t enforce the food pyramid through regulation,
neither should it enforce a media food pyramid through mandates or restrictions. In
fact, we don’t need the government to tell us what Although
is in aevery
“mediafamily
foodwill have a at all.
pyramid”
different set of values
This is something parents can do quite effectively on their own, especially in light of the and
differing values each household will bring to the preferences,
job. when it comes to media
consumption, parents need to think
45
about what constitutes a sensible
Teens, Privacy, and Online Social Networks, op. cit., at“media
9. diet” for their own families.
46
Common Sense Media, New Poll Finds That Parents Are Taking Proactive Steps to Keep Kids Safe and
Smart on the Web, Press Release, Sept. 25, 2007, www.commonsensemedia.org/news/press-
releases.php?id=86
Although every family will have a
47
American Academy of Pediatrics, Smart Guide to Kid’s TV, www.aap.org/family/smarttv.htm
different set of values and
48 preferences,
Quoted in Is Technology Producing a Decline in Critical when it Cellular-News.com,
Thinking and Analysis? comes to media Jan.
29, 2009, www.cellular-news.com/story/35729.php consumption, parents need to think
49 about what
The author thanks Rich Lappenbusch of the Microsoft Corporation forconstitutes
inspiring and a sensible
helping to develop
this concept during a series of ongoing conversations “media diet” for their own families.
in 2006-2007.

Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) Although every family will have a 30
different set of values and
preferences, when it comes to media
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

A family’s media food pyramid might have specific time allotments and
recommended “portions” of different types of content. The American Academy of
Pediatrics recommends no more than one or two hours of “screen time” per day,50 but
families might vary that depending on their desires and their children’s ages. Once
parents decide roughly how much media they will allow their children to consume, they
can determine what are the best portions to be served.

Consider how this might work for television. In their recent book The Elephant in
the Living Room: Making Television Work for Your Kids, Dimitri Christakis and Frederick
Zimmerman, directors of the Child Health Institute at the University of Washington,
offer parents numerous suggestions for how to make television viewing a more positive
experience for everyone in the family.51 They group TV programs into several categories
and then encourage parents to use a mix of shows in each category to achieve a
balanced media diet. The adjoining exhibit outlines some of the programs they
recommend to satisfy desired skills or values that most parents would find important.

Exhibit 4: Sample “Media Diet” of Children’s Television Programming
Desired Skills / Values Sample Programs
Literacy skills Sesame Street, Arthur, Between the Lions
Math skills Sesame Street, Cyberchase
Problem-solving skills Blue’s Clues, Dora the Explorer, Go Diego Go
Music and dance / physical The Wiggles, The Backyardigans, Animal Jam
activity
Imagination / creativity Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Barney & Friends
Pro-social skills Higglytown Heroes, Dragon Tales, Clifford
Geography skills It’s a Big Big World, Postcards from Buster
Cultural diversity Dora the Explorer, Go Diego Go, Sesame Street

This approach works equally well for music, games, interactive software,
websites, and all types of media. They can be integrated into each family’s media
pyramid once parents decide the proper mix of skills and values. Again, every family
will bring a different set of needs and values to this task. And the needs of children will
vary by age. The proper media diet for a 5-year-old will be much different from that of
15-year-old. In other words, no two family media diets will be the same. Portion sizes
from each category will likely differ. And the type of media content used in each
category might be different for each family. For example, to instill geography skills in
children, some families might rely heavily on interactive computer software, online

50
American Academy of Pediatrics, Television: How it Affects Children,
www.aap.org/pubed/ZZZGF8VOQ7C.htm?&sub_cat=1
51
Dimitri A. Christakis and Frederick J. Zimmerman, The Elephant in the Living Room: Making Television
Work for Your Kids (New York: Rodale, 2006).

Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) 31
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encyclopedias, and various TV or DVD documentaries. On the other hand, some families
might adopt the old-fashioned approach that my wife and I use in our home. We have a
library filled with old maps, atlases, a globe, and a 40-year collection of National
Geographic magazines that we use to teach geography to our kids.52

Exhibit 5:
The Media Food Pyramid: Crafting a Balanced (Media) Diet

Personal Other / Entertainment

Personal Other / Entertainment

Personal
Social / Cultural Pro-Social Cultural Other / Entertainment
Diversity
Personal
Social / Cultural Pro-Social Other / Entertainment
Cultural
Personal
Social / Cultural Pro-Social Music
Diversity & / Entertainment
Other
Imagination & Dance /
Inspirational
Personal Creativity Skills
Social / Cultural Pro-Social Cultural Physical
Other / Entertainment
Activity
Diversity
Inspirational
Personal Imagination &
Social / Cultural Pro-Social
Creativity Skills Other / Entertainment
Music &
Cultural
Inspirational
Personal
Social / Cultural Pro-Social Dance
DiversityOther/ / Entertainment
Strategic /
Imagination
Research & & Physical
Foundational Literary Geography Problem- Math
Inspirational Creativity Skills
Reference
Social / Cultural Skills Pro-SocialSkills Activity
Cultural Solving Skills
Skills Skills
Foundational
Inspirational Diversity
Imagination & Music &
Social / Cultural Literary Geography
Pro-Social Math
Creativity
Research & Skills Dance /
Foundational Skills Skills
Cultural Strategic / Skills
Inspirational Reference Physical
Diversity Problem-
Imagination
Skills &
The bottom line: While
Foundational
Inspirational
Literary
differentCreativity
familiesSkills
will alwaysActivity
Geography Solving
have different Math
values and
Skills
approaches, there is something to be Research said for a&balanced Skills
Cultural Skills
diet when it comes to media
Skills
Music &
Diversity
consumption,
Foundational just as is the case with child
Inspirational nutrition. &
Imagination
Literary Reference Geography Dance /
Strategic / Math
Creativity
Skills Skills Physical
Skills Skills
Cultural
Finally, it should be stressed that not everything in a family’s media diet
Foundational Problem- Skills
must be
Activity
Diversity Solving
completely educational in character. Sometimes Imaginationparents
& and kids just want to relax and
Foundational Literary Research & Geography Skills portionMath
enjoy various types of entertainment, whatever they
Creativity Skills
Reference may be. A certain of every
Skills Skills Music & Skills
family’s media diet, therefore, will be Skills non-educational media Dance content—and
/ there’s
Foundational Strategic /
nothing wrong with that. For example, one can be thankful
Imagination & for the many lessons learned
Physical
Literary Geography Problem- Math
Creativity Skills
Skills Research & Skills ActivitySolving Skills
Reference Skills
glued to aSkills
52
We also have a map of United States Literary piece of cardboard
Geography Music
that & our kids stick colored
we let
pins into it to highlight the cities they have visited. Math
Skills Skills Dance /
Strategic / Skills
Research & Physical
Problem-
Literary Reference GeographyActivity Solving Math
Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0)
Skills Skills Skills Skills 32
Skills
Music &
Research & Dance /
Strategic /
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

by watching Sesame Street, as I do, but still have fond memories of those old cartoons
and comic books that many of us enjoyed when we were growing up.

C. Teaching Good Etiquette in a Multimedia World
One of the most important parenting responsibilities involves teaching our
children basic manners and rules of social etiquette. For example, we teach them proper
dinner table manners, to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze, to hold doors
open for others, or simply to say “thank you” when given something. When we become
parents, no one from the government
gives us a handbook instructing us to do all
this. Rather, these are social conventions
Unaccustomed to using modern
that come to us naturally, just as they did
computing or communications
with our parents and the generations of
devices, some parents may be
parents that came before them.
neglecting their duties in terms of
teaching good online etiquette.
These informal social rules of
etiquette are essential to well-functioning
civil society. And it is commonly
Unaccustomed to using modern
understood that these are “rules” that families, communities, and other social groups or
computing or communications
institutions are primarily responsible for instilling in children.
devices, some parents may be
neglecting their duties in terms of
Why should it be any different for media usage? It shouldn’t. Proper online
teaching good online etiquette.
etiquette is a private responsibility, albeit one that is probably not taken as seriously as
“offline” etiquette. Again, most parents repeatedly drill basic manners into their kids
until it is clear that they “get it.” Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for online
Unaccustomed to using modern
manners. This might be the case because the Internet and digital communications
computing or communications
technologies have taken the world by storm and caught the current generation of
devices, some parents may be
parents a bit off guard. Unaccustomed to, or uncomfortable with modern computing or
neglecting their duties in terms of
communications devices, some parents may be neglecting their duties in terms of
teaching good online etiquette.
teaching good online etiquette and basic online safety.53 Of course, as the blue-ribbon
panel of experts assembled by the National Academy of Sciences noted, “It may be that
as today’s children become parents themselves, their familiarity with rapid rates of
Unaccustomed to using modern
technological change will reduce the knowledge gap between them and their children,
computing or communications
and mitigate to some extent the consequences of the gap that remains.”54
devices, some parents may be
neglecting their duties in terms of
teaching good online etiquette.
53
“People naturally fear what they do not understand,” says Jason Illian, author of MySpace, MyKids.
But, “regardless of how you feel about the Internet and online communities, they are here to stay…
Unaccustomed
Likewise, we’re not going to stop our teenagers from chatting to using
online and meeting modern
new people. We just
need to teach them how to do it properly so that they don’tcomputing or communications
get hurt.” Jason Illian, MySpace, MyKids
(Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2007), at 10-11. devices, some parents may be
54
neglecting
Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National their duties
Research Council, Youth,in terms of
Pornography,
and the Internet (Washington, DC: National Academy Press,teaching
2002), at 49.
good online etiquette.

Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) Unaccustomed to using modern 33

computing or communications
devices, some parents may be
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

Nonetheless, here are a few lessons children need to be taught as they begin
using interactive communications and computing technologies, including mobile
phones,55 mobile media devices, interactive video games, instant messaging, social
networking websites, blogs, and so on. To begin, kids need to be taught to assume that
everything they do in the digital, online world could be archived forever and will be
available to their future employers, romantic interests, children and grandchildren, and
so forth.56 This admonition needs to be repeated frequently to remind minors that their
online actions today could have profound consequences for them tomorrow. Beyond
this warning, children need to be encouraged to follow some other sensible rules while
using the Internet and other interactive technologies:

 Treat others you meet online with the same respect that you would accord
them in person;
 Do not bully or harass your peers;57
 Do not post negative comments about your teachers or principals online;
 Do not post or share inappropriate pictures of yourself or others;
 Be extremely careful about talking to strangers online;
 Avoid using lewd or obscene language online or in communications;
 Do not share your personal information with unknown parties; and,
 Talk to parents and educators about serious online concerns and report
dangerous situations or harassing communications to them.

To better formalize such guidelines in the home, parents might want to ask their
children to sign the “Family Netiquette Plan”58 and the “Internet Respect Plan,”59
55
The National Institute on Media and the Family produces an excellent guide for parents entitled “Cell
Phones and Your Kids” that offers friendly pointers for parents looking to teach their children proper
cell phone etiquette. See A MediaWise Parent Guide—Cell Phones and Your Kids, (Minneapolis, MN:
National Institute on Media and the Family, 2006),
www.mediafamily.org/network_pdf/cellphon_guide.pdf. Also, the Harvard University Center on Media
and Child Health has some useful guidelines here: http://cmch.tv/mentors/hotTopic.asp?id=70 .
56
“The biggest message that must be imparted to children and teens with respect to [their] privacy and
the Internet is: it’s not private!!! Anything and everything that is put into electronic form and sent or
posted online is public or could easily be made public. Think before you post.” Nancy E. Willard,
Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2007), at 92, [emphasis in original].
57
The Anti-Defamation League has established an excellent website (Cyberbullying: Understanding and
Addressing Online Cruelty) dedicated to the issue. It features classroom lesson plans and many other
resources. www.adl.org/education/curriculum_connections/default.asp. Also see Nancy Willard,
Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, An Educator’s Guide to Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats,
2007, www.cyberbully.org/docs/cbcteducator.pdf
58
www.mediafamily.org/pdf_files/Network_Family_Netiquette
59
www.mediafamily.org/pdf_files/Network_Internet

Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) 34
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documents that the National Institute on Media and the Family produces. The one-page
“contracts” contain many of the listed guidelines and ask both parents and children to
sign the formal household agreement pledging to abide by those rules. Parents can then
devise penalties if their children break the rules. The National Institute on Media and
the Family recommends the following punishment if the rules are violated: “If there are
any violations to expected behaviors, there will be no Internet, TV, or video games for
the following three days except for necessary school work.”60

D. Third-Party Pressure, Ratings, and Advice
Parents can also work with others to influence media content before it comes
into the home, or rely on other groups they trust to help them better understand what
is in the media they are considering bringing into the home.61 Parents can pressure
media providers and programmers directly through public campaigns, or indirectly
through advertisers.62 As child development experts Jeanne Brooks-Gunn and Elisabeth
Hirschhorn Donahue argue, “Because government will probably not intervene in the
realm of media content, the most effective pressure on industry to produce positive
media content will come from the court of public opinion made up of child advocates
and, especially, families.”63 In other words, the combination of social norms, press
attention, public pressure, and even shame can act as a powerful influence on the
composition of media content.

60
Id.
61
As Competitive Enterprise Institute analysts Cord Blomquist and Eli Lehrer argue, “ratings systems will
never substitute for other social institutions. Parents, houses of worship, schools, and communities
need to take the lead in keeping obscene, dangerous, or offensive materials away from children.
Ratings systems cannot be expected to do this. Properly constructed, they provide useful information
to parents, nothing more and nothing less.” Cord Blomquist and Eli Lehrer, Competitive Enterprise
Institute, Politically Determined Entertainment Ratings and How to Avoid Them, Issue Analysis, No. 12,
Dec. 2007, at 25, http://cei.org/pdf/6292.pdf
62
“There is every reason to believe that the marketplace, speaking through advertisers, critics, and self-
selection by viewers, provides an adequate substitute for Commission involvement in protecting
children and adults from television’s ‘captive’ quality.” Mark S. Fowler and Daniel L. Brenner, A
Marketplace Approach to Broadcast Regulation, 60 Texas Law Review 2, Feb. 1982, at 229.
63
Jeanne Brooks-Gunn and Elisabeth Hirschhorn Donahue, “Introducing the Issue,” in Children and
Electronic Media, The Future of Children, Vol. 18, No. 1, Spring 2008, at 9.

Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) 35
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Consider the “watchdog” role played by groups like the Parents Television
Council, Morality in Media, Common Sense Media, and the National Institute on Media
and the Family. These groups can play a constructive role in influencing content
decisions through the pressure they can collectively bring to bear on media providers in
the marketplace. For example, Morality in Media’s website outlines several strategies
parents can use to influence advertisers, programming executives, and cable operators
before resorting to calls for censorship. To allow parents to pressure advertisers, the
group publishes a book listing the top 100 national advertisers, with addresses, phone
and fax numbers, names of key executives, and their products, along with a products list
cross-referenced to the manufacturer. The group produces a similar book that lists the
names and addresses of the CEOs of the leading broadcast and cable companies in
America so that viewers or listeners can complain directly to them.64

Similarly, the Parents Television
Council (PTC) awards its “seal of Parents can also work with others
approval” to advertisers who only to influence media content before
support programs that the PTC classifies it comes into the home, or rely on
as family-friendly.65 PTC also other groups they trust to help
encourages parents to send letters and them better understand what is in
e-mails to advertisers who support the media they are considering
programming they find objectionable bringing into the home.
and encourage those advertisers to end
their support of those shows. Parents can also work with others
to influence media content before
Such efforts have been effective at itchanging
comes intocorporate
the home, behavior in other
or rely on
contexts. For example, in late 2006, after years of pressure
other groupsfrom
theyvarious
trust tohealth
help groups
and average parents, 10 major food and beverage companies
them better announced
understand what isnew,
in self-
imposed restrictions on advertising to children.theThese
media they are consideringincluded
10 companies, which
McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kraft Foods, and Hershey,
bringingaccount
into theforhome.
more than two-
66
thirds of all food and beverage advertising aimed at children. Among their
commitments, they agreed to not advertise Parents
products caninalso
schools; devote
work with half their
others
advertising to promoting healthier lifestyles and foods; limit
to influence mediathe content
use of popular
before third-
party characters (such as cartoon characters) in their
it comes intoads;
the and
home, limit adsonseen in
or rely
interactive video games or promote healthy alternatives in those ads. The
other groups they trust to help initiative will
be monitored by the Council of Better Business Bureaus,
them better which helped
understand what iscraft
in the
67
agreement. The efforts appear to be making a difference.
the media they are considering
bringing into the home.
64
Robert Peters, “The Importance of Making Complaints,” Morality in Media website, available at
www.moralityinmedia.org
Parents can also work with others
65
www.parentstv.org/PTC to influence media content before
Betsy McKay and Janet Adamy, Food Companies Vow it to comes into the home,Ads,or rely on
66
Tighten Limits on Kids’ Wall Street
Journal, Nov. 15, 2006, at B3. other groups they trust to help
67 them better
See Susan Levine and Lori Aratani, Sweet Surrender, Washington understand
Post, May 22, 2008,what
at D1,is in
the media they are considering
www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/21/AR2008052102827.html
bringing into the home.
Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) 36
Parents can also work with others
to influence media content before
it comes into the home, or rely on
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

If public pressure can help change corporate attitudes and outputs when it
comes to food and beverage advertising, there is every reason to believe that it can also
change other types of media behavior. Consider some examples of how it already has
made a difference:

 In late 2006, intense public pressure forced News Corp. to abandon the
publication of a controversial book by O.J. Simpson in which he described
how he might have killed his ex-wife and her friend.68 Washington Post
columnist Shankar Vedantam argued that this episode “showed that shame
remains a powerful tool in America.”69
 In April 2007, radio talk show host Don Imus had his CBS Radio show and
MSNBC television program canceled after making offensive remarks about
the Rutgers University women’s basketball team.70 Public outcry was so
intense that almost all his largest advertisers pulled their support for his
show less than a week after the incident occurred.71 (Of course, Imus did end
up back on the air before the end of the year!)
 In 2008, MTV began casting a new reality show called Model Maker, which
sought woman ages 17 to 24 who would compete by engaging in extreme
weight loss and body makeovers. An intense backlash ensued, led by the
public health community. As USA Today reported, “Thankfully, MTV is nixing
the show after complaints from, among others, the National Association of
Anorexia Nervosa and Association of Eating Disorders and a British
parliamentary group. The outcry is the latest hopeful marker that society’s
attitudes to unnatural thinness are slowly changing, much as smoking has
become socially dubious.”72

Parents and other organizations might also be able to work together to pressure
content providers or distributors to self-regulate materials that cannot be blocked with
parental control technologies. For example, some parents feel in-flight movies shown on

68
Tim Harper, O.J. Book, Fox Show Cancelled, Toronto Star, Nov. 21, 2006.
69
Shankar Vedantam, Abandoned O.J. Project Shows Shame Still Packs a Punishing Punch, Washington
Post, Nov. 27, 2006, at A2.
70
Bill Carter and Jacques Steinberg, CBS Drops Imus Radio Show over Racial Remark, New York Times,
April 12, 2007, www.nytimes.com/2007/04/12/business/media/12cnd-
imus.html?ex=1180756800&en=15850df43f6b8c51&ei=5070; Matthew Robinson, U.S. Radio Host
Imus Hints Career May Be Ending, The Guardian, April 12, 2007,
http://sport.guardian.co.uk/breakingnews/feedstory/0,,-6552506,00.html
71
Kenneth Li, Here’s Why MSNBC Dropped Imus, Reuters, April 11, 2007,
http://blogs.reuters.com/2007/04/11/heres-why-msnbc-dropped-imus
72
Dangerous ‘Model’, USA Today, Oct. 24, 2008, P, 10A.

Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) 37
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drop-down screens in airplanes contain sexual or violent themes unfit for some younger
viewers. Unfortunately, there is no way for them to block the screen or turn off those
videos. KidSafeFilms.org is a new group that pressures airline operators to take steps to
further restrict or edit what is shown in the open cabin space since parents have no
control over it.73 Of course, eventually most airlines will have individual screens for each
seat and parents will be able to control what is being viewed by their children. But the
efforts of KidsSafeFilms.org might help speed up those efforts and get airlines to be
more selective about the content they show on drop-down screens in the meantime.74 A
similar effort might be useful in terms of discouraging advertising for potentially
offensive content on television, or at least encouraging programmers to air such ads
during later hours of the day.

Most parents, however, will not likely feel the need to pressure media producers
directly but instead simply want better information about the media they bring into the
home. Or they might feel comfortable getting independent advice or third-party ratings
about various types of media content. Help is out there. For example:

 Common Sense Media’s comprehensive website75 allows both parents and
children to rate a diverse assortment of media content and then sort it all by age
group to find what is appropriate for their families.76 The site also offers parental
tips such as its “Managing Media: Downloads, Internet TV, and More” checklist,
which helps parents manage their children’s media consumption.77 Importantly,
Common Sense Media also partners with retail stores, online providers, and
technology vendors to better inform parents about what to expect in the media
their kids consume. For example, Common Sense Media has a partnership with
Best Buy to feature the organization’s video game and DVD reviews, content
descriptions and user comments in the relevant sections of BestBuy.com
website.
 The National Institute on Media and the Family’s MediaWise website offers
occasional columns and newsletters for parents that include information they
can use to make more informed judgments about the content their children
consume.78 In particular, the institute’s website offers a free “KidsScore”

73
www.kidsafefilms.org
74
Adam Thierer, Long-Range Censors,” City Journal, Oct. 3, 2007, www.city-journal.org/html/eon2007-
10-03at.html
75
www.commonsensemedia.org
76
Joe Garofoli, Media Guide Offers Reviews for Parents—But No Soapbox, San Francisco Chronicle, Dec.
8, 2006, http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/12/08/MNG75MS23C1.DTL
77
www.commonsensemedia.org/parent_tips/commonsense_view/index.php?id=232
78
www.mediafamily.org

Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) 38
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system79 that rates thousands of movies, TV shows, video games. All content is
alphabetized and easy to search.
 Focus on the Family’s Plugged In magazine and Plugged In Online website80 are
independent rating resources “designed to help equip parents, youth leaders,
ministers, and teens with the essential tools that will enable them to
understand, navigate, and impact the culture in which they live.”81 Because of
the group’s religious focus, its movie, television, and music reviews also probe
the spiritual content found in some media titles.
 The Parent Previews website82 reviews new movies, DVDs and video games on
an easy-to-understand A-F grading system. Four primary categories are graded
(violence, sexual content, language and drug or alcohol use) to determine the
title’s overall grade.

Other creative, independent rating systems are on the market or being
developed. For example, TiVo has a partnership with the Parents Television Council,
KIDS FIRST! and Common Sense Media to jointly develop TiVo KidZone Guides.83 Using
ratings and information created by those groups, TiVo’s KidZone service lets parents
filter and record only the content that those groups have deemed appropriate. 84 In
early 2009, Common Sense Media struck similar deals with satellite television provider
DIRECTV as well as Tribune Media Services, a leading provider of entertainment
information databases and electronic programming guides. Through the partnership
with DIRECTV, Common Sense Media’s ratings and age-based information about TV
shows and movies will be made available to DIRECTV subscribers—at first jus online and
then later through set-top box programming guides.85 The Common Sense Media-

79
www.mediafamily.org/kidscore
80
www.pluggedinonline.com
81
www.pluggedinonline.com/aboutUs/index.cfm
82
www.parentpreviews.com
83
www.tivo.com/whatistivo/tivois/tv/index.html#kid_zone
84
Saul Hansell, TiVo to Offer Tighter Rein on Children’s Viewing, New York Times, March 2, 2006,
www.nytimes.com/2006/03/02/technology/02tivo.html?_r=1&oref=slogin. Also see Comments of
TiVo Inc., Implementation of the Child Safe Viewing Act; Examination of Parental Control Technologies
for Video or Audio Programming, MB Docket No. 09-26, April 16, 2009,
http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520213640
85
Common Sense Media, DIRECTV and Commons Sense Media Form Partnership to Help Parents Choose
Kid-Friendly Programming,” Press Release, March 20, 2009, www.commonsensemedia.org/about-
us/press-room/directv-partnership. Also see Comments of DirecTV Network, Implementation of the
Child Safe Viewing Act; Examination of Parental Control Technologies for Video or Audio Programming,
MB Docket No. 09-26, April 16, 2009,
http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520213618

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Tribune Media Services agreement works much the same way.86 Importantly, because
Tribune provides electronic programming guides and information to many major media
operators, such as DISH Network, it means many more parents will have access to
Common Sense Media ratings and information and be able to screen and block content
accordingly.
Exhibit 6:
Independent Media Reviews and Rating Systems

Common Sense Media Media Wise “KidScore”

Plugged In Online Parents Preview

86
Common Sense Media, Tribune Media Services and Common Sense Media Announce Partnership to
Help Parents Make Entertainment Choices, Press Release, April 8, 2009,
www.commonsensemedia.org/about-us/press-room/press-releases/tribune-media-services-
partnership

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All these private, voluntary education and rating methods are preferable to the
type of pressure that some groups bring to bear in the political marketplace when they
encourage policymakers to regulate media content.87

Exhibit 7:
Industry-Supported Efforts that Highlight Parental Controls

The TV Boss Pause Parent Play

Control Your TV.org Take Parental Control

Finally, there are several other excellent websites supported by media
enterprises that offer parents excellent advice on media ratings and parental controls,

87
See Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Examining the FCC’s Complaint-Driven
Broadcast Indecency Enforcement Process,” Progress on Point 12.22, Nov. 2005, www.pff.org/issues-
pubs/pops/pop12.22indecencyenforcement.pdf

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such as: TV Watch,88 The TV Boss.org,89 Pause-Parent-Play,90 Control Your TV.org,91 and
Take Parental Control.org.92 Some of these efforts are discussed further in Section II.D
and IV.C.

E. The Ultimate Parental Control: The Power of the Purse
Finally, it is important that we not forget what, at times, constitutes the ultimate
parental control tool: the “power of the purse.” In most cases, when kids want to
consume a certain type of media—or even consume something they see advertised in
the media—they need money to do so. Televisions, movies, video games, cell phones,
computers, portable music players, Internet connections, and so on, do not just drop
from high-tech heaven into our kids’ laps!93 When kids want those things—or want
things that are advertised on those media platforms—they must go to their parents and
ask them for money. And, although at times it may be difficult, we all have the power to
say “No.”94

Parents can, and do, establish media budgets to better control what their kids
see, hear, or play.95 Many of the technologies discussed in Section III can facilitate the
creation and enforcement of such household media budgets or allowances. Many new
parental control tools incorporate sophisticated bill monitoring and spending control
tools. For example, most TV set-top boxes, video game consoles, and cell phones have
tools that can limit media spending or at least give parents a clear report on how much
money has been spent. These tools can help parents enforce whatever media budget
they establish for their children.

88
www.televisionwatch.org
89
www.thetvboss.org
90
www.pauseparentplay.org
91
www.controlyourtv.org
92
http://takeparentalcontrol.org
93
Indeed, many of these technologies and types of media are out of the financial reach of most kids.
Most new video games cost $40-$60 per title. DVDs are $10-$25. Cable subscriptions run at least $50
per month. While most websites are free, the computers and Internet connections needed to access
them are not. Finally, most kids can’t afford cell phones and monthly subscriptions, and they are not
old enough to sign up for service anyway. So parents must be involved in all these media decisions.
94
See David Walsh, PhD, No: Why Kids—of All Ages—Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It (New
York: Free Press, 2007).
95
See Sharon Miller Cindrich, e-Parenting: Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids (New York: Random
House Reference, 2007), at 8-9.

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Informal Household Media Rules and Tips for Parents:

 Always be willing to sit down and talk to your kids about controversial and
provocative media programming. Teach them the difference between fantasy
and reality. Explain what is right or wrong from your perspective. And do it all in
an open, understanding, and loving fashion.
 Strongly consider removing televisions, game consoles, computers, and other
media devices from kids’ bedrooms. Parents who allow their kids to lock
themselves in their rooms with media technologies have surrendered their first
line of defense.
 Establish household rules governing when and where children can watch TV, play
video games, surf the Internet, and so on.
 Use third-party ratings or advice to help construct a balanced “media diet.”
 Create carrot-and-stick incentives to encourage your kids to complete other
important tasks before allowing media usage.
 Establish a media budget that limits how much kids are allowed to spend overall
or on certain types of content, software, or devices.
 Teach children basic etiquette as they start to use more interactive media and
technologies, such as cell phones, instant messaging, blogs, and social
networking websites.
 Finally, remember that you were a kid once too! Teach your children what
you’ve learned and teach them how to be smart media viewers and consumers.
With a little guidance and common sense, they’ll become savvy and
discriminating media consumers just like you.

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III. Ratings Systems and Technological Controls
for Various Media

This section will explore the ratings, labeling systems, and technological tools
that can help parents manage various media devices or different types of content.
Although there is some overlap in the discussions about the various ratings and controls
discussed, each major type of media content or platform—television, movies, music,
wireless, video games, and Internet / computing—will be discussed separately.

Before detailing those parental controls, however, a few words of caution are in
order to ensure that neither parents nor policymakers have inflated expectations about
the role or importance of parental control technologies.

A. How Many Homes Really Need Parental Controls?
First, it is vital to understand that not every U.S. household needs parental
controls.96 Indeed, the number of families that might need or want these tools is smaller
than most think. The percentage of homes that might need parental control
technologies is certainly no greater than the 32% of U.S. households with children in
them. Moreover, the relevant universe of potential parental control users is likely much
less than that because households with very young children or older teens often have
little need for parental control technologies. Finally, some households do not utilize
parental control technologies because they rely on alternative methods of controlling
media content and access in the home, such as household media rules. Consequently,
policymakers should not premise regulatory proposals upon the limited overall “take-
up” rate for parental control tools since only a small percentage of homes might actually
need or want them.97

96
This portion of the report is condensed from: Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation,
Who Needs Parental Controls? Assessing the Relevant Market for Parental Control Technologies,
Progress on Point 16.5, Feb. 27, 2009, www.pff.org/issues-
pubs/pops/2009/pop16.5parentalcontrolsmarket.pdf
97
“*T+he FCC must be careful not to confuse the lack of ubiquitous usage of a particular technology with a
lack of empowerment or a lack of available tools.” Comments of Microsoft Corp., Implementation of
the Child Safe Viewing Act; Examination of Parental Control Technologies for Video or Audio
Programming, MB Docket No. 09-26, April 16, 2009, at 15,
http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520213691

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To better understand why this is the case, consider an analogy. Imagine a survey
or study that gauged the efficacy of protective child cabinet locks by asking whether all
U.S. household employed such safety measures on kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Such
a survey would yield truly absurd results. The vast majority of Americans have no need
for baby locks because they either: (a) have no children present in the home, (b) their
children are of an age where such locks are not needed, or (c) they take other steps to
protect their children from harmful products that might be in the home. Thus, any
survey or study that evaluated the
success of child safety cabinet locks by
using all households as the relevant Not every U.S. household needs
universe of analysis would produce highly parental controls. Indeed, the
skewed, inaccurate results. Such a survey number of families that might need
or study would conclude that few or want these tools is smaller than
households use such controls and, most think.
therefore, those controls are a failure,
even though that is an illogical conclusion
based on a faulty statistical method. Media rating and content-labeling
efforts are not an exact science;
Regrettably, a similar statistical fallacytheyplagues discussions about
are fundamentally parental
subjective
control technologies today. Only a small percentage of Ratings
exercises. households need on
are based parental
controls, yet many surveys or critiques of parental control technologies
value judgments suffer from
made by humans
98
similar statistical flaws by over-estimating the relevant universe of households.
who all have somewhat different
values.
A more accurate methodological approach to studying this issue can be
conducted using U.S. Census Bureau data to determine which households have children
and might need to employ parental control technologies.
Media rating and According to the Census
content-labeling
Bureau’s Statistical Abstract of the United States, as are
efforts of not
2007,
an over
exact 68 percent of
science;
99
American homes did not have any children underthey
18 years of age in residence.
are fundamentally subjective (Stated
differently, only 32% of U.S. households have children
exercises.inRatings
them). are
Thisbased
percentage
on is
calculated as follows: value judgments made by humans
who all have somewhat different
values.

Media rating and content-labeling
efforts are not an exact science;
they are fundamentally subjective
exercises. Ratings are based on
value judgments made by humans
98
who all have somewhat different
Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Distorting Numbers in the Debate over Parental
values.
Controls,” PFF Blog, March 26, 2007, http://blog.pff.org/archives/2007/03/distorting_numb.html
99
U.S. Census Bureau, 2008 Statistical Abstract of the United States, Table No. 58,
www.census.gov/compendia/statab/tables/09s0058.pdf
Media rating and content-labeling
efforts are not an exact science;
Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0)
they are fundamentally subjective 46
exercises. Ratings are based on
value judgments made by humans
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

Exhibit 8:
Formula for Calculating the Percentage of Households without Children
Nonfamily Households + Family Households without own Children100
÷
Total Households
=
% of Households without Children

Thus, using recent Census Bureau data, the percentage of homes without
children for 2007, the most recent year for which data is available, can be computed as
follows:

Exhibit 9: Households without Children Calculation for 2007
37,587 + 41,668
÷
116,011
=
68.3%

Incidentally, the number of homes without children in them has been steadily
rising for many years. The adjoining exhibits present a breakdown of the Census Bureau
data for select years from 1960 to the present.

100
According the Census Bureau, a nonfamily household “can be either a person living alone or a
householder who shares the housing unit only with his or her nonrelatives—for example, boarders or
roommates.” A family household “has at least two members related by birth, marriage, or adoption,
one of whom is the householder. Family households are maintained by married couples or by a man or
woman living with other relatives—children may or may not be present.” Obviously, the relevant
subset of those family households for this analysis would be those without any children present. See
U.S. Census Bureau, America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2003, Nov. 2004, at 2,
www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/p20-553.pdf

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Exhibit 10:
Breakdown of U.S. Households With and Without Children

Exhibit 11:
Steady Decline of Homes With Children Present

This makes it clear why it is illogical to survey all homes about parental control
usage. It is highly unlikely adult-only homes would be using parental controls or blocking
services when they have the ability to block objectionable content and communications
in other ways.101 Thus, the relevant universe of homes that should be considered when

101
Of course, some adult-only households with heightened sensitivities about certain types of
programming might use some blocking or filtering tools to keep unwanted content or communications
out of the home. It seems more likely, however, that those households would simply avoid such

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evaluating usage of parental control technologies would only be those 32% of U.S.
households with children present.

Actually, the Relevant Universe is Even Smaller…
The actual relevant universe of homes, however, is likely much smaller than the
32% of homes with children present. Even in those homes with children in residence,
most of those families will not need to use parental control technologies for children
under a certain age (say 5 or 6 years) or older than a certain age (perhaps 15 or 16).
For example, many parents tightly control their children’s media consumption
habits before they reach a certain age. Before the age of six, for example, parents can
(and do) employ a wide variety of household rules and methods to control media and
communications in the home. As noted in the previous section, household media rules
that often serve as a substitute for parental control technologies. 102
Likewise, after children reach a certain age—especially as they get closer to
leaving home—the training wheels come off, so to speak, and parents begin to trust
their children to make more media decisions on their own. Or, better yet, parents talk to
their kids about objectionable content and communications, but likely without rigid
parental control technologies in place. Many parents of teenage children also use
various household media rules, especially “carrot-and-stick” incentives, to encourage
them to use media and online connections in a wise (or limited) fashion.
Some policymakers have acknowledged these realities. For example, in August
2007, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), former chairman of the House Telecommunications &
Internet Subcommittee, was asked by Broadcasting & Cable if existing TV ratings and
the V-Chip were effective or needed tweaking. In response, Markey noted:

The evidence is that parents who have small children and know about the
V-chip use it at relatively high levels and like it. Obviously, most families
aren't in that situation, meaning that they don't have small children. So
it’s not something that every person is going to be talking about because
it would never occur to them to use a V-chip in 85% or 90% of all homes.
So it’s in that subset of homes that, among the parents who know about
it, there is a very high degree of satisfaction.103

material by choosing not to subscribe to certain services or just changing channels and only visiting
certain trusted websites.
102
See Section II
103
Quoted in John Eggerton, Ed Markey on TV Violence, Media Ownership and the Digital Transition,
Broadcasting & Cable, Aug. 20, 2007, [emphasis added]
www.broadcastingcable.com/article/CA6470038.html?display=Breaking+News&referral=SUPP&nid=2
228

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Markey is correct that those homes with much older children would likely not
need to utilize the V-Chip, but it’s also just as true for those households with very young
children, for the reasons stated above.
Putting these two pieces of information together, the adjoining exhibit depicts
when it is most likely that parental control technologies will be used in the home (for
those homes in which children are present). If anything, this estimate (at least for teens)
may be a bit conservative since the window when parental controls may be relevant
could be even narrower for many families.

Exhibit 12: Ages When Parental Controls Most Likely Needed

… and Smaller Still
Another important consideration is that, for whatever reason, some parents
rarely, or never, employ parental control technologies in the home, even when their
kids are in the age band where those technologies would be most helpful. A significant,
but unknown, number of parents reject parental control technologies for a combination
of the following reasons:

 they have an aversion to parental control technologies, perhaps fearing it
creates distrust between them and their kids;

 they don’t think parental control technologies work;

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 they believe their own household media rules and restrictions constitute a more
sensible approach;

 they feel comfortable making their own judgments after consulting ratings,
program guides, and other information provided by media providers or third
party media watchdog or rating organizations;

 they just don’t allow many media or communications devices in the home;

 or perhaps some of them are just lazy!

The fact is, every family is different, with unique values and preferences
regarding media consumption and interactive communications. But simply because
some households choose not to use parental control technologies, it does not
necessarily mean they are not taking other steps to control media, monitor
communications, or mentor their children.

The Big Picture: Only a Small Percentage of Households Need Parental Controls
Recognizing that every family is different and will bring different needs, values,
and approaches to the task of raising children, the adjoining exhibit depicts just how
narrow of a slice of the overall universe of U.S. households actually needs parental
control technologies. In essence, only a small subset of the subset of homes with
children present will ever need parental control technologies.

While we know with certainty the percentage of that first subset—32%—there is
no way to accurately measure the second “subset of the subset” of homes. But I believe
it is reasonable to assume that of those 32% of homes with children present, at least
half of them have little need for parental control technologies. The many other factors
identified above mean that many of those 32% of homes with children will forgo, or
have no need for, parental control technologies.

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Exhibit 13: Who Needs Parental Controls?

B. Understanding the Role and Limits of Parental Controls
Another important caveat about parental controls relates to their inherent
limitations. As mentioned at the outset, no rating system is perfect and no parental
control tool is foolproof. Many critics are fond of pointing to supposed deficiencies in
certain rating systems or technological controls and then attempt to use those problems
to indict all voluntary ratings or private controls. But ratings and parental control tools
need not be perfect to be preferable to government regulation. [For a fuller exploration
of these issues, see the Appendix, “Thoughts on Mandatory Controls, Restrictive
Defaults and “Universal” Ratings.”+

Let’s consider ratings first. What critics consistently forget—or perhaps
intentionally ignore—is that media rating and content-labeling efforts are not an exact
science; they are fundamentally subjective exercises. Ratings are based on value
judgments made by humans who all have somewhat different values. Those doing the
rating are being asked to evaluate artistic expression and assign labels to it that provide
the rest of us with some rough proxies about what is in that particular piece of art, or
what age group should (or should not) be consuming it. In a sense, therefore, all rating
systems will be inherently “flawed” since humans have different perspectives and values
that they will use to label or classify content.

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Moreover, as Drs. Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl K. Olson, cofounders and
directors of the Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health and Media, note in
their book Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth about Violent Video Games, “No
[rating] system will ever be able to scrutinize and label all potentially offensive or
upsetting content. The more complicated a system becomes, the less likely busy parents
are to understand it and to actually use it.”104

Likewise, technological controls will always be hindered by certain inherent
limitations. Technologies, markets, and artistic expression all evolve, and they do so at
an increasingly rapid pace in our modern Information Age. Moreover, controls can be
cracked or circumvented. There’s always someone out there—including, all too often,
our own children—who are looking to evade technological controls.105

For these reasons, there will always be some critics who will argue that
someone—presumably themselves or the
government—can devise better ratings or
controls. But, even setting aside the clear
Media rating and content-
First Amendment concerns it would raise,
labeling efforts are not an exact
there is no reason to believe that the
science; they are fundamentally
government could actually do a better job.
subjective exercises. Ratings are
based on value judgments made
If the government were responsible
by humans who all have
for assigning content ratings or labels, for
somewhat different values.
example, five unelected bureaucrats at the
Federal Communications Commission or
some other regulatory agency would
Media rating and content-
simply substitute their own values for those of the voluntary rating boards or other
labeling efforts are not an exact
labeling organizations in existence today. And the argument that government would
science; they are fundamentally
provide more objective ratings or effective controls is also undermined by the grim
subjective exercises. Ratings are
reality of special-interest politics. Government officials would be more susceptible to
based on value judgments made
various interest group pressures as they were repeatedly lobbied to change ratings or
by humans who all have
restrict content based on widely varying objectives and values. Inevitably, as has been
somewhat different values.
the case with the broadcast indecency complaint process in recent years, a handful of
particularly vociferous groups could gain undue influence over content decisions.106 That
Media rating and content-
labeling efforts are not an exact
104 science; they are fundamentally
Lawrence Kutner & Cheryl K. Olson, Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth about Violent Video
Games (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008), at 186. subjective exercises. Ratings are
105
based on value judgments made
Tom A. Peter, Internet Filters Block Porn, But Not Savvy Kids, Christian Science Monitor, April 11, 2007,
www.csmonitor.com/2007/0411/p13s02-lihc.htm
by humans who all have
106
somewhat different values.
Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Examining the FCC’s Complaint-Driven Broadcast
Indecency Enforcement Process, Progress on Point 12.22, Nov. 2005, www.pff.org/issues-
pubs/pops/pop12.22indecencyenforcement.pdf
Media rating and content-
labeling efforts are not an exact
Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) science; they are fundamentally 53
subjective exercises. Ratings are
based on value judgments made
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

possible outcome raises what the Supreme Court has referred to as the “heckler’s veto”
problem since a vocal minority’s preferences could trump those of the public at large.107

With private, independent rating and labeling systems, by contrast, those
assigning ratings or labels are intentionally isolated from lobbying or other interest
group pressures. This is what makes the argument for “transparency” in rating systems
so disingenuous, or even somewhat dangerous. If transparency means forcing raters to
be exposed to endless special-interest
lobbying or other pressures, one wonders
if that would really produce a better Instead of thinking of ratings and
system. It would more likely produce a technological controls as absolute
system that bowed to those pressures. controls, it makes more sense to
For example, if those assigning video think of them as training wheels
game ratings were not anonymous, they and speed bumps.
might be harassed by both game
developers (who want to make them Instead of thinking of ratings and
more lax) and game critics (who want to technological controls as absolute
make them more stringent).108 This does not meancontrols,
the raters ignore more
it makes publicsense
input.toTo the
contrary, private rating boards and labeling bodies think of them as training wheels what
poll the public and monitor
critics are saying to adjust their ratings accordingly. But and
if thespeed
government
bumps. forced their
ratings systems to be open to all who cared to provide input (including the public
policymakers themselves), it would result in a circus-like
Instead ofatmosphere
thinking ofand littleand
ratings content
109
would get rated in a timely manner. technological controls as absolute
controls, it makes more sense to
Similarly, there is no reason to believe the government
think of them ascould construct
training wheels more
rigorous parental controls or screening technologies. and Consider Internet filters, for
speed bumps.
example. Starting with the passage of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, there
have been endless political debates about the Instead
efficacyofofthinking
privateoffilters relative
ratings and to
government content controls. Policymakers typically argue that
technological regulation
controls is needed
as absolute
because filters are not 100 percent effective in blocking
controls,pornography
it makes more or other
sense types
to of
objectionable online content. think of them as training wheels
and speed bumps.

107
Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844, 880 (1997).
Instead of thinking of ratings and
108
technological controls as absolute
Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Can Government Improve Video Game Ratings?
controls, it makes more sense to
PFF Blog, Oct. 26, 2006, http://blog.pff.org/archives/2006/10/can_government.html
109
think of them as training wheels
As Competitive Enterprise Institute analysts Cord Blomquist and Eli
andLehrer argue,
speed “A federally
bumps.
mandated video game rating system would require committee hearings, committee mark-up sessions,
and floor debate. At the end of this process a new federal regulatory agency would exist, or an existing
agency’s powers would be expanded. Proposed changesInstead of thinking
in the system of ratings
could require and
Congress to act,
technological
starting the legislative process anew. By contrast, the ESRB controls
can respond swiftly as absolutein the
to developments
industry that require any adjustment in the ratings system.” Cord Blomquist
controls, it makesandmore
Eli Lehrer,
sense to
Competitive Enterprise Institute, Politically Determined Entertainment Ratings and
think of them as training How wheels
to Avoid
Them, Issue Analysis, No. 12, Dec. 2007, at 22, http://cei.org/pdf/6292.pdf
and speed bumps.

Instead of thinking of ratings and
Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) 54
technological controls as absolute
controls, it makes more sense to
think of them as training wheels
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

No doubt this point is true, but what of it? During a recent trial about the merits
of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) of 1998, the Department of Justice (DOJ)
introduced evidence showing that major filters blocked sexually explicit content 87.4 to
98.6 percent of the time,110 and the judge in the case concluded that filters generally
block an average of 95 percent of sexually explicit material.111 The DOJ seemed to
suggest that this was not good enough, but would government regulation really produce
a better track record than that? It’s doubtful, especially because the government is
largely powerless to control offshore activity. Private filters, by contrast, can capture
objectionable offshore material. Private filters can also use industry standard
identification systems to allow legitimate rated commercial content to be seen while
screening out unknown or unrated content. And new methods are being developed and
deployed to monitor and identify content, such as image-recognition technologies,
which can further facilitate screening and filtering.

Exhibit 14:
Internet Education Foundation’s Ratings Equivalency Matrix

110
For a breakdown of how successful various filters were, see
www.aclu.org/freespeech/internet/27490res20061120.html
111
American Civil Liberties Union v. Gonzales, No. 98-5591 (U.S. District Court, Eastern District of
Pennsylvania, March 22, 2007), at 35, www.cdt.org/speech/copa/20070322copa.pdf.

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Moreover, it is reasonable to assume that a market of commercial filters and
other technological controls will flourish if governments promote industry
experimentation rather than impose a “one-size-fits-all” regulatory model. A
marketplace of controls and filters can then develop that is more closely tailored to the
diverse values of the citizenry. Government controls, by contrast, essentially treat all
households as having the same needs and values, which we know is not the case. Even
though not all private filters will be equally effective, failure will be detected more
rapidly and the better systems will gradually win out as all legitimate content is tagged
and rated. In sum, flexibility is crucial. A 2009 filing by the Microsoft Corporation to the
FCC eloquently made the case why this is so vital:

[W]hile convergence is coming quickly, it is impossible to predict how
various media types, platforms, and delivery mechanisms will ultimately
interact. Thus, it will be critical for industry, working in concert with
ratings and classifications bodies and consumer and family groups, to
have continued flexibility in addressing these changes. While
government can and should help make parents and caregivers aware of
the availability of access control tools and how to use them, government
requirements could stymie the emergence of innovative solutions, and
specific technical mandates could prevent the best solutions from getting
to market because of the need for backward compatibility with
restrictions that quickly become outdated.112
Finally, it is important to keep our expectations about parental controls in check.
As mentioned at the outset, instead of thinking of ratings and technological controls as
absolute barriers, it makes more sense to think of them in terms of training wheels and
speed bumps. In other words, if we want to make our kids slow down and be more
cautious, we can affix training wheels to their bikes when they are young and add more
speed bumps along the roads they travel once they start to drive. But even with training
wheels, kids will still fall off their bikes sometimes. And long after they learn how to ride
without training wheels and have given up their bikes for cars, speed bumps can only
slow them down so much; they won’t stop them from speeding entirely.113

Realizing that technical controls won’t work perfectly in those contexts, what do
we do about it as parents and a society? We promote better industry-wide safety
designs, we add layers of protection, and we try to educate our children about the

112
Comments of Microsoft Corp., Implementation of the Child Safe Viewing Act; Examination of Parental
Control Technologies for Video or Audio Programming, MB Docket No. 09-26, April 16, 2009, at 18-19,
http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520213768
113
Nancy E. Willard, author of Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens, argues that “Placing significant reliance
on parental controls may end up backfiring, because such reliance often leads to false security. … The
biggest problem with the promotion of protection technologies is that these technologies will never be
totally effective.” Nancy E. Willard, Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-
Bass, 2007), at 31, 33-4.

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dangers they face. When they are young and still riding bikes, we make them wear
helmets, warn them of the dangers of traffic, and tell them to slow down. And when
they become teenagers and get their first car, we make them wear their seat belts and
avoid aggressive driving, and we still keep telling them to slow down! In sum, we use the
protections and safeguards at our disposal while educating them about safe and
responsible use.

This is the same mindset we need to adopt when it comes to parental controls
and online child safety. The sections below illustrate how we can do so for every major
media sector and technology.

C. Television
Television programming remains the focus of more public policy debates than
any other type of media content. That is not surprising given the continued centrality of
television as a mass medium and cultural phenomenon in our society. Even as
consumption of other types of content increases, television still reigns as the king of the
media hill. Luckily, numerous tools and methods exist by which parents can restrict
consumption of objectionable television programming in the home and tailor the video
programming their children see on their various media devices.

The V-Chip and TV Ratings
As a standard feature in all televisions 13 inches and larger built after January
2000, the V-Chip gives households the ability to screen televised content by ratings that
are affixed to almost all programs.114 The V-Chip can be accessed through the setup
menus on televisions, or is often just one click away using a designated button on the
TV’s remote. Households can then use password-protected blocking to filter programs
by rating. The rating system, available online at www.tvguidelines.org/ratings.htm,
offers seven age-based designations:

114
It is important to realize that most video consumed on televisions today is not from traditional
broadcast stations. New video distribution sources such as cable, satellite, DVD, Blu-Ray, and IPTV all
inherit a social norm and cultural responsibility to allow parents controls that are easy to set once and
enforce everywhere.

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Exhibit 15: TV Ratings

All Children

Directed to Children Age 7 and Older

Directed to Older Children Due to Fantasy Violence

General Audience

Parental Guidance Suggested

Parents Strongly Cautioned

Mature Audience Only

The TV rating system also uses several content descriptors to better inform
parents and all viewers of the nature of the content they will be experiencing.

Exhibit 16: TV Content Descriptors115

D Suggestive Dialogue
L Coarse Language
S Sexual Situations
V Violence
FV Fantasy Violence

115
The meaning of the content descriptors varies depending on the age-based rating to which they are
attached. For example, “L” means “infrequent coarse language” when attached to a TV-PG rating and
“strong, coarse language” when attached to a TV-14 rating. See www.tvguidelines.org/ratings.asp

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These age-based ratings and content descriptors appear in the upper left hand
corner of the screen at the start of each television program. If the program is more than
one hour, the icon will reappear at the beginning of the second hour. (For some
programs, the ratings appear after every commercial break). The ratings and descriptors
also appear on the TV’s on-screen menus and interactive guides, on the TV networks’
websites, and in local newspaper or TV Guide listings. This information is also encoded
and embedded into each TV program so that the V-Chip or other devices can screen and
filter by ratings.116

The Federal Communications Commission also hosts a website that provides
detailed instruction on how to use the V-Chip.117 “TV Watch,” a coalition of media
experts and media organizations, provides a website with tutorials and tool kits to help
parents program the V-Chip and find other tools to control television in the home. 118 In
September 2008, TV Watch launched a useful “Television Tools for Parents 101” guide
to help explain ratings and technical television blocking controls.119 The TV Watch
website also includes video tutorials explaining what the TV ratings mean and how to
program the V-Chip in each television set.120 Similarly, an industry-sponsored campaign
entitled “The TV Boss” (www.thetvboss.org) offers easy-to-understand tutorials
explaining how to program the V-Chip or cable and satellite set-top box controls. As part
of the effort, several public service announcements (PSAs) and other advertisements
have aired or been published reminding parents that these capabilities are at their
disposal.

Importantly, the relatively low V-Chip usage rates among U.S. households should
not be used as an excuse for government regulation of television programming. To
reiterate what was noted in Sec. IIIA, some polls or surveys of V-Chip and parental
control usage unfairly include all households in the sample group, which means they are
including in their results the millions of households without children in them that have
no incentive to use the V-Chip or any other parental control technologies.121 And
because almost 68 percent of American homes do not have any children under 18 years

116
For a fuller description of how the TV ratings process was created and is currently administered see
Joint Comments of The National Association of Broadcasters, The National Cable &
Telecommunications Association, and The Motion Picture Association of America, Implementation of
the Child Safe Viewing Act; Examination of Parental Control Technologies for Video or Audio
Programming, MB Docket No. 09-26, April 16, 2009,
http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520213659
117
www.fcc.gov/vchip
118
www.televisionwatch.org
119
“Television Tools for Parents 101,” TV Watch, Sept. 2008,
www.televisionwatch.org/HelpForParents/toolsforparents.pdf
120
http://televisionwatch.org/springcleanyourtv/tvwsc.html
121
Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Distorting Numbers in the Debate over Parental
Controls, PFF Blog, March 26, 2007, http://blog.pff.org/archives/2007/03/distorting_numb.html

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of age in residence, it means the universe of V-Chip users is narrower than most people
realize. Moreover, the other caveats discussed above also apply here regarding the
many homes that forgo any parental controls because they instead rely on informal
household media rules. Or, even those homes with children in residence will not all
need to use parental control technologies before a certain age or after a certain age
because parents feel there are better approaches for those age groups.122

Exhibit 17: “TheTVBoss.org” Website

122
Interestingly, in an April 2009 filing to the FCC, TiVo pointed out that the take-up rate for their
sophisticated, easy-to-use KidsZone technology [discussed in the following section] was generally on
par with V-Chip usage:
Usage of both V-chip parental controls and KidZone is low. Between 30 and 35% of
households with TiVo DVRs have children and among those households, KidZone usage
has never exceeded the 15 to 16% V-chip usage found in the 2004 and 2007 studies by
the Kaiser Family Foundation. Prior to the introduction of KidZone, TiVo found similar
low usage of basic V-chip parental controls. When surveyed, however, parents who use
KidZone report that they value the feature highly.
Comments of TiVo Inc., Implementation of the Child Safe Viewing Act; Examination of Parental Control
Technologies for Video or Audio Programming, MB Docket No. 09-26, April 16, 2009, at 4,
http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520213640. While
some might consider this to represent a form of market failure, it instead merely confirms what was
revealed above: Not all homes have kids and not all parents find the need to use parental control
technologies even when they are as easy-to-use as TiVo’s KidZone. Again, it is important to have
reasonable expectations regarding the extent of parental control usage in U.S. households.

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Finally, as discussed below, the vast majority of American homes now rely on
many alternative technologies and methods to filter or block unwanted programming.
Many families will forgo V-Chip capabilities in light of the alternative technological
controls at their disposal. A November 2005 survey by the polling firm Russell Research
revealed that twice as many parents frequently use the parental controls that offered by
their cable and satellite providers as use the V-Chip controls built into their television
sets.123 In other words, the V-Chip is just one of many tools or strategies that
households can use to control television programming in their homes.

Cable and Satellite TV Controls
With almost 87 percent of U.S. households subscribing to cable or satellite
television systems as of June 2006,124 the tools that multichannel video providers (cable,
satellite, and telephone companies) offer to subscribers are a vital part of the parental
controls mix today. Parental controls are usually just one button-click away on most
cable and satellite remote controls and boxes.

Both analog and digital boxes allow parents to block individual channels and lock
them with passwords so that children can’t access them. Newer, digital boxes offer
more extensive filtering capabilities that allow programs to be blocked by rating,
channel, title, or even time of day. Some systems even allow users to block the program
descriptions on the interactive guide (for adult pay-per-view programming, for example)
if families do not want them to be visible. VOD and PPV purchases can also be limited or
blocked outright on some systems.

Those cable subscribers without digital set-top boxes can request that cable
companies take steps to block specific channels for them. This is done through “signal
traps,” which are filters installed outside a cable customer’s home to block access to a
specific channel. A comprehensive survey of the content controls that cable television
providers make available to their subscribers can be found on the National Cable and
Telecommunications Association’s (NCTA) “Control Your TV” website.125

123
Survey: Parents Combine Old-Fashioned TV Rules and Latest Blocking Technologies to Manage Kids’ TV,
TV Watch, Press Release, Nov. 28, 2005,
www.televisionwatch.org/NewsPolls/PressReleases/PR008.html
124
Federal Communications Commission, Thirteenth Annual Video Competition Report, MB Docket No.
06-189, Nov. 27, 2007, at 143, http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-07-206A1.pdf
125
http://controlyourtv.org. Additional details about the tools and programs offered by the cable industry
can be found in a 2009 NCTA filing: The National Cable & Telecommunications Association,
Implementation of the Child Safe Viewing Act; Examination of Parental Control Technologies for Video
or Audio Programming, MB Docket No. 09-26, April 16, 2009,
http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520213692

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Exhibit 18: NCTA’s “ControlYourTV.org” Website

Aftermarket solutions are also available that allow parents to block channels.
The “TV Channel Blocker” gives households the ability to block any analog cable channel
between channels 2 and 86, including broadcast stations carried by the cable
operator.126 Homeowners themselves can install the unit on the wall where the cable
line enters the home. It can then block specific channels on any television in the home.
The unit sells online for $99.99.

Satellite providers DIRECTV127 and EchoStar’s Dish Network128 also offer
extensive parental control tools via their set-top boxes. And telephone companies such

126
www.tvchannelblocker.com
127
www.directv.com/DTVAPP/global/contentPage.jsp?assetid=900007 and
www.directv.com/DTVAPP/equipment/demoInfo.jsp?assetid=1100093. Also see Comments of DirecTV
Network, Implementation of the Child Safe Viewing Act; Examination of Parental Control Technologies
for Video or Audio Programming, MB Docket No. 09-26, April 16, 2009,
http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520213618
128
www.dishtv.com/parental_faq.jsp. Also see Comments of DISH Network, Implementation of the Child
Safe Viewing Act; Examination of Parental Control Technologies for Video or Audio Programming, MB

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as AT&T and Verizon are also getting into the video distribution business and offering
similar tools. Many of the same set-top boxes deployed by the cable industry are also
used by those telco providers. Therefore, the parental control capabilities are quite
similar. (Incidentally, as the blending of the Internet and television continues with the
rise of Internet protocol-based television delivery, there will be increased pressure for
industry to rally around clear international standards for content identification and
independent ratings. This should ensure that still more content gets rated and labeled.)

Importantly, as was mentioned in Section II.D, independent rating systems are
being developed and made accessible on some video distribution systems. TiVo, a
leading digital video recorder (DVR) developer, has a partnership with the Parents
Television Council, KIDS FIRST! and Common Sense Media to jointly develop TiVo
KidZone Guides.129 Using ratings and information created by those groups, TiVo’s
KidZone service lets parents filter and record only the content that those groups have
deemed appropriate.130 In early 2009, Common Sense Media struck similar deals with
satellite television provider DIRECTV as well as Tribune Media Services, a leading
provider of entertainment information databases and electronic programming guides.
Through the partnership with DIRECTV, Common Sense Media’s ratings and age-based
information about TV shows and movies will be made available to DIRECTV
subscribers—at first jus online and then later through set-top box programming
guides.131 The Common Sense Media-Tribune Media Services agreement works much
the same way.132 Because Tribune provides electronic programming guides and
information to many major media operators, such as DISH Network, it means many
more parents will have access to Common Sense Media ratings and information and be
able to screen and block content accordingly.

Docket No. 09-26, April 16, 2009,
http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520213652
129
www.tivo.com/whatistivo/tivois/tv/index.html#kid_zone
130
Saul Hansell, TiVo to Offer Tighter Rein on Children’s Viewing, New York Times, March 2, 2006,
www.nytimes.com/2006/03/02/technology/02tivo.html?_r=1&oref=slogin. Also see Comments of
TiVo Inc., Implementation of the Child Safe Viewing Act; Examination of Parental Control Technologies
for Video or Audio Programming, MB Docket No. 09-26, April 16, 2009,
http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520213640
131
Common Sense Media, DIRECTV and Commons Sense Media Form Partnership to Help Parents Choose
Kid-Friendly Programming, Press Release, March 20, 2009, www.commonsensemedia.org/about-
us/press-room/directv-partnership. Also see Comments of DirecTV Network, Implementation of the
Child Safe Viewing Act; Examination of Parental Control Technologies for Video or Audio Programming,
MB Docket No. 09-26, April 16, 2009,
http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520213618
132
Common Sense Media, Tribune Media Services and Common Sense Media Announce Partnership to
Help Parents Make Entertainment Choices, Press Release, April 8, 2009,
www.commonsensemedia.org/about-us/press-room/press-releases/tribune-media-services-
partnership

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Finally, some multichannel operators also offer subscribers the option of buying
a bundle of “family-friendly” channels. For example, Dish Network offers a
“DishFAMILY”133 and DIRECTV offers a “Family Package” bundle of channels.134 Many
cable operators offer similar bundles, but parents must consult their local provider to
get details since packages vary by zip code or county. Also, a unique satellite service
called Sky Angel offers over 70 channels of Christian and family-friendly choice(s) that
households can subscribe to if they want only religious programming to be available in
their homes.135

Other Technological Control Measures
For those families that want to block out televised programming aired during
certain hours of the day or limit how much TV can be viewed at all, technological tools
exist that can make that possible. The Family Safe Media website sells a half dozen “TV
time management” tools that allow parents to restrict the time of day or aggregate
number of hours that children watch programming.136 Most of these devices, such as
the “Bob TV Timer” by Hopscotch Technology137 and the “TV Allowance” television time
manager,138 feature PIN-activated security methods and tamper-proof lock boxes that
make it impossible for children to unplug or reset the device. Parents can use these
devices to establish a daily or weekly “allowance” of TV or game screen time and then
let children determine how to allocate it. Similarly, “credit-based” devices such as the
“Play Limit” box require children to place time tokens in a metallic lockbox to determine
how much TV or game time is allowed.139 Parents can provide a certain allowance of
tokens to restrict the overall amount of screen time.

Another innovative technology to restrict children’s viewing options by children
is the appropriately named the “Weemote.” It is a remote control made for children
that has only a handful of large buttons. Parents can program each button to call up
only those preset channels that they approve of for their children. No other channels
can be accessed using the remote. The product has a suggested retail price of $24.95.140

133
www.dishnetwork.com/packages/detail.aspx?pack=DISHFamily
134
www.directv.com/DTVAPP/packProg/channelChart1.jsp?assetid=1000005
135
www.skyangel.com
136
www.familysafemedia.com/tv_time_management_tools_-_par.html
137
www.hopscotchtechnology.com
138
www.tvallowance.com
139
www.playlimit.com
140
www.weemote.com

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Exhibit 19: The “Weemote”

For those families looking to take more direct steps to specifically curb
potentially offensive language heard on some televised programs, solutions are
available. For example, over 12 million Americans currently use TVGuardian systems,
which bill themselves as “The Foul Language Filter.”141 TVGuardian’s set-top boxes filter
out profanity by monitoring the closed-caption signal embedded in the video signal and
comparing each word against a dictionary of more than 150 offensive words and
phrases. If the device finds a profanity in the audio feed, it temporarily mutes the
volume and displays a less controversial rewording of the dialog in a closed-captioned
box at the bottom of the screen. The device can also be tailored to individual family
preferences to edit out references that some might consider religiously offensive. The
service requires the purchase of a DVD player equipped with the TVGuardian filtering
system as well as a one-time activation fee of $29.95.

Video Empowerment: VCRs, DVRs & VOD
One of the most important developments on the parental controls front in
recent years has been the rapid spread of VCRs, DVD players, digital video recorders
(DVRs), and video on demand (VOD) services.142 These technologies give parents the
ability to accumulate libraries of preferred programming for their children and
determine exactly when it will be viewed. Using these tools, parents can tailor
programming to their specific needs and values.143 If certain parents believed that their
children should only be raised solely on reruns of The Lone Ranger and Leave it to
Beaver, then these new media technologies can make it happen!

141
www.tvguardian.com
142
This section is condensed from: Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Parental Control
Perfection? The Impact of the DVR and VOD Boom on the Debate over TV Content Regulation, Progress
on Point 14.20, Oct. 2007, www.pff.org/issues-pubs/pops/pop14.20DVRboomcontentreg.pdf
143
“*PVRs+ are quickly revolutionizing the way families watch television, with easy-to-use-systems and a
convenience that every family can appreciate.” Sharon Miller Cindrich, e-Parenting: Keeping Up with
Your Tech-Savvy Kids (New York: Random House Reference, 2007), at 172.

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To use a personal example: My wife and I have developed a strategy of
designating a specific television in our home for most of our children’s media
consumption and then using a DVR to amass a large library of programming we believe
is educational, enriching, and appropriate for them. As a result, when we allow our
children some TV time, we always know
that the episodes of Dora the Explorer, Go
Diego Go, Blue’s Clues, and The Wiggles One of the most exciting things
that we approve of for our kids will be about the modern parental
available. Dozens of other programs can controls market-place is that
be cataloged and archived in this fashion families have the ability to better
and then supplemented with VHS tapes, tailor media programming to their
DVDs, VOD downloads, and computer particular needs or values.
software. Needless to say, such content
tailoring was not an option for families in One of the most exciting things
the past. about the modern parental
controls market-place is that
The following tools and technologies are families
helping have
to empower families
the ability to take
to better
more control over their video choices: tailor media programming to their
particular needs or values.
VCRs and DVD players / recorders
Many households continue to use video tapes One ofand
theDVDs to build things
most exciting libraries of
preferred programming. Parents can either purchase about
originalthe
copies of programs
modern parental on VHS
or DVD, or they can record shows when they appear on television
controls on VHS
market-place tapes or
is that
recordable DVDs. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)
families haveestimates
the abilitythat
to 85 percent
better
of U.S. households have at least one VCR. That tailor
is down fromprogramming
media a high of 91to percent
their in
2005. The number of VCRs in homes is declining steadily because
particular consumers
needs or values.have been
replacing them with DVD players and DVD recorders. According to CEA, 83 percent of
households have at least one DVD player, up from 13 percent
One of theinmost
2000.exciting things
about the modern parental
Of course, as Larry Magid of CBS News.com controls
points out, “VCRs are ais hassle.
market-place that You
have to remember to program them, make sure families
you havehavea blank tape inserted,
the ability to betterlabel
and keep track of the recorded tapes, and inserttailor
them media
for theprogramming
kids when they’re
to theirready
144
to watch.” Much the same is true of DVD recorders. That is why
particular needstheorrise of the next-
values.
generation digital media devices described below is so important. Those devices help
parents simplify and automate the content tailoringOne
process
of thein most
their exciting
homes. things
about the modern parental
controls market-place is that
families have the ability to better
tailor media programming to their
particular needs or values.

One of the most exciting things
144
about the modern parental
Larry Magid, TV Tips for Parents, CBS News.com, Aug. 2, 2002,
www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/08/07/scitech/pcanswer/main517819.shtml
controls market-place is that
families have the ability to better
tailor media programming to their
Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) particular needs or values. 66

One of the most exciting things
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

Exhibit 20: VCR & DVD Player Usage

Digital video recorders (DVRs) / Personal video recorders (PVRs)
Considering the significant amount of buzz we hear about them today, it’s easy
to forget that digital video recorders (sometimes referred to as personal video
recorders) are not even a decade old yet. But when TiVo and ReplayTV hit the market in
1999, it helped usher in what many regard as a revolution in television.145 Those devices
gave consumers an unprecedented level of control over their viewing experiences by
allowing them to instantly pause, rewind, and fast-forward programming. DVRs also let
consumers watch television on their terms by building an archive of desired
programming. Today, all DVRs—including those sold or leased by cable, telco, and
satellite operators—offer these features. Those tools and functions are particularly
helpful to parents. “*DVRs] are quickly revolutionizing the way families watch television,
with easy-to-use-systems and a convenience that every family can appreciate,” argues
Sharon Miller Cindrich, author of e-Parenting: Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids.146

145
Glenn Derene, The End of TV As We Know It, Popular Mechanics, June 14, 2007,
www.popularmechanics.com/blogs/technology_news/4217964.html
146
Sharon Miller Cindrich, e-Parenting: Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids (New York: Random House
Reference, 2007), at 172.

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Exhibit 21: Projected Growth of DVRs

The DVR revolution is certain to continue and spread. Consider these facts and
recent marketplace developments:

 “Consumers are beginning to embrace digital video recorders (DVRs) as they
once did VCRs,” notes John P. Mello of the E-Commerce Times.147 Indeed,
according to the Leichtman Research Group, a market research firm, more than
one in every five U.S. households now have a digital video recorder, up from
about one in every 13 households just two years ago.148 Leichtman Research also
predicts that roughly 50 percent of all homes will have a DVR by 2011.149

147
John P. Mello, DVR Market Penetration: Riding a Provider-Powered Wave, E-Commerce Times, Sept.
26, 2007, www.ecommercetimes.com/story/trends/59497.html
148
Leichtman Research Group, DVRs Now In Over One of Every Five U.S. Households, Aug. 21, 2007,
www.leichtmanresearch.com/press/082107release.html
149
Quoted in Mello, op. cit.

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 Another market research firm, eMarketer, reports similar numbers, projecting
that almost 22 percent of homes will have a DVR by the end of 2007.150
eMarketer estimates that household penetration will approach 45 percent of all
homes by 2011. DVR unit sales continue to grow at a rapid pace. The CEA
reports that DVR unit sales roughly doubled between 2006 (4.9 million units) and
2007 (8.9 million), and are projected to almost double again next year (16.7
million).
 More importantly, DVR prices continue to fall steadily. The CEA reports that the
average unit price for a DVR fell from $261 in 2003 to $177 in 2007, and it is
projected to fall to $160 by 2008.

Exhibit 22: DVR Sales & Prices

150
eMarketer, Growing DVR Ownership Good for TV Ads, Aug. 20, 2007,
www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?id=1005279; eMarketer, 30 Percent of Homes to Have DVR
Capability, Nov. 28, 2006, www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?id=1004316

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Exhibit 23: Projected Growth of VOD

Video on demand (VOD) services
Video on demand services are also becoming more widely available to
consumers, and many family-friendly options are available via VOD:

 eMarketer estimates that VOD household usage will grow from 21.4 percent in
2005 to 42 percent in 2010.
 According to SNL Kagan, “nearly 90 percent of U.S. digital cable subscribers had
access to VOD, and 46 percent of all basic cable customers were offered the
service at the end of the March [2007].”151
 Pike & Fischer estimates that each home will be watching nearly two hours of
on-demand content nightly by the end of 2012.152

151
SNL Kagan, VOD Availability Grows with Digital Platform, VOD & ITV Investor, No. 106, May 30, 2007,
at 6, www.snl.com/products/samples/media_comm/kvi/sample1.pdf
152
Scott Sleek, Video on Demand Usage: Projections and Implications, Pike & Fischer, Oct. 2007,
www.broadbandadvisoryservices.com/researchReportsBriefsInd.asp?repid=541

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 Children’s programming represents a large and quite popular portion of the
overall universe of VOD programming. “The results are in: Children’s
programming is a hit for video on demand,” says Matt Stump of Multichannel
News.153 VOD offerings from Nickelodeon, the Cartoon Network, and PBS’ Sprout
have been wildly successful and shown that “kids’ TV rules on VOD” according to
Stump.154 Last year, Comcast Corporation, the nation’s largest cable provider,
also found that children’s programming was one of the most popular VOD
categories.155
 A Comcast poll of its most aggressive VOD and DVR users last year found that 85
percent of those customers indicate they “always have appropriate shows
available for their children to watch.” Moreover, 65 percent of them said that
they “have fewer conflicts about what to watch on TV” and 63 percent said that
they “watch more television as a family” thanks to these tools.156
 A 2005 study by Marquest Research revealed approximately 29 percent of VOD
homes with kids reported watching VOD programming three or more times per
week, compared with only 12 percent in VOD homes without kids.157
Computing devices & expanding IPTV options
Many of these same content management tools are increasingly being bundled
into PC operating systems, interactive devices, online systems, and even video game
consoles.

Microsoft’s Windows Media Center, for example, offers users sophisticated DVR
tools to record and catalog their favorite programming.158 Similarly, Myth TV is a free
open source program that consumers can download to give their computers DVR
functionality.159 Microsoft’s Xbox 360 video game console also allows consumers to
download television and other video programming, and Sony is planning to expand its
video on demand offerings.

153
Matt Stump, Kids’ TV Rules on VOD, Multichannel News, March 6, 2006,
www.multichannel.com/article/CA6312983.html
154
Id.
155
Comcast Corporation, Comcast On Demand Tops Three Billion Views, Press Release, Sept. 6, 2006,
www.comcast.com/About/PressRelease/PressReleaseDetail.ashx?PRID=46
156
Comcast Corporation, New National Survey Finds That On-Demand Television Services Have Positive
Impact on Family Viewing Habits,”March 14, 2006,
www.comcast.com/About/PressRelease/PressReleaseDetail.ashx?PRID=84
157
Cited in Daisy Whitney, Kids Get Their Way on TV, Advertising Age, March 13, 2006.
158
www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/mediacenter/default.mspx and
www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsvista/features/details/mediacenter.mspx
159
www.mythtv.org

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Internet protocol television, or “IPTV”, refers to a broad class of services that
utilize Internet protocols to transmit digital video signals to the public.160 Many of the
new services and technologies described above, such as VOD, are built on IPTV
platforms. IPTV offers the potential for much greater capacity, configurability, and
interactivity than traditional television distribution and storage methods. 161

Falling Prices and Hyper-Tailored Content
“What’s clear is the way we watch TV has changed, and greater change is
coming,” concludes Buffalo News reporter Stephen T. Watson.162 Indeed, this video
empowerment revolution will continue and expand. As the adjoining exhibit makes
clear, the prices of these video technologies will continue to fall rapidly. Very soon,
almost any family that wants these technologies will find them within their reach.
Already, as of September 2007, TiVo’s most popular DVR cost just $99.99 and its latest
high-definition unit recently debuted with a price tag of just $299.99. That is stunning
considering that just a few years ago, top-of-the-line DVRs had far fewer capabilities,
but were selling for well over $1,000.

Exhibit 24: Projected Average Prices for Selected Video Technologies
2003 2008 % price
(est.) reduction
VCRs $63 $46 -27%
DVD players $123 $90 -27%
DVD recorders* $271 $155 -43%
DVRs $261 $160 -39%
IPTV $175 $119 -32%
Source: Consumer Electronics Association, U.S. Consumer Sales and
Forecasts, 2003-2008, July 2007. *Note: First year of DVD recorder data
is for 2004.

Moreover, because many multichannel video operators essentially subsidize the
cost of DVRs for their customers, it means that it will be very easy for every subscriber
to have at least one in their home. “Before DVRs were a premium offering,” notes Steve

160
Nate Anderson, An Introduction to IPTV, Ars Technica, March 12, 2006,
http://arstechnica.com/guides/other/iptv.ars/1
161
“Essentially, IPTV has the capability of condensing down the multiple channels of conventional cable
and satellite television down into one or two video-on-demand streams. What’s more, IPTV holds the
promise of lots of additional content, such as statistics pop-up boxes during sporting events, extra
information about the show you’re watching, integrated IM clients, and whatever other added-value
widgets content providers and users can dream up.” Glenn Derene, Buzzword: IPTV, Popular
Mechanics, Jan. 17, 2007, www.popularmechanics.com/blogs/technology_news/4212160.html
162
Stephen T. Watson, Taking Control of the TV as DVRs Take Over, Buffalo News, Aug. 28, 2007.

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Wilson, principal analyst for consumer video technologies with ABI Research. “Now
they’re a standard offering.”163

Importantly, as these technologies grow more sophisticated they will also
become more user-friendly.164 For example, TiVo already offers a feature called “TiVo
Suggestions” that recommends shows users might enjoy based on their past
programming choices. And TiVo’s “Universal Swivel Search” tool lets users engage in
Google-like searches of their video programming lineup to find programs that match
their preferences.165 Similarly, Philips Electronics recently demonstrated a prototype
DVR that included its new “Personal TV Channel” system that quickly learns users’
preferences and creates personalized channels based on those tastes.166 The Philips
system will also be able to monitor the personal preferences of different people in the
home and create specialized program lists for each of them. That would allow parents to
create one preference list for themselves and another for the kids.

Such tools and features will be further refined in coming years to allow DVRs and
other IPTV devices to better “learn” a user’s preferences and help them build a library of
programming that is right for them and their families. At some point very soon, we
might even be able to speak to these machines and communicate our preferences even
more clearly. One might imagine a “conversation” with your DVR in the near future that
goes something like this: “I only want my kids to see shows like Blue’s Clues, Barney,
Sesame Street, and Dora the Explorer. I like shows that help develop language and
musical skills such as those. But I definitely don’t want my kids to see any shows that are
rated above TV-Y, or that have profanity, or that have a lot violence in them.” After
hearing your commands, the DVR then retrieves a list of shows that satisfy your criteria
and you refine it to ensure that it’s right for your kids.

In the future, there will also be many ways for independent organizations to
“map” their content preferences onto digital empowerment devices. That is,
organizations that independently rate or label media programming will be able to offer
their content recommendations to media distributors so that viewers can call up shows
approved by those groups. This is already happening today. For example, as mentioned
above, TiVo has a partnership with the Parents Television Council, KIDS FIRST!, and
Common Sense Media to develop “KidZone Guides.” Using ratings and information
163
Quoted in John P. Mello, DVR Market Penetration: Riding a Provider-Powered Wave, E-Commerce
Times, Sept. 26, 2007, www.ecommercetimes.com/story/trends/59497.html
164
“As for features, only time will tell what companies think up,” notes Andrew D. Smith of the Dallas
Morning News. Andrew D. Smith, Watch for More Choices from Your Cable TV Box, Dallas Morning
News, July 31, 2007, www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus/ptech/stories/DN-
cablebox_31bus.ART0.State.Edition1.35ed73d.html
165
www.tivo.com/mytivo/domore/swivelsearch/index.html
166
John Blau, Philips Readies TiVo Rival, IDG News Service, Sept. 4, 2007,
www.pcworld.com/article/id,136715-page,1/article.html

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created by those groups, KidZone allows parents to filter and record only the content
that those groups deem appropriate.167 As more content gets “tagged” by third-parties,
one can image a future of infinitely searchable programming that allows parents to align
their family’s viewing options with organizations they trust.

Exhibit 25: Educational / Entertainment Viewing Options for Children
 ABC Family Channel (http://abcfamily.go.com)
 Animal Planet (http://animal.discovery.com)
 Anime Network (www.theanimenetwork.com)
 Black Family Channel (www.blackfamilychannel.com)
 Boomerang (www.cartoonnetwork.com/tv_shows/boomerang)
 Cartoon Network (www.cartoonnetwork.com)
 Discovery Channel (www.discovery.com)
 Discovery Kids (http://kids.discovery.com)
 Disney Channel (www.disney.go.com/disneychannel)
 Encore WAM!
 Familyland Television Network (www.familyland.org/content/Content.aspx?CategoryID=51)
 FUNimation (www.funimation.com)
 Hallmark Channel (www.hallmarkchannel.com)
 Hallmark Movie Channel (www.hallmarkmoviechannel.com)
 HBO Family (www.hbofamily.com)
 History Channel (www.history.com)
 KTV – Kids & Teens Television (www.ktvzone.com)
 Learning Channel (http://tlc.discovery.com)
 National Geographic Channel (http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel)
 Nickelodeon (www.nick.com)
 Nick 2
 Nick Toons (http://nicktoonsnetwork.nick.com/home.html)
 Noggin (www.noggin.com)
 N Channel (www.the-n.com)
 PBS (www.pbs.org)
 PBS Kids (http://pbskids.org/go)
 Science Channel (http://science.discovery.com)
 Showtime Family Zone
 Sprout (www.sproutonline.com)
 Starz! Kids and Family
(http://www.starz.com/appmanager/seg/s?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=starz_kids_family)
 Toon Disney (http://psc.disney.go.com/abcnetworks/toondisney)
 Varsity World (www.varsityworld.com)

Family & Children’s Programming Options
The overall market for family and children’s programming options also
continues to expand quite rapidly. Thirty years ago, families had a limited number of
children’s television programming options at their disposal on broadcast TV. Today, by

167
Saul Hansell, TiVo to Offer Tighter Rein on Children’s Viewing, New York Times, March 2, 2006,
www.nytimes.com/2006/03/02/technology/02tivo.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

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contrast, there exists a broad and growing diversity of children’s television options from
which families can choose. The adjoining table highlights some of the more popular
family- or child-oriented networks available on cable, telco, and satellite television
today.

Importantly, this list does not include the growing universe of religious / spiritual
television networks. Nor does it include the many family or educational programs that
traditional TV broadcasters offer. Finally, the list does not include the massive market
for interactive computer software or websites for children.

Independent Television Rating Organizations
Finally, if parents wish to independently verify official TV ratings, or just get more
information about the content of specific shows, many services are available:

 Common Sense Media’s (CSM) user-friendly website offers detailed TV reviews
as well as user-generated reviews submitted by both parents and kids
themselves.168 The site offers extremely detailed descriptions of almost every
possible type of content that one might find in a given show. Finally, as
mentioned above, CSM has partnered with leading video device makers (TiVo)
and distributors (DIRECTV and Tribune Media Services) to make their ratings
information make accessible to parents. With additional technological
advancements, Common Sense Media’s ratings could be used to trigger
screening and filtering controls on these devices and networks. (See Section II.D).

 Plugged In Online’s website, a project of the religious group Focus on the Family,
reviews many TV shows and as part of its review process considers the following
elements: positive elements, spiritual content, sexual content, violent content,
crude or profane language, drug and alcohol content, and other components.169

 The Parents Television Council’s ParentsTV website offers a searchable “Family
Guide to Prime Time Television”170 and awards a seal of approval to shows that it
deems suitable for families.171

 Formed in October 2007, the Smart Television Alliance (STA) is a collection of
“leading nonprofit organizations representing millions of American parents,
teachers, nurses and children” that came together “to promote quality television
content for children.” The STA “encourage[s] families to use information from
trusted sources to identify shows that inform and educate children and to utilize
168
www.commonsensemedia.org/tv-reviews
169
www.pluggedinonline.com/tv/index.cfm
170
www.parentstv.org/PTC
171
www.parentstv.org/PTC

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technology to control what is on television and when it is watched.”172 Founding
members of the STA include the National Education Association, the National
Parent Teacher Association, and the National Council of Women’s
Organizations.173 The STA bases its recommendations on the work of other
groups, including: the Coalition for Quality Children’s Media: KIDS FIRST!; the
Parents Television Council; the Parents’ Choice Foundation; and Common Sense
Media. The STA’s website provides parents with television recommendations by
age groups (ages 3-6, 6-9, and 9-11) based on the programs approved by those
organizations. The STA’s website also allows families who own a TiVo personal
video recorder to instantly record the shows they like directly from the website.

Television Tips for Parents:

 Program the V-Chip in your televisions or the parental controls embedded in
your cable or satellite set-top boxes to block objectionable programming.
 Use VCRs, DVD players, and digital video recorders (DVRs) to better control your
family’s viewing habits.
 Familiarize yourself with TV ratings (www.tvguidelines.org/ratings.htm) and also
consult Common Sense Media (www.commonsensemedia.org) and other
independent review sites to learn what others think about various TV programs.
 Instead of placing TVs in bedrooms and allowing your children to watch shows
unsupervised, consider placing the sets in a common area of the home so that
you can keep can keep an eye (and ear) on the programming they are viewing.
 Use VCRs, DVD players, VOD, and personal video recorders to build an
appropriate diet of viewing material for your family, and only let you kids watch
it when (and for how long) you believe it is appropriate.
 Consider establishing household rules limiting the aggregate amount of time (on
a daily or weekly basis) that children can spend watching television. Also, provide
carrot-and-stick incentives for kids to use media sensibly.
 Work with the parents of your child’s friends to devise appropriate viewing limits
when they visit their homes.
 Watch TV programming with your kids and tell them how you feel about what
they are seeing or hearing.

172
Smart Television Alliance, Smart Television Alliance Launched to Help Parents Access Educational
Children’s TV in Response to Violent and Indecent Programming, Press Release, Oct. 16, 2007,
www.smarttelevisionalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=press_101607
173
Id.

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D. Movies
The MPAA Movie Rating System
The motion picture industry has the longest-running and most widely recognized
rating system in America. Established by the Motion Picture Association of America
(MPAA) and theater operators in 1968, the MPAA’s familiar rating system includes the
age-based designations are shown in adjoining exhibit.

Exhibit 26: The MPAA Movie Rating System

These ratings are accompanied by additional content descriptors explaining what
viewers can expect to see in the movie. Both the ratings and content descriptors appear
at the beginning of all movies—whether seen at a cinema or on VHS or DVD. When
movies are sold on DVDs, the MPAA rating information is embedded on the discs in the
form of machine-readable “metadata.” DVD players, gaming consoles, and other devices
that can play DVDs can then read the ratings via the embedded metadata. That allows
parents to block movies of a certain rating from playing on those devices.

The MPAA also requires that the ratings appear on all promotional advertising
(posters, TV ads, etc.). Finally, the MPAA’s website also features a search engine that
allows the public to look for any movie it has rated since 1968 and find its rating and a
description of the content.174 The MPAA also recently introduced the “Red Carpet
Ratings Service,” which allows parents to sign up to receive a weekly report of the

174
www.mpaa.org/FilmRatings.asp or www.filmratings.com

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ratings of recently premiered movies.175 The MPAA has also been involved in a variety
of cross-industry educational efforts that will be summarized in Section IV.C.

Exhibit 27: MPAA’s “Red Carpet Ratings” Service

Independent Movie-Rating Organizations
As was the case with TV programs, if parents wish to verify MPAA movie ratings
independently, or just get more information about the content of specific movies, there
are many services to which they can turn:

 Common Sense Media’s user-friendly website offers detailed movie reviews as
well as user-generated reviews submitted by both parents and kids
themselves.176 The site offers extremely detailed descriptions of almost every
possible type of content that one might find in a given title. The organization also
sells a booklet summarizing Really Great Movies for Kids & Families.177

175
www.mpaa.org/FlmRat_RedCarpet.asp
176
www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews
177
Really Great Movies for Kids & Families (San Francisco, CA: Common Sense Media, 2007).

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 The Parent Previews website reviews new theatrical releases and DVDs
according to an easy-to-understand A-F grading system.178 Four primary
categories are graded (violence, sexual content, language, and drug or alcohol
use) to determine the movie’s overall grade.

 Kids-in-Mind is another online rating service that assigns films three distinct,
category-specific ratings: one for sex and nudity, one for violence and gore, and
another for profanity. Each review provides highly detailed listings of instances
of those categories within a film. Each movie’s rating is on a scale of 0 to 10,
depending on the quantity and context of what is shown. The site’s reviews also
cover other themes that parents might want to discuss with their children, such
as substance abuse, divorce, or the occult.179

 ScreenIt.com is an online subscription-based movie review service ($24.95 per
year) for parents looking for extremely detailed summaries of the content found
in movies.180 It evaluates each movie title using 15 different criteria.

 Plugged In Online’s website, a project of the religious group Focus on the Family,
reviews many movies and DVDs and as part of its review process considers the
following elements: positive elements, spiritual content, sexual content, violent
content, crude or profane language, drug and alcohol content, and other
negative components.181

 The Parents Television Council’s ParentsTV website offers recent movie
reviews182 and awards a seal of approval to movies that its deems suitable for
families.183

 BeliefNet.com’s Movie Mom website features reviews by Nell Minnow, author
of The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies.184

 The Coalition for Quality Children’s Media is a national, not-for-profit
organization founded in 1991 that seeks to teach children critical viewing skills
and increase the visibility and availability of what it regards at quality children’s
programming. On its KidsFirst website, it offers critical reviews of movies and

178
www.parentpreviews.com
179
www.kids-in-mind.com
180
www.screenit.com
181
www.pluggedinonline.com
182
www.parentstv.org/PTC
183
www.parentstv.org/PTC
184
http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom

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other forms of children’s entertainment and provides a searchable database of
recommended titles by age group.185 It also sponsors a film and video festival
dedicated to “promoting excellence in children’s films and engaging children as
film critics, curators and filmmakers.”186

 Finally, some of the best information about what parents can expect to see and
hear in movies comes from other parents who review them on sites like
Amazon.com,187 Netflix.com,188 Metacritic.com,189 and the Internet Movie
Database.190 Indeed, most movies listed on these sites contain hundreds of user-
generated reviews that typically make it very clear what the movie contains and
at what approximate age it is appropriate for viewing. Unofficial sources such as
The Internet Movie Database also list major ratings that each movie has received
by ratings organizations worldwide.

Independent Movie Screening Tools
ClearPlay produces a unique DVD player that eliminates profanity, violence and
nudity from certain movies.191 ClearPlay doesn’t produce preedited DVDs, rather, the
company “create*s+ filtering information on a movie by movie basis, and then put[s]
those ‘filters’ into the DVD player. By doing so the DVD player knows when to skip or
mute while the movie is playing.”192 Therefore, consumers don’t have to purchase
special DVDs; they just need to purchase a ClearPlay DVD player and download the
codes for their movies to activate the filtering controls. The company’s MaxPlay DVD
player retails for under $70 and comes loaded with the filters for about 1,000 popular
movies. A monthly membership fee of $7.95 is required to access new movie filtering
codes.

ClearPlay’s technology raised some copyright concerns and was opposed by
many movie directors and studios. But in 2005, Congress passed and President George
W. Bush signed the Family Movie Act, which exempted services like ClearPlay from any
copyright liability.193 However, other types of preedited DVD software service—

185
www.kidsfirst.org/kidsfirst
186
www.kidsfirst.org/kidsfirst/fabout.htm
187
www.amazon.com
188
www.netflix.com
189
www.metacritic.com
190
www.imdb.com
191
www.clearplay.com
192
www.clearplay.com/about.aspx
193
The Family Movie Act was part of the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005. President
George Bush signed the measure into law on April 27, 2005.

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“scrubbed” DVDs—were ruled copyright violations by a U.S. district court judge in 2006
and are no longer available.194

Movie Tips for Parents:

 For movies seen within the home, follow the same guidelines outlined earlier for
general television viewing. Program the V-Chip, cable or satellite set-top boxes,
and PC and video game console parental controls to block potentially
objectionable movies from being seen (especially pay-per-view titles).
 Use VCRs, DVD players, VOD, and DVRs to ensure that your children see only the
movies you think are appropriate for them at a certain age. Build a library of
your favorite material.
 Familiarize yourself with MPAA ratings (www.mpaa.org/FilmRatings.asp) and
also consult the many independent websites listed earlier to learn what other
groups or parents think of the movies your kids want to see.
 Again, keep TVs and other movie-playing devices out of kids’ bedrooms and in a
common area of the home so that you can keep an eye on what they are
viewing.
 Work with other parents to devise appropriate viewing limits when your kids
visit their homes.
 Watch movies with your kids and tell them how you feel about what they are
seeing or hearing.

E. Music and Radio
Album Ratings
Since the mid-1980s, the music industry (working with retailers) has
administered a voluntary parental advisory labeling program to give parents fair
warning that a particular album might contain explicit lyrics about sex, violence, or drug
use. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) runs the program on behalf
of record companies and producers who, working with their artists, decide which of
their songs and products receive the explicit label.195 If they determine that a warning is
appropriate, the industry’s widely recognized black-and-white “Parental Advisory –
Explicit Content” label is affixed prominently to the outside of the permanent packaging
and embedded in the digitally delivered files. They also have an option to release a
“non-explicit” version of the same song or product with the appropriate modifications.

194
Keith Regan, Court Says Editing DVDs for Content Is Illegal, E-Commerce News, July 10, 2006,
www.ecommercetimes.com/story/51667.html
195
www.riaa.com/parentaladvisory.php

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Exhibit 28: The RIAA’s Explicit Content Parental Advisory Label

Retailers also prominently display the warnings regardless of how they choose to
offer the products for sale; retail or digital. Many retailers have long-established
procurement guidelines and refuse to sell “Explicit” labeled products to those younger
than 18. Other retailers, such as Wal-Mart, refuse to carry such albums at all.

Satellite Radio
SIRIUS-XM, a satellite radio service, offers subscribers a variety of plans to
choose from including several that exclude any channels that might include
programming with explicit language or lyrics. For example, the “Family Friendly”
package196 excludes 17 channels197 that feature explicit language or graphic content.
Alternatively, subscribers can simply purchase channels on an a la carte basis and avoid
the channels they might find objectionable.198 Subscribers can also request that certain
channels be blocked by contacting the SIRIUS customer service department. 199

Apple iPod and Microsoft Zune Parental Controls
Not every portable music player on the market today offers embedded parental
control capabilities, but two major competitors in this space—Apple and Microsoft—do
offer some controls and have standing commitments to improve these capabilities over
time by working together with the music industry in standards-settings organizations.

Apple’s wildly successful iPod is by far the most popular portable music player on
the market today. Once users purchase an iPod, they also download iTunes software
onto computers to transfer music onto their player or buy material online at Apple’s
iTunes Store.200 At the iTunes Store, users can purchase songs and videos or download
free online radio stations or podcasts. Music singles containing explicit lyrics have a bold
red “EXPLICIT” label next to song title. Movies are clearly labeled with MPAA movie

196
www.sirius.com/packages/more#family
197
www.sirius.com/mature
198
www.sirius.com/packages/more#alacarte
199
www.sirius.com/dodge/faq.html#q8
200
www.apple.com/itunes/store

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ratings and other content descriptors making it clear what type of content can be found
in the title.

Parents can find parental controls in the iTunes software on the main menu
under “Edit / Preferences / Parental Controls.” Once there, they can disable all podcasts,
online radio and music sharing, or they can disable access to the iTunes Store
altogether. Less drastically, if they want to make the iTunes Store accessible, but limit
what can be downloaded, they can designate the level of movie and TV ratings that are
appropriate for their children and nothing rated above that level will be accessible.
Furthermore, parents can restrict the downloading of any music that contains the
“EXPLICIT” label on the site. Once appropriate settings are determined, parents can lock
the software to prevent further changes.

Exhibit 29: Apple iTunes Parental Controls

Microsoft’s Zune portable media player also offers family settings that allow
parents to control what their children can download from the Zune Marketplace
website. According to the Zune website, before a child can create an online Zune
account he or she must have parental consent:

When your child first signs up online for Zune, they enter (or you enter for them)
their own Windows Live ID and account information, and then Zune asks for
parental permission to continue creating the account. You give parental
permission by using or creating a master Windows Live ID and entering some

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credit card information to verify that you are an adult. (The credit card is not
charged.)201

Parents can also establish their own family settings when creating an account for
their children. Specifically, parents determine whether to allow their kids to purchase
premium content or explicit content on the Zune Marketplace website. Like the iTunes
Store, Microsoft’s Zune Marketplace contains some material marked as “explicit” and
allows parents to block such material from being downloaded by their children. Parents
can alter the settings at any time by going to the main menu and clicking “Account
Management / Family Settings.”

Importantly, new music industry product identification solutions are developing
that will facilitate parental control technologies in the future. For example, the Global
Release Identifier (GRID) is the recording industry’s new product identification system
that encourages those in the industry to embed product metadata in their digital music
files.202 And the Digital Data Exchange (DDEX) is the music industry’s system for
reporting and tracking these new digital music IDs.203

GRID and DDEX are primarily used by music companies, device manufacturers,
service providers, and technology implementers to track sales, gauge royalties, and
monitor piracy. But embedded metadata can also include digital content labels and
rating information that can facilitate screening capabilities. For example, on its Zune
webpage, Microsoft outlines the type of metadata labels that content creators can
include in their digital files that can then be read by the Zune.204 Parental ratings—for
music, movies, and television—are among the metadata labels that Microsoft
recommends. As these metadata labeling efforts expand, other consumer electronic
device makers will also be able to include parental controls in their products that can
read media labels and ratings. This will make it easier for parents to restrict potentially
objectionable or age-inappropriate content on music players or other mobile media
devices.

Independent Rating Organizations
Once again, as is the case with TV, movies, and video games, parents who want
more information about the music their kids might want can use independent websites
for their research. The Common Sense Media205 website provides detailed music
reviews and details what parents can expect their kids to hear in the music they buy.

201
www.zune.net/en-us/support/howto/marketplace/familysettings.htm
202
www.ifpi.org/content/section_resources/grid.html
203
www.ddex.net/index.htm
204
www.zune.net/en-us/support/howto/start/providecontent.htm#section7
205
www.commonsensemedia.org/music-reviews

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Similarly, Plugged In Online206 focuses on the “pro-social content” versus “objectionable
content” found on each album it reviews. And user-generated reviews on sites like
Amazon.com207 and Metacritic.com208 feature excellent product summaries that can
help parents decide if various music titles are right for their kids. Finally, if parents want
to examine the lyrics of the songs their children are listening to, they can find them at
sites such as A-Z Lyrics Universe,209 Lyrics.com210 and LyricsMania.com.211

Music Tips for Parents:

 Look for “Explicit Lyrics” labels on music and determine the best course of action
for such music purchases. Consider “Clean Lyrics” versions for younger children.
 Use parental controls embedded in digital music services to block music
downloads with objectionable lyrics.
 Consult independent rating websites (such as Common Sense Media.org and
Plugged In Online.com) to learn what other parents think about music that you
are considering buying for your kids or that your children are already listening to.
 Check out the lyrics in the songs your kids are listening to by visiting websites
such as Lyrics.com or LyricsMania.com.
 Listen to music with your kids and talk to them about what you are hearing if you
find it objectionable.

206
www.pluggedinonline.com/music
207
www.amazon.com
208
www.metacritic.com
209
www.azlyrics.com
210
www.lyrics.com
211
www.lyricsmania.com

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F. Video Games
The ESRB Rating System
Although it is the newest of all industry content rating and labeling schemes, the
video game industry’s system is in many ways the most sophisticated, descriptive, and
effective ratings system ever devised by any major media sector in America. Established
by the video game industry in 1994, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is
a self-regulatory rating and labeling body.

The ESRB rating scheme is remarkably comprehensive. According to the ESRB, it
rates well over 1,000 games per year in most years and it rated 1,677 games in 2008.
Virtually every title produced by major game developers for retail sale today carries an
ESRB rating and content descriptors. The ESRB rates the vast majority of “professional”
game content, but does not generally cover game developed by web “amateurs” that
are freely traded or downloaded via the Internet. The ESRB applies six different rating
symbols to the games it rates, in addition to a “Ratings Pending” (RP) placeholder rating
symbol for game not yet rated. Those ratings are shown in the adjacent chart.

In addition to designating these ratings, the ESRB has over 30 different “content
descriptors” that it uses to give consumers highly detailed information about games.
Thus, by simply glancing at the back of each game container, parents can quickly gauge
the appropriateness of the title for their children. If parents want to do additional
research in advance of a purchase, the ESRB’s website allows them to enter the name of
any game and retrieve its rating and various content descriptors.

Moreover, in March 2008, the ESRB began offering an “ESRB Rating Search
Widget” that can be freely downloaded an installed on a user’s computer. 212 It allows
users to instantly search for any game title and retrieve its rating and content
descriptors. Also, in November 2008, the ESRB announced it would be offering game
“rating summaries” that offered “supplementary source of information about game
content that parents can use when considering which games to purchase for their
children.”213 Those rating summaries explain to parents and players the context and
relevant content that led to the ESRB’s assignment of a specific rating. Those rating
summaries are also accessible when searching for rating information via the ESRB
website or through the ESRB search widget.

212
www.esrb.org/about/widget/widget-consumer.jsp
213
Entertainment Software Rating Board, ESRB Announces New Video Game Rating Summaries, Press
Release, Nov. 12, 2008,
www.esrb.org/about/news/downloads/ESRB_Rating_Summaries_Release_11.12.08.pdf

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Exhibit 30: ESRB Video Game Rating Categories214

214
www.esrb.org/ratings

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Exhibit 31: ESRB Content Descriptors
 Alcohol Reference - Reference to and/or images of alcoholic beverages
 Animated Blood - Discolored and/or unrealistic depictions of blood
 Blood - Depictions of blood
 Blood and Gore - Depictions of blood or the mutilation of body parts
 Cartoon Violence - Violent actions involving cartoon-like situations and characters. May include
violence where a character is unharmed after the action has been inflicted
 Comic Mischief - Depictions or dialogue involving slapstick or suggestive humor
 Crude Humor - Depictions or dialogue involving vulgar antics, including “bathroom” humor
 Drug Reference - Reference to and/or images of illegal drugs
 Fantasy Violence - Violent actions of a fantasy nature, involving human or non-human characters in
situations easily distinguishable from real life
 Intense Violence - Graphic and realistic-looking depictions of physical conflict. May involve extreme
and/or realistic blood, gore, weapons and depictions of human injury and death
 Language - Mild to moderate use of profanity
 Lyrics - Mild references to profanity, sexuality, violence, alcohol or drug use in music
 Mature Humor - Depictions or dialogue involving "adult" humor, including sexual references
 Nudity - Graphic or prolonged depictions of nudity
 Partial Nudity - Brief and/or mild depictions of nudity
 Real Gambling - Player can gamble, including betting or wagering real cash or currency
 Sexual Content - Non-explicit depictions of sexual behavior, possibly including partial nudity
 Sexual Themes - References to sex or sexuality
 Sexual Violence - Depictions of rape or other violent sexual acts
 Simulated Gambling - Player can gamble without betting or wagering real cash or currency
 Strong Language - Explicit and/or frequent use of profanity
 Strong Lyrics - Explicit and/or frequent references to profanity, sex, violence, alcohol or drug use in
music
 Strong Sexual Content - Explicit and/or frequent depictions of sexual behavior, possibly including
nudity
 Suggestive Themes - Mild provocative references or materials
 Tobacco Reference - Reference to and/or images of tobacco products
 Use of Drugs - The consumption or use of illegal drugs
 Use of Alcohol - The consumption of alcoholic beverages
 Use of Tobacco - The consumption of tobacco products
 Violence - Scenes involving aggressive conflict. May contain bloodless dismemberment
 Violent References - References to violent acts

To ensure that its system is applied properly, major video game console
manufacturers require that the rating is digitally available in the metadata or product
description so the console or PC can identify and screen the content in advance.
Moreover, as noted below, the ESRB requires that game publishers display ratings in
advertising and marketing materials in all media, as well as fully disclose all pertinent
content to the ESRB. Companies that do not comply with ESRB marketing and disclosure
requirements can be fined by the ESRB or subject to other sanctions, including potential
product recall.

Surveys have shown that most parents find the ratings and labels very helpful.
Surveys by Peter D. Hart Research Associates reveal that in 2008 86% of American

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parents of children who play video games are aware of the ESRB ratings and 78%
consult the ratings regularly when buying games for their families. 215 As the adjoining
exhibit illustrates, these results have been increasing steadily since Hart Research
Associates began conducting these surveys for the ESRB in 1999.

Exhibit 32: Parental Awareness & Use of Video Game Ratings is High

Importantly, surveys conducted by the Entertainment Software Association
(ESA), which represents the video game industry, have also shown a high level of
parental involvement when games are purchased or rented. According to ESA surveys,
the average age of a video game purchaser is 39, and 92 percent of the time parents are
present when games are purchased or rented.216 Of parents surveyed, 77 percent said
they find video game console parental controls useful.217

215
www.esrb.org/about/awareness.jsp
216
Entertainment Software Association, Essential Facts about the Computer and Video Game Industry:
2009 Sales, Demographics and Usage Data, 2009, at 3, 5,
www.theesa.com/facts/pdfs/ESA_EF_2009.pdf
217
Id., at 6.

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The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has also conducted research about the
ESRB rating system and found in 2007 that:218

 89% of parents are involved in the purchase or rental of a video game for their child;
 87% of parents were aware of the ESRB video game ratings system;
 73% use ratings “all,” “nearly all” or “most of the time” when buying games;
 87% reported being “very” to “somewhat” satisfied with ESRB ratings;
 93% said ESRB ratings are “moderately” to “very easy” to understand.

Exhibit 33: Video Game Ratings By Year

Incidentally, contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of video games the
ESRB rates are not filled with violent content. Well over 50 percent of ratings assigned
by ESRB are for titles rated “E” for “Everyone,” and adding in those titles rated “E10+”
boosts the annual total over 60 percent most years, and 70 percent more recently.
Meanwhile, the number of games rated “T” for “Teen” or “M” for “Mature” has been
falling relative to the other options available.

Consequently, it would be difficult for policymakers or game critics to build the
case for video game regulation on the contention that most games made today contain

218
Federal Trade Commission Report to Congress, Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children, April
2007, www.ftc.gov/reports/violence/070412MarketingViolentEChildren.pdf

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extreme violence or sexuality. Moreover, while it is true that games rated “T” can
include some violent content, it is typically not the sort of violence that would rise to a
level of serious concern for most parents. For example, lightsaber fights in “Star Wars”
games or knockouts in boxing games might qualify those titles for “T” ratings, but is that
really the sort of violence that concerns most parents? It’s unlikely.

Exhibit 34: ESRB Ads and Promotional Materials

The ESRB also operates an Advertising Review Council (ARC) that monitors
advertising and marketing practices in the gaming industry. The ARC monitors
compliance with ESRB guidelines and places restrictions on how game developers may

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market ESRB-rated games through its “Principles for Responsible Advertising” and
“Advertising Code of Conduct.”219

As part of its “OK to Play?” education campaign, the ESRB provides a variety of
materials to retailers. The materials include an ESRB employee training manual and quiz
about the rating system. According to the ESRB, the “OK to Play?” signage is displayed at
17 top national retailers who account for approximately 90 percent of all game sales.
Prominent retailers involved in the effort include Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target, Toys-R-Us,
and Game Stop among others. These
retailers, which are responsible for a
significant portion of all video game sales, The video game industry’s system
have enormous reputational incentives to is in many ways the most
abide by the ESRB rating system. sophisticated, descriptive, and
Importantly, the in-store signage used by effective ratings system ever
these and other game retailers is also devised by any major media sector
reproduced as consumer advertising in in America.
various magazines, newspapers, websites,
and so on. In 2005, the ESRB also created
the ESRB Retail Council, “to facilitate
regular communication and input for consideration on matters
Although it is of
thecommon
newest of interest
all to
220
U.S. computer and video game retailers and the ESRB.” industryThe Retailrating
content Council
andcommits
retailers to supporting their game sales policieslabeling
and alsoschemes,
to conducting twice-annual
the video game
audits of member retailers to test compliance with store policy
industry’s system is in many andways
signage
requirements. the most sophisticated, descriptive,
and effective ratings system ever
Finally, as will be noted in a subsequent section
devised by any onmajor
education
media efforts,
sector in
November 2006 the ESRB announced an educational partnership in America. with the Parent-
Teacher Association (PTA) to “encourage and enable state and local PTAs to educate
221
their community’s parents about the *ESRB+ ratings.” As part
Although of this
it is the newofeducation
newest all
campaign, 1.3 million brochures were distributed to 26,000content
industry PTAs nationwide
rating and in both
English and Spanish. Additional online support and schemes,
labeling downloadable the 222 manuals
video game and
educational materials are available on both the ESRB and PTA
industry’s websites.
system In 2008,
is in many waysESRB
expanded this partnership by producing and distributing a booklet entitled
the most sophisticated, “A Parent's
descriptive,
223
Guide to Video Games, Parental Controls and Online Safety” to PTAs nationwide.
and effective ratings system ever
219
devised by any major media sector
www.esrb.org/ratings/principles_guidlines.jsp
in America.
220
www.esrb.org/retailers/retail_council.jsp
221
Although
Parent Teacher Association, PTA and ESRB Launch Nationwide it is the
Video Game newest
Ratings of all
Educational
Partnership, Press Release, Nov. 15, 2006, industry content rating and
www.pta.org/ne_press_release_detail_1163547309281.html
labeling schemes, the video game
222
www.esrb.org/about/pta_partnership.jsp industry’s system is in many ways
Entertainment Software Rating Board, ESRB and PTA Launchmost
the sophisticated,
Campaigndescriptive,
223
New national to Educate
and
Parents about Game Ratings, Parental Controls and Online effective
Video ratings
Game Safety, system
Press ever
Release, April 21,
devised by any major media sector
2008, www.esrb.org/about/news/downloads/ESRB-PTA%20Press%20Release_4.21.08_F.pdf
in America.
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The ESRB has also developed several TV PSAs that were supported by federal
lawmakers,224 and state attorneys general Mark Shurtleff of Utah, Thurbert Baker of
Georgia, and Steve Six of Kansas.225 In these TV spots, public officials encourage
parents to use the video game ratings when buying games for their children and to set
parental controls on gaming devices.226

The ESRB’s education and awareness-building efforts appear to be paying off,
including at the point of sale regarding underage efforts to buy games. Since 2000, the
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has surveyed the marketing and advertising practices of
major media sectors (movies, music and video games) in a report entitled Marketing
Violent Entertainment to Children.227 The agency hires a research firm that conducts
“secret shopper” surveys to see how well voluntary media rating systems (MPAA, ESRB,
RIAA) are being enforced at the point of sale. The research firm then recruits a number
of 13- to 16-year-olds who make an attempt to purchase such media without a parent
being present.

The FTC reports show that ratings enforcement has generally been improving
over time, and in the case of the ESRB system, it has improved dramatically. For
example, the latest survey shows that whereas 85 percent of kids were able to purchase
an M-rated video game in 2000, only 20 percent of them were able to do so when the
most recent survey was conducted in 2008.228 That is an impressive turn-around in a
very short period of time.

224
Entertainment Software Rating Board, Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Joe Lieberman Join ESRB to
Launch Nationwide Video Game Ratings TV PSA Campaign, Press Release, Dec. 7, 2006,
www.esrb.org/about/news/12072006.jsp
225
www.gamepolitics.com/2009/06/09/kansas-attorney-general-teams-esrb-ratings-awareness
226
These videos can be viewed at the “Media Library” on the ESRB website:
www.esrb.org/about/media_library.jsp
227
Past FTC reports can be found at: www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/ratings
228
Federal Trade Commission, Undercover Shoppers Find it Increasingly Difficult for Children to Buy M-
Rated Games, Press Release, May 8, 2008, www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/05/secretshop.shtm

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Exhibit 35: FTC “Secret Shopper” Surveys Show Improved Retailer Enforcement

Console Blocking Controls
Parents have another line of defense once video games are brought into their
homes. Major game console developers (Microsoft,229 Sony,230 and Nintendo231) all
recognize the digitally embedded ratings and offer blocking tools in their new gaming
systems.232 For example, the Microsoft Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Wii consoles allow
parents to enter the ESRB rating level that they believe is acceptable for their children.
Once they do so, no game rated above that level can be played on the console.

229
www.xbox.com/en-US/support/familysettings/xbox360/familysettings-intro.htm
230
Instructions for how to do so on the PlayStation3 can be found under the “Parental Controls” tab at:
www.us.playstation.com/SCEARegionalOnlineManual/frame_hardware.html
231
www.nintendo.com/consumer/systems/wii/en_na/settingsParentalControls.jsp
232
See Mike Musgrove, A Computer Game’s Quiet Little Extra: Parental Control Software, Washington
Post, Dec. 23, 2006, at D1, www.washingtonpost.com/wp-
dyn/content/article/2006/12/22/AR2006122201278.html

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Exhibit 36: Microsoft Xbox Parental Control Set-Up Menus

All ESRB-rated games contain embedded metadata “flags,” or a string of code in
the software, that allow the consoles to automatically recognize the game’s rating.
(Personal computers using the new Microsoft Windows Vista operating platform have
the same screening capabilities as these stand-alone gaming consoles.)233

233
This system works cross-platform because the game industry has reached a consensus on how to
embed ratings information in a standard way. Film, music, and television industries are considering
similar methods for their commercial products.

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Thus, parents could set the rating threshold on their child’s video game console
or personal computer to T for Teen and then no games rated Mature (M) or Adults Only
(AO) could be played on the console unless the parent first enters a password. (These
controls can also be used to block movie playback according to the MPAA ratings.)

Sony’s PlayStation 3 console and PlayStation Portable (PSP) handheld gaming
system work a little differently. Both Sony gaming products let parents use a 1-11 scale
to determine the level of game and DVD content they will allow their kids to play.
(Roughly speaking, “2” on the Sony scale = “EC” while “10” = “AO”).234

In November 2007, Microsoft announced that it was also offering Xbox 360
owners the ability to employ a new “Family Timer” feature.235 Using the Family Timer,
parents can limit how and when children play games on the console. This is similar to
the time management tools Microsoft offers in its new Vista operating system for PCs
(discussed below). The Family Timer upgrade was made available to consumers via a
downloadable update feature available on any console connected to the Internet. When
announcing the Family Timer, Microsoft also launched a new awareness campaign in
conjunction with the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) referred to as the “Is Your Family
Set?” campaign.236 At the same time, Microsoft and the PTA also rolled out a new
“P.A.C.T.” agreement form that parents and their children could sign to reach an
agreement on acceptable video game usage in the home.237 And in early 2009,
Microsoft launched a new portal, GetGameSmart.com, which aggregates all these tools
and efforts.238

234
For the entire equivalency scale, see www.esrb.org/about/parentalcontrol-ps3psp.jsp
235
Microsoft Corp., Microsoft, PTA and Super Bowl Champion Jerry Rice Announce New Tools to Help
Parents Manage Kids’ Interactive Media Use, Press Release, Nov. 7, 2007,
www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2007/nov07/11-07FamilyTimerPR.mspx
236
www.xbox.com/en-US/support/familysettings
237
“P.A.C.T.” stands for “Parental involvement, Access, Content and Time. See http://assets.xbox.com/en-
US/support/familysettings/MS_Pact_021308a.pdf
238
www.getgamesmart.com

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Exhibit 37: GetGameSmart.com

The ESA survey cited above has found that 75 percent of parents surveyed found
these video game console parental control tools to be useful.239

A Word about Online, Multiplayer Gaming
Online gaming and what are referred to as “massively multiplayer online games”
(“MMOGs”) are the hottest thing in the gaming world today. A user must have an
Internet connection—usually a high-speed broadband connection—to interact in these
online environments. Once they are connected, players can interact with countless
other gamers, some of whom will be friends, but many will be strangers.

That fact will obviously raise some concern for some parents. While the ESRB can
rate game content for traditional, individual game play, it cannot rate or perfectly
describe how the gaming experience might change while online since game play is
spontaneously shaped by multiple participants. This is why many online games sold
today include an additional warning to parents that reads: “Online Interactions Not
Rated By the ESRB.” This makes it clear that user-generated content or online social
interaction cannot be rated by the ESRB.

239
Entertainment Software Association, Essential Facts about the Computer and Video Game Industry:
2008 Sales, Demographics and Usage Data, 2008, at 8, www.theesa.com/facts/pdfs/ESA_EF_2008.pdf

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Parents have a couple of options at their disposal to deal with online gaming
concerns. First, they can disable online gaming capabilities altogether by either (a) not
connecting the gaming console to an Internet connection or (b) using the controls
embedded in new gaming consoles to disable or limit online connections. This approach
is particularly sensible if parents allow their children to start gaming at a young age.

Exhibit 38: Microsoft Xbox Chat Blocking Controls

Second, parents can allow limited online gaming, but demand that their children
play with only known, trusted acquaintances. This process can be automated in the new
Microsoft Xbox 360,240 Sony PS3,241 and Nintendo Wii242 gaming consoles by restricting
access to the child’s friends list or gamer profile. In other words, parents can build the
equivalent of a “buddies list” for their kids and allow them to play with only those other
children. Alternatively, the systems enable parents to allow online gaming, but restrict
the chat capabilities so others cannot talk to their children. Incidentally, parents can
also view a list of whom their children have been playing by examining the list of other
gamers with whom they have interacted during online sessions. And parents can also
limit how much children can spend in online “marketplaces” and set the limit to zero if
they do not want their kids buying any online content. Integrated Internet browser
capabilities can be turned off entirely.

240
Instructions for how to do so on the Xbox 360 can be found at: www.xbox.com/en-
US/support/familysettings/console/xbox360/consolefamilysettings.htm
241
Instructions for how to do so on the PlayStation3 can be found under “Creating an Account” and
“Going Through the Registration Process” at:
www.us.playstation.com/content/sites/176/info/frame_network.html
242
www.nintendo.com/consumer/systems/wii/en_na/settingsParentalControls.jsp

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Third, as their children get older and are allowed more interactive gaming,
parents should ask them to report any suspicious communications from strangers in
these games. Parents can report such behavior to online gaming operators who will take
appropriate steps if undesirable activities are detected.

Independent Video Game Rating Organizations
As was the case with TV, movie, and music ratings, if parents wish to verify ESRB
game ratings independently, or just want more information about what their kids might
see or hear in the games they buy them, several services are at their disposal. Websites
such as Common Sense Media,243 What They Play,244 AOL’s PlaySavvy 245 Game Pro
Family246 and Children’s Technology Review247 provide detailed video game reviews
and information about the specific types of content that kids will see or hear in a
game.248 And user-generated reviews on sites like Amazon.com249 and
Metacritic.com250 feature excellent product summaries, often written by other parents,
which can help parents decide if games are right for their kids. Of course, none of these
sites or schemes is nearly as comprehensive as the ESRB system, which covers all
games.251
243
www.commonsensemedia.org/game-reviews. In May 2007, electronic retailing giant Best Buy
announced that, in addition to ESRB ratings, it would begin using Common Sense Media’s ratings in its
stores and online to provide parents with more information about the games their kids desire. See
Carissa Wyant, “Best Buy Launches Video Game Rating System for Parents,” Minneapolis / St. Paul
Business Journal, May 16, 2007,
http://twincities.bizjournals.com/twincities/stories/2007/05/14/daily19.html
244
www.whattheyplay.com
245
www.playsavvy.com
246
www.gameprofamily.com
247
www.childrenssoftware.com
248
The ESRB keeps a running list of resources for parents at: www.esrb.org/about/resources.jsp
249
www.amazon.com
250
www.metacritic.com
251
As the Entertainment Software Association noted in an April 2009 filing to the FCC:
An effective rating system is much more than alphabet code, rating symbols,
descriptors, and related hardware components and parental control mechanisms….
*T+he ESRB’s rating system is effective and trusted because it is comprehensive,
aggressively enforced, and widely supported by video game publishers, retailers, and—
most important—parents. Thus, unlike [] third-party initiatives [], the ESRB rates
virtually every video game sold at retail in the United States prior to a game’s release so
that the rating will appear on the game’s packaging when it is shipped to retailers and in
all media advertisements for the product. The ESRB evaluates the video game content in
a rigorous and consistent manner and in accordance with comprehensive guidelines,
resulting in ratings that consumers understand and with which they generally concur. In
addition, the ESRB enforces its system vigorously through a system of fines and other
sanctions. These measures ensure that parents and consumers have the information
they need, in a format that is accessible and easy to understand, so that they can make

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There are some good recent books focusing on video games and children that
provide helpful advice to parents. They include: Drs. Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl K.
Olson’s Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth about Violent Video Games and
What Parents Can Do;252 Dr. Kourosh Dini’s Video Game Play & Addiction: A Guide for
Parents;253 and Sharon Miller Cindrich’s e-Parenting: Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy
Kids.254

Exhibit 39: Books Featuring Advice about Video Games and Kids

an informed decision about the particular video game their child wants to play. In
contrast, third parties purporting to provide information to parents assess, at best, a
small percentage of the games that are published each year, use a variety of untested
criteria that are neither transparent nor widely explained to consumers, have no access
to a game’s packaging or advertising, and cannot quickly and effectively enforce against
misuse of the information they seek to provide.
Reply Comments of the Entertainment Software Association, Implementation of the Child Safe Viewing
Act; Examination of Parental Control Technologies for Video or Audio Programming, MB Docket No.
09-26, May 18, 2009, at 6-7,
http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520216861
252
Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl K. Olson, Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth about Violent Video
Games and What Parents Can Do (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008).
253
Kourosh Dini, Video Game Play & Addiction: A Guide for Parents (Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, Inc.,
2008), http://kouroshdini.com/4419js/0595454704b.pdf
254
Sharon Miller Cindrich, e-Parenting: Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids (New York: Random House
Reference, 2007), www.pluggedinparent.com

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Coin-Operated (Arcade) Game Ratings
Finally, there is a separate rating system for coin-operated arcade games. The
“Coin-Operated Video Game Parental Advisory System” is administered by the American
Amusement Machine Association (AAMA), the Amusement and Music Operators
Association (AMOA), and the International Association for the Leisure & Entertainment
Industry (IALEI).255 It uses a color-coded, “traffic light” approach so that parents can
review the green, yellow, or red sticker labels on arcade games and decide whether to
let their children play.

Exhibit 40: Coin-Operated Games Rating System

255
www.coin-op.org/Parental%20Advisory%20System.htm

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Video Game Tips for Parents:

 When purchasing video games for your children, carefully review the ratings and
content descriptors on the back of each box to determine if the game is
acceptable for your family.
 If games are purchased online, first consult the ESRB website (www.esrb.org) to
learn more about those games.
 Consult the independent ratings websites listed earlier to learn what other
parents think about video games that you are considering buying for your kids.
 As soon as a new gaming console is brought into the home and unpacked,
program the parental controls to designate the level of game (and movie) ratings
that is acceptable within your household.
 Instead of placing gaming consoles in bedrooms and allowing your children to
play unsupervised, consider placing the consoles in a common area of the home
so that you can keep can keep an eye (and ear) on the content of the games that
your kids are playing.
 When you see or hear objectionable content in certain games, talk to your kids
about it.

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G. Wireless and Mobile Media
Mobile phones and other handheld mobile media devices have taken the world
by storm. According to CTIA, the wireless industry’s trade association, there were over
270 million estimated cellular telephone subscribers in America at the end of 2008.256
That is an astonishing number
considering that few of us carried mobile
devices in our pockets just 10 years ago.
Mobile phones are now full-fledged
Today, however, even young children
multimedia platforms capable of
have their own cell phones.
delivering video, data, games,
instant messages, and more.
Importantly, mobile phones are
becoming much more than just
communication devices; they are now
full-fledged multimedia platforms capable of delivering video, data, games, instant
messages, and more.257 As John Markoff of the NewCell York
phonesTimes
aresays, “The cellphone
becoming much is
the world’s most ubiquitous computer. The four more
billionthan
cellphones in use around the
just communication
globe carry personal information, provide accessdevices;
to the Web and now
they are are being used more
full-fledged
258
and more to navigate the real world.” Thus, multimedia
subscribers platforms
can use these
capabledevices
of to
access news, information and entertainment from almost anywhere.
delivering video, data, games,
instant messages, and more.
Of course, this otherwise wonderful development has some downsides for
parents who are concerned about the types of inappropriate content their children
might be able to access on mobile devices.259 And, according to the Yankee Group, 72
percent of teens between ages 13 and 17 already have a mobile phone, and that
number continues to grow.260 Consequently, kids Cellneed to are
phones be taught proper
becoming muchmobile
261
phone etiquette, and parents also need to consider
morestrategies
than justand tools that can help
communication
devices; they are now full-fledged
256
www.ctia.org/media/industry_info/index.cfm/AID/10323 multimedia platforms capable of
257 delivering video, data, games,
“*T+he devices we call ‘mobile phones’ are, in fact, PCs. They’re just another computer form factor.
instant messages,
Some PCs are desktops. Some are laptops. And some are handhelds.” andThink
Sascha Segan, more.
of Cell
Phones Like Miniature PCs, PC Magazine, June 26, 2007, at 80,
www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,2139510,00.asp .
258
John Markoff, The Cellphone, Navigating Our Lives, New York Times, Feb. 16, 2008,
www.nytimes.com/2009/02/17/science/17map.html?_r=1
259 Cell phones
As Wall Street Journal reporter Dionne Searcey notes, “Parents have beenareclamoring
becoming much
for more
more than
controls, especially as phones have morphed into minicomputers… just
*with+ communication
capabilities that make some
devices; they are now full-fledged
parents nervous.” Dionne Searcey, Keeping Junior on a Wireless Leash, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 4,
2007, at D1. multimedia platforms capable of
260
delivering
Joseph De Avila, Quelling the Danger Lurking In Junior’s Backpack, Wallvideo, data, games,
Street Journal, April, 23, 2008,
at D1, http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB120891052219636621-
instant messages, and more.
XIICJVxoIbk9xAXrUAzV7IZXnb8_20080522.html?mod=tff_main_tff_top
261
The Harvard University Center on Media and Child Health has some useful guidelines here:
http://cmch.tv/mentors/hotTopic.asp?id=70. Also, the National Institute on Media and the Family
produces an excellent guide for parents entitled “Cell Phones and Your Kids” that offers friendly
Cell phones are becoming much
Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) more than just communication 103
devices; they are now full-fledged
multimedia platforms capable of
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guide appropriate use. “Luckily for parents, new software is allowing parental control
like never before,” notes Lee Ferran of ABC News.262

Exhibit 41: Snapshot of Teen Use of Mobile Media in 2009

Wireless Carrier Content Guidelines
For example, the wireless industry is responding to these concerns in a
preemptive fashion. In November 2005, CTIA unveiled new “Wireless Carrier Content
Guidelines” that industry members would follow “to proactively provide tools and
controls to manage wireless content offered by the carriers or available via Internet-
enabled wireless devices.”263 Under the guidelines, wireless carriers pledged not to
offer any adult-oriented content until they have created controls to allow parents to

pointers for parents looking to teach their children proper cell phone etiquette. See A MediaWise
Parent Guide—Cell Phones and Your Kids, (Minneapolis, MN: National Institute on Media and the
Family, 2006), www.mediafamily.org/network_pdf/cellphon_guide.pdf
262
Lee Ferran, Parental Controls for Cell Phones, ABC News.com, Dec. 26, 2008,
www.abcnews.go.com/GMA/Parenting/story?id=6529871&page=1
263
CTIA, Wireless Carriers Announce ‘Wireless Content Guidelines,’ Press Release, Nov. 8, 2005,
http://www.ctia.org/media/press/body.cfm/prid/1565

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restrict access.264 According to an April 2009 filing by CTIA to the FCC, the guidelines
work as follows:265

Under these guidelines, participating carriers agree to develop content
classification standards and educate consumers about the meaning of the
chosen categories and ratings. The Notice describes the bifurcation in
these content classification guidelines between “Carrier Content” and
content available from other sources. The guidelines for Carrier Content
cover materials that are available through a carrier’s managed content
portal as well as third-party materials for which customers may be billed
directly by their wireless carrier. These materials are divided into
“Generally Accessible Carrier Content,” which is available to all
consumers, and “Restricted Carrier Content,” which is not available to
wireless users under 18 years of age without specific parental
authorization.
CTIA defines “Carrier Content” to include video and other images, music
and other audio, video games, adult-oriented text-based entertainment
services, and lotteries and gambling, but “Carrier Content” does not
include any end-user generated content (on message boards, chat rooms,
or blogs, for example) or any content accessed via the public Internet or
other public data networks. Within these categories, “Restricted Carrier
Content” consists of material that is generally recognized as appropriate
only for adults 18 years of age or older, such as material that may contain
strong violence or may be sexually explicit; or material that is legally
restricted to persons at least 18 years of age, such as lotteries and
gambling. *…+ CTIA suggests to participating members and content
providers that other types of content be placed in this restricted category
as well, including material that may be deemed objectionable or harmful
to minors based on its depiction of illegal drug use or its use of intense
profanity or hate speech.266

264
See Amol Sharma, Wireless Carriers Set Strict Decency Standards for Content,” Wall Street Journal,
April 27, 2006, at B1.
265
The complete guidelines can be found at www.ctia.org/consumer_info/service/index.cfm/AID/10394
and the classification criteria for “Restricted Carrier Content” can be found at
www.ctia.org/content/index.cfm/AID/10395
266
Comments of CTIA-The Wireless Association, Implementation of the Child Safe Viewing Act;
Examination of Parental Control Technologies for Video or Audio Programming, MB Docket No. 09-26,
April 16, 2009, at 4-5,
http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520213683

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Many major carriers have already announced their plans or policies regarding
such content or developed family tools to help parents protect their children.267 Market
leaders AT&T (“SmartLimits” and “Media Net”),268 Verizon Wireless (“Chaperone
Service”),269 T-Mobile (“Web Guard”),270 and Sprint271 already have excellent parental
control services and websites up and running.

Exhibit 42: Verizon Wireless Content Rating System

In late 2007, Verizon Wireless also rolled out a new “Content Filtering Service”
for audio and video content accessible through its mobile devices (both phones and “air

267
See Joseph De Avila, Quelling the Danger Lurking In Junior’s Backpack, Wall Street Journal, April, 23,
2008, at D1, http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB120891052219636621-
XIICJVxoIbk9xAXrUAzV7IZXnb8_20080522.html?mod=tff_main_tff_top; Tom Spring, Web-Enabled
Handsets Deliver a Squeaky-Clean Internet, PC World, June 20, 2006,
http://pcworld.about.com/news/Jun202006id126147.htm
268
www.wireless.att.com/learn/articles-resources/parental-controls/index.jsp
269
www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/splash/chaperone/splash.jsp
270
https://support.t-mobile.com/knowbase/root/public/tm23350.htm; Also see Reply Comments of T-
Mobile USA, Inc., Implementation of the Child Safe Viewing Act; Examination of Parental Control
Technologies for Video or Audio Programming, MB Docket No. 09-26, May 18, 2009,
http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520216886
271
www1.sprintpcs.com/explore/ueContent.jsp?scTopic=parentalControl and
www.sprint.com/4netsafety/

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cards” that plug into laptops to get mobile Internet access). Content is classified into
four different levels: Children 7 Plus, Teens 13 Plus, Young Adults 17 Plus, and Filter
Off.272 Customers can establish the preferred rating settings for their families on their
online account webpage, or by calling a customer service representative.273

Beyond restricting access to inappropriate content, these carriers help parents
set customize limits for each child according to age. Although details vary by provider,
parents can also generally manage how and when kids use their phones, including
limitations on the overall minutes used for messaging and downloads. The plans can
even restrict who the child can contact with their phones.274 For example, using AT&T’s
new “Smart Limits for Wireless,” AT&T customers can determine specifically how and
when their kids use their phones. Parents can limit the number of text and instant
messages, the dollar amount of downloadable purchases (ex: ringtones, games), when
the phone can be used for calling or texting; and access to inappropriate content.275
Many carriers now also offer global positioning system (GPS) tracking technology in their
phones, which allows parents to locate their children and monitor their whereabouts.276

Independent services are also being developed that supplement these industry
efforts. For example, Radar, which bills itself as “Your Kids’ Mobile Watchdog,” is a new
service that “monitors and tracks your child's cell phone contacts and immediately alerts
you if he or she receives unwanted or suspicious email, Instant Messages, text messages
or phone calls.”277 If the child is contacted by an unapproved person, parents are
immediately sent an alert on their phones and via e-mail. And parents are alerted when
children add new friends to their device.278 The Radar service costs $10 per month for
one user or $15 for an entire family.

CTIA has also developed an awareness campaign called “Get Wise about
Wireless,” which “helps educate students about cell phone use and the responsible
behaviors associated with using cell phones.”279 The program includes a variety of
materials such as a teacher’s guide and a family take-home pamphlet about safe and

272
www.verizonwireless.com/parentalcontrols
273
See https://wbillpay.verizonwireless.com/vzw/nos/parental-control_FAQ.jsp and
www.verizonwireless.com/usagecontrols
274
Dionne Searcey, Keeping Junior on a Wireless Leash, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 4, 2007, at D1.
275
www.wireless.att.com/learn/articles-resources/parental-controls/smart-limits.jsp
276
Larry Magid, Global Positioning by Cellphone, New York Times, July 19, 2007, at C7.
277
www.mymobilewatchdog.com
278
“Radar performed very well and was user-friendly enough for tech-sky parents,” argued Katherine
Boehret in a Wall Street Journal review of the software. Katherine Boehret, Keeping Tabs on Kids’
Phones, Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2007. P. D4.
279
www.wirelessfoundation.org/GetWise/index.cfm

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courteous cell phone use.280 As part of this effort, CTIA also runs a student essay contest
about sensible wireless use.281

Devices Geared toward Younger Users
In addition to the parental controls and screening services offered by carriers,
wireless handsets geared specifically for younger children are now on the market.282
These devices give parents considerable control over what their kids can access on their
phones, as well as several other useful monitoring features.283 For example:

 Firefly Mobile sells a tiny, voice-only phone for kids with just five buttons on
it.284 Two of the buttons have small icons symbolizing Mom and Dad, allowing
the child to call them directly via pre-programmed numbers. It comes in several
colors and contains a variety of accessories geared toward kids.

 Another such phone called the TicTalk285 is marketed by wireless company
Enfora and the educational toy maker LeapFrog Enterprises. The TicTalk lets
parents enter phone numbers that can be called anytime and also restrict
numbers that can be called only during certain times of the day. Parents can also
determine what times during the day the phone can even ring.286

 The Wherify “Wherifone” offers robust GPS location tracking via the Internet.
Phone numbers can be programmed by parents and the phone contains an SOS
panic button for emergencies. The Wherifone also restricts the downloading of
games, as well as text messages.287

280
See www.wirelessfoundation.org/GetWise/teachers_guide2007.pdf and
www.wirelessfoundation.org/GetWise/family_takehome2007.pdf
281
www.wirelessfoundation.org/GetWise/contest.cfm
282
Many of these phones are discussed and sold at www.kidswireless.com
283
For more information, see Dan Costa, Yes, I Spy on My Kid, PC Magazine, July 17, 2007, at 58,
www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,2145504,00.asp; Yuki Noguchi, Connecting with Kids, Wirelessly,
Washington Post, July 7, 2005, at A1; Fern Shen, Only a Few Can Hear You Now: Limited-Use Phones
Geared to Kids, Washington Post, July 18, 2005, at C14; David Pogue, Cellphones That Track Kids, New
York Times, Dec. 21, 2006,
www.nytimes.com/2006/12/21/technology/21pogue.html?ex=1167973200&en=898b8ec6c58ef344&
ei=5070;
284
www.fireflymobile.com
285
www.mytictalk.com
286
Kim-Mai Cutler, A Phone of Their Own, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 4, 2005, at D1.
287
www.wherify.com/wherifone

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 Guardian Angel Technology also produces a GPS phone for children that lets
parents monitor their kids via the Internet.288 Guardian phones let parents keep
a record of their child’s movements for a 30-day period. And when the child is
traveling in a car, the phone can monitor how fast the car is going and the
direction in which it is heading.

 Verizon Wireless’s “Migo” is similar to the Firefly Mobile phone in that has a
limited number of buttons for parents to program with approved and
emergency-related numbers.289 Kids can decorate the colorful phone with
stickers and other accessories. Using Verizon’s Chaperone service, parents can
enable GPS tracking of their kids.290 Verizon also offers a feature called Child
Zone which notifies parents via a text message if their child strays beyond pre-
approved boundaries.291

Independent Mobile Phone Filters
While most parents will likely use the parental control technologies embedded in
mobile devices or provided by the network provider, independent mobile phone
filtering and monitoring technologies are now coming to market. 292 These filters
typically replace the phone’s installed web browser with an alternative browser that
can’t be disabled. It then allows parents to configure their child’s mobile device in much
the same way the parents would configure filtering software for a child’s personal
computer.

For example, Safe Eyes Mobile, which retails for $19.95, lets parents choose
from 35 categories to determine what sort of content will be allowed or blocked. 293
Settings can be changed remotely by parents through a web-based interface.
iWonderSurf works in a similar fashion and costs $14.99.294 Mobicip, another provider
of mobile phone filtering and monitoring, costs $9.99 for the premium version of its
software.295 Unfortunately, however, these three filtering tools currently only work
with Apple’s iPhone, but that will likely change in coming months. However, SMobile’s

288
www.guardianangeltech.com
289
http://estore.vzwshop.com/search/devices/lg_migo.html
290
www.verizonwireless.com/chaperone
291
www.kidswireless.com/articles/verizon-wireless-chaperone
292
Jenna Wortham, Helping Parents Snoop on Kids’ iPhone Habits, New York Times Bits, March 28, 2009,
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/28/helping-parents-snoop-on-kids-iphone-habits
293
www.internetsafety.com/safe-eyes-mobile-iphone.php. Also see Michelle Maltais, Safe Eyes Mobile
Puts Parental Controls on iPhone Web Surfing, Los Angeles Times.com, March 3, 2009,
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2009/03/appiphilia-safe.html
294
www.iwondersurf.com
295
www.mobicip.com

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Security Shield Parental Edition works on Windows Mobile, Symbian, and Blackberry
systems and allows parents to monitor all text and email message content, receive
alerts based on message content or sender, view phone call log information, view
address book contacts, and to lock, wipe, or backup data on the device.296 Parents can
configure all controls from a single user-interface on their computers. The service costs
$29.99 per year. Likewise, Kaspersky Mobile Security, which retails for $29.95, works on
Symbian and Windows Mobile devices.297

A Word about Wireless Location-Based Services and Social Mapping
Many of the phones and services described above include location-based
technologies that parents can use to monitor the movement of their children.298 Those
same geo-location services can be used for other purposes. Geo-location technologies
are now being married to social networking utilities to create an entirely new service
and industry: social mapping.299

Social mapping allows subscribers to find their friends on a digital map and then
instantly network with them. Companies such as Loopt,300 Helio301 and Google302 have
already rolled out commercial social mapping services. Loopt has also partnered with
major carriers Verizon and Sprint to roll out its service nationwide.303 It is also now
available on BlackBerry devices and Apple’s iPhone. It is likely many other rivals will join
them in coming months and years.304 This new service presents exciting opportunities
for users to network with friends and family, but it might also raise some privacy
296
http://secure.smobilesystems.com/main/home/index.php or
http://secure.smobilesystems.com/main/docs/cons/2009PC_guide.pdf
297
www.marketwire.com/press-release/Kaspersky-Lab-Americas-998906.html
298
According to a recent Jupiter Research survey, 4 out of 10 parents with children under age 13 are
willing to pay to track their child's location. See eMarketer, Parents Wants Mobile Phone Kid Tracking,
Aug. 10, 2007, www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?id=1005248
299
“Social networking is just the beginning. Eventually all forms of communication will converge on one
pocket-size gizmo that lets you access virtually any information anywhere, at any time. Other people
can likewise use their gizmo to find you—as will anyone interested in selling you location-based
services. Or you can simply turn off and eat a sub—provided you can resist the urge to broadcast that
info to the world.” Dan Tynan, Is That a Social Network in Your Pocket? PC World, Aug. 2007, at 49.
Also see Kate Greene, The Future of Mobile Social Networking, Technology Review, June 2, 2008,
www.technologyreview.com/Infotech/20844
300
https://loopt.com
301
www.helio.com
302
www.google.com/latitude
303
Amol Sharma and Jessica Vascellaro, Phones Will Soon Tell Where You Are, Wall Street Journal, March
28, 2008, at A1, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120666235472370235.html
304
Research firm eMarketer has estimated there were over 63 million location-based service users
worldwide in 2008, and that there will be 486 million by 2012. eMarketer, Mobile Location-Based
Services on the Move, Oct. 6, 2008, www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?id=1006609

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concerns.305 For example, are random strangers or bad guys monitoring my daughter’s
whereabouts? Or, is her former boyfriend using such a service to track and stalk her?

Industry is responding to these concerns preemptively. As part of their effort to
create and refine their “Wireless Content Guidelines,” the CTIA has worked with some
of these companies to create privacy and safety guidelines for this emerging technology
and industry sector.306 Loopt, Helio, and Google have already taken steps to protect
user privacy by establishing a variety of safeguards to ensure that information is not
shared inappropriately.307 Also, tools like Radar and IMSafer can help parents monitor
their children’s activities.

These tools and industry best practices will be refined and extended, but they
are no substitute for parents talking to their kids about proper use of this new
technology.308 Children need to be educated about how these technologies work and
taught to use the tools built into the services to safeguard their personal information. If
parents decide to give phones to their pre-teen children, they need to configure those
phones for them to ensure that these services are disabled or only accessible by trusted
family members and acquaintances.

What to Do about “Sexting”
“Sexting” refers to the texting of sexual images via mobile devices. Some teens
engage in this dangerous practice and later find out the horrifying consequences once
images are distributed more broadly.309 This includes trouble with the law.310 Even
when the teen sends the image to a “trusted” boyfriend or girlfriend, all it takes is one

305
Laura M. Holson, Privacy Lost: These Phones Can Find You, New York Times, Oct. 23, 2007,
www.nytimes.com/2007/10/23/technology/23mobile.html?_r=2&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&adxnnlx=11
93960357-7mFoDVQXullPWYqVnT/CYA
306
See CTIA Best Practices and Guidelines for Location-Based Services,
www.ctia.org/business_resources/wic/index.cfm/AID/11300
307
For Loopt’s safety and privacy tips see: https://loopt.com/loopt/beSafe.aspx
308
The National Institute on Media and the Family produces an excellent guide for parents entitled “Cell
Phones and Your Kids” that offers friendly pointers for parents looking to teach their children proper
cell phone etiquette. See A MediaWise Parent Guide—Cell Phones and Your Kids, (Minneapolis, MN:
National Institute on Media and the Family, 2006),
www.mediafamily.org/network_pdf/cellphon_guide.pdf Also see Jan Faull, Teaching Kids Cell Phone
Etiquette,” MSN Lifestyle, Aug. 2006,
http://lifestyle.msn.com/FamilyandParenting/RaisingKids/ArticleBHG.aspx?cp-documentid=1314613;
Cell Phone Safety Tips, ConnectSafely.org, www.connectsafely.org/safety-tips/safety-tips/cell-phone-
safety-tips.html
309
Stephen Balkam, Sexting and the Law of Unintended Consequences, Huffington Post, March 24, 2009,
www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-balkam/sexting-and-the-law-of-un_b_178223.html
310
Donna St. George, Sending of Explicit Photos Can Land Teens in Legal Fix, Washington Post, May 7,
2009, at A1, www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/06/AR2009050604088.html

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accidental or intentional forwarding of that image for things to spiral out of control.
And relationships can turn sour, of course.

Unfortunately, neither law nor parental controls are likely to be of much help
here. Legal responses are difficult to craft,311 although some states are trying to do so
by creating a new misdemeanor for a minor to possess or store such images. 312 And the
only technological solution to this problem is for parents to simply not purchase a phone
for their teen that has a camera. Of course, that’s increasingly impractical since most
phones include cameras and the majority of the time they are put to perfectly safe,
socially-beneficially use.

Again, this is where teaching proper digital etiquette becomes essential, as was
discussed in Section II.C. Child safety experts Anne Collier and Larry Magid, co-directors
of ConnectSafely.org, have drawn up some helpful “Tips to Prevent Sexting.”313

Wireless / Mobile Media Tips for Parents:

 Teach your children basic etiquette as they start to use more interactive mobile
media devices and services. (See Section II.C for details).
 For a child’s first phone, consider a model that restricts calling options to
parents, schools, or emergency contacts. Also consider a model with embedded
GPS tracking capabilities to monitor your child’s whereabouts.
 Consider limitations of online and interactive functions until your child is older.
Once he or she is given online access through mobile devices, use parental
controls that are embedded within the phone to screen objectionable content or
limit access to certain sites.
 Review your children’s phone records to determine if they are communicating
with strangers or accessing any objectionable sites or material.
 Consider calling plans that cap usage time (for both calls and online access) to
ensure children do not abuse the privilege. Develop a “calling allowance” to
place boundaries on overall monthly usage.

311
Julie Hilden, How Should Teens' ‘Sexting’ – the Sending of Revealing Photos – Be Regulated?” FindLaw,
April 28, 2009, http://writ.lp.findlaw.com/hilden/20090428.html
312
Patrick Preston, Senator Introduces ‘Sexting’ Bill, Columbus NBC4i, April 29, 2009,
www.nbc4i.com/cmh/news/local/local_govtpolitics/article/senator_introduces_sexting_bill/15279/
313
Tips to Prevent Sexting, ConnectSafely.org, March 26, 2009,
www.connectsafely.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1581&Itemid=118/

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H. Internet, Computing, and Social Networking
The Internet is massive, and the sheer scope and volume of online activities
make parental control efforts quite challenging. That’s especially the case because, as
the Pew Internet & American Life Project notes, “American teens are more wired now
than ever before.”314 According to a Pew survey taken in late 2006, 93 percent of all
Americans between 12 and 17 years old use the Internet. In 2004, by contrast, 87
percent were Internet users, and in 2000, 73 percent of teens were online.315

Luckily, many companies and private organizations have already established
tools and methods to deal with objectionable online content. Parents need to adopt a
“layered” approach to online child protection that involves many of the tools and
strategies outlined in this section. An excellent illustration of how this works is found in
Gregory S. Smith’s How to Protect Your Children on the Internet: A Road Map for Parents
and Teachers.316 The adjoining exhibit depicts the 8-part layered model Smith outlines in
his book to help parents and teachers keep kids safe online.

Exhibit 43: Gregory Smith’s 8-Step Plan to Protect Children from Online Risks

Of course, it goes without saying that these methods should not be considered
substitutes for talking to children about what they might see or hear while online. Even
though the tools and strategies that follow can help parents control the vast majority of

314
Amanda Lenhart and Mary Madden, Pew Internet & American Life Project, Teens, Privacy, and Online
Social Networks, April 18, 2007, at 3, www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/211/report_display.asp
315
Id.
316
Gregory S. Smith, How to Protect Your Children on the Internet: A Road Map for Parents and Teachers
(Westport, CT: Praeger, 2007), at 72, www.gregoryssmith.com

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objectionable content that their kids might stumble upon while online, no system is
perfect. In the end, education, oversight, and ongoing communication and mentoring
are vital.317 That being said, there are many tools and strategies that can be an
important part of the “training wheels and speed bumps” approach discussed in Section
III.B.

Finding Help from Online Safety Metasites
There is so much good information Parents need to adopt a “layered”
on the Internet about online child safety approach to online child
that parents would be wise to rely on some protection that involves many
of the “metasites” that aggregate helpful tools and strategies.
tips, tools, and other information all in one
place. The best of these sites include: Parents need to adopt a “layered”
approach to online child
 Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use (www.csriu.org)
protection was many
that involves created by
Nancy Willard, a leading authority on Internet tools
safetyandandstrategies.
child development
issues. Willard is also the author of Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens: Helping
318
Young People Learn to Use the Internet Safely
Parents needand Responsibly,
to adopt a “layered”and
Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats: Responding toapproach
the Challenge of child
to online Online Social
319
Aggression, Threats, and Distress. The CSRIU website that
protection offers numerous
involves many papers,
presentations, essays, and useful tips about howtools
to deal
andwith online threats or
strategies.
identify “at-risk” youth who may need special attention and assistance.320
 Connect Safely.org (www.connectsafely.org) Parents
is aneed to adopt
project a “layered”
of Tech Parenting
Group, a nonprofit organization based in Paloapproach to online
Alto, Calif., child
and Salt Lake City,
Utah. The project is the brainchild of Larryprotection
Magid of that involves many
SafeKids.com and Anne
tools and strategies.
Collier of NetFamilyNews.org, two leading online child safety experts. The site
features helpful articles and videos, safety tips, interactive forums, and
Parents
commentaries. The forum allows parents and need
teens to adoptwith
to interact a “layered”
online child
approach to online child
safety experts. The effort is supported by a wide variety of high-technology
companies. protection that involves many
tools and strategies.

Parents need to adopt a “layered”
approach to online child
317
protection
Julia Angwin of the Wall Street Journal argues: “For most parents, that
it seems thatinvolves many
our best bet is to treat
the Internet like an unsupervised playground in a sketchy neighborhood:
tools and strategies. your kids
You shouldn't drop
off there and walk away. You are obligated to stick around and make sure some kid doesn't beat up
your kid – even if you're just watching from a bench on the sidelines.” Julia Angwin, How to Keep Kids
Safe Online, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 20, 2009,
Parents need to adopt a “layered”
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123238632055894993.html approach to online child
318 protection that involves many
Nancy E. Willard, Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2007),
www.cskcst.com tools and strategies.
319
Nancy E. Willard, Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats (Champaign, IL: Research Press, 2007).
Parents need to adopt a “layered”
320
See www.csriu.org/documents approach to online child
protection that involves many
tools and strategies.
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 Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) (www.fosi.org) grew out of the Internet
Content Rating Association (ICRA),321 which has been a leader in developing
Internet filtering systems through comprehensive website labeling and metadata
tagging. ICRA’s website labeling efforts are discussed below in the section on
metadata. After reorganizing as FOSI in 2007, the organization’s mission
expanded significantly. It now brings together a diverse group of stakeholders—
industry, academia, government, and more—to develop online safety best
practices and educational initiatives. The organization hosts several major events
internationally each year and has produced an annual State of Online Safety
report.322 Finally, FOSI also hosts a YouTube channel that offers free videos
about online safety and major events it hosts.323
 GetNetWise.org (www.getnetwise.org) is a public service website operated by
the nonprofit Internet Education Foundation (IEF)324 and supported by a wide
array of Internet and computer companies, as well as a host of public interest
organizations and child and family activists.325 GetNetWise’s website offers a
comprehensive “Online Safety Guide” and lengthy inventory of “Tools for
Families” that can be custom-tailored to the needs and values of individual
families.326 IEF also offers a variety of video tutorials that walk users through
how various online safety tools work.327 These videos give users the chance to
get a “hands-on” feel for online safety tools before they purchase or download
them.
 Internet Keep Safe Coalition (www.iKeepSafe.org) is a coalition of 49 state
governors and first spouses, law enforcement officials, the American Medical
Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and many other
corporations328 and private associations (including many of the groups and sites
listed below) that are dedicated to helping parents, educators, and caregivers by
providing tools and guidelines to teach children the safe and healthy use of

321
www.fosi.org/icra
322
www.fosi.org/stateofonlinesafety [Full disclosure: I am a contributor to the State of Online Safety
report and also serve as chairman of FOSI’s advisory council.+
323
www.youtube.com/user/FOSI42
324
www.neted.org
325
Major corporate supporters include Google, Microsoft, Verizon, Amazon.com, Yahoo!, AOL, AT&T,
Comcast, Dell, Earthlink, Visa, Wells Fargo, and the Recording Industry Association of America. Key
public interest organizations include the Center for Democracy and Technology, the American Library
Association, The Children’s Partnership, People for the American Way Foundation, National
Consumers League, and many others.
326
See http://kids.getnetwise.org/safetyguide and http://kids.getnetwise.org/tools
327
www.getnetwise.org/videotutorials
328
Corporate sponsors include AOL, Dell, Disney, Intel, Oracle, Siebel Systems, Symantec, and Yahoo!
among others.

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technology. iKeepSafe uses an animated mascot named Faux Paw the Techno
Cat to teach children the importance of protecting personal information and
avoiding inappropriate places on the Internet. The organization’s website offers
a downloadable “10 Common Questions about Internet Safety” pamphlet 329 and
several video tutorials to help parents set up various filters or controls.330
Exhibit 44: Various Online Safety “Metasites”
GetNetWise iKeepSafe

iSafe NetSmartz

 i-SAFE Inc. (www.iSafe.org) is a nonprofit foundation whose mission is “to
educate students on how to avoid dangerous, inappropriate, or unlawful online
behavior. i-SAFE accomplishes this through dynamic K-12 curriculum and
community outreach programs to parents, law enforcement, and community
leaders. It is the only Internet safety foundation to combine these elements,” its
website claims.331 i-SAFE receives federal grants to support its efforts. The
329
www.ikeepsafe.org/iksc_partners/symantec/10_questions/Assets/TenCommonQuestions.pdf
330
www.ikeepsafe.org/PRC/videotutorials/index.php
331
www.isafe.org/channels/?ch=ai

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organization produces several monthly newsletters, including one for parents (“i-
PARENT Times”) and one for educators (“i-EDUCATOR Times”), and it sells a wide
variety of printed materials on online safety issues for classroom use.
 Net Smartz Workshop (www.NetSmartz.org) is produced by the National Center
for Missing and Exploited Children and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. This
comprehensive website contains web safety tips and educational materials for
parents, preteens, teens, educators, and law enforcement officials. They also
sponsor a site devoted to younger children (www.netsmartzkids.org) that
features interactive online safety games and videos, as well as the NetSmartz
Internet Safety Helpdesk (www.netsmartz411.org), which is sponsored by the
Qwest Foundation.
 Enough is Enough (www.enough.org) focuses on “raising public awareness about
the dangers of Internet pornography and sexual predators, and advance
solutions that promote equality, fairness, and respect for human dignity with
shared responsibility between the public, technology, and the law.”332 Enough is
Enough’s website offers a wide variety of helpful videos, PSAs, and “Rules and
Tools” guidelines.333 Donna Rice Hughes, the president and chairman of EIE,
authored one of the first books about online child safety in 1998, Kids Online:
Protecting Your Children In Cyberspace.334
 WebWiseKids (www.webwisekids.org) is a nonprofit organization “committed to
teaching children and their caregivers strategies for safe Internet use, including
methods of detecting and deterring online predators.”335 It specializes in
interactive software and games that teach kids how to spot online threats and to
deal with them promptly.
 Wired Safety (www.wiredsafety.org) bills itself as “the largest online safety,
education and help group in the world. We are a cyber-neighborhood watch and
operate worldwide in cyberspace through our more than 9,000 volunteers
worldwide.”336 The site offers educational services and online assistance and
reviews family-friendly websites, filtering software, and other Internet services.
Wired Safety also operates or works with several other affiliated online safety
sites, such as:

332
www.enough.org/inside.php?id=E7A5VT6VM
333
www.enough.org/inside.php?id=KXQN5947I
334
Donna Rice Hughes, Kids Online: Protecting Your Children In Cyberspace (Grand Rapids, MI: Revell,
1998).
335
www.wiredwithwisdom.org/who_we_are.asp
336
www.wiredsafety.org/information/about_us.html

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o Wired Cops (www.wiredcops.org or www.cyberlaw-enforcement.org) are
“specially-trained volunteers [who] patrol the Internet looking for child
pornography, child molesters and cyberstalkers.”
o Wired Kids (www.wiredkids.org) is geared toward youngsters and teens
to help them understand online threats and know how to deal with them.
o Teen Angels (www.teenangels.org) “is a group of 13 to 18 year-old
volunteers that have been specially trained by the local law enforcement,
and many other leading safety experts in all aspects of online safety,
privacy, and security. After training for six sessions, the Teenangels run
unique programs in schools to spread the word about responsible and
safe surfing to other teens and younger kids, parents, and teachers.”
o Net Bullies (www.NetBullies.com) aims to protect kids from cyber-
bullying.

Many other excellent websites offer parents and kids outstanding advice about
how to stay safe online, including: Net Family News,337 ProtectKids.com,338
SafeKids.com,339 SafeTeens.com,340 ChatDanger.com,341 StopCyberbullying.org,342
Cyberbully.org,343 and StopTextBully.com.344 CNet.com also offers a very user-friendly
portal for families.345 Finally, excellent examples of how other countries are addressing
the same issues can be found at BeWebAware.ca (Canada),346 BeSafeOnline.org
(Europe),347 KidSmart.org.uk (UK),348 and NetAlert.gov.au (Australia).349

337
http://netfamilynews.org/index.shtml
338
http://protectkids.com
339
www.safekids.com
340
www.safeteens.com
341
www.chatdanger.com
342
www.stopcyberbullying.org
343
www.cyberbully.org
344
www.stoptextbully.com
345
www.cnet.com/2001-13384_1-0.html
346
www.bewebaware.ca
347
www.besafeonline.org
348
www.kidsmart.org.uk
349
www.netalert.gov.au

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Exhibit 45: Books about Online Safety and Sensible Media Use

Several good books are also available that can help parents get a better feel for
how to deal with online concerns in general. Some of the best recent books include
Nancy Willard’s Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens;350 Sharon Miller Cindrich’s e-
Parenting: Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids;351 Larry Magid and Anne Collier’s
MySpace Unraveled: A Parent’s Guide to Teen Social Networking;352 Linda Criddle’s Look
Both Ways: Help Protect Your Family on the Internet;353 Gregory S. Smith’s How to

350
Nancy E. Willard, Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2007),
www.cskcst.com
351
Sharon Miller Cindrich, e-Parenting: Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids (New York: Random House
Reference, 2007), www.pluggedinparent.com
352
Larry Magid and Anne Collier, MySpace Unraveled: A Parent’s Guide to Teen Social Networking
(Berkeley, CA: Peachtree Press, 2007), www.myspaceunraveled.com
353
Linda Criddle, Look Both Ways: Help Protect Your Family on the Internet (Redmond, WA: Microsoft
Press, 2006), http://look-both-ways.com/about/toc.htm

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Protect Your Children on the Internet: A Road Map for Parents and Teachers;354 and
Jason Illian’s MySpace, MyKids: A Parent's Guide to Protecting Your Kids and Navigating
MySpace.com.355

Filters and Monitoring Software
One of the first things that most of these sites and books recommend is that
parents install filtering or monitoring software on the computers their children use.
Parents can either use “client-side” filtering and monitoring tools or rely on the parental
control tools provided by their Internet service provider, often called “server-side”
controls. A discussion of both types of tools follows.

(1) Independent / “Client-Side” Filters and Monitoring Tools: Most parents are
familiar with Internet filtering software and many parents use filters to control their
children’s online surfing activities. Until recently, most filtering software was purchased
at retail stores or downloaded from websites and installed on the user’s personal
computer. These stand-alone or “boxed” filtering solutions are typically referred to as
“client-side” filters. These client-side solutions are still very popular and many different
vendors continue to compete in this market.356

At a minimum, these software tools let parents block access to adult websites
and typically let parents impose time management constraints on their children’s
computer and Internet usage. Increasingly, however, these software packages also
include far more robust monitoring tools that let parents see each website their children
visit, view every e-mail or instant message that they send and receive, or even record
every word that they type into their word processors.357 Many of these stealth
monitoring tools can then send parents a periodic report summarizing their child’s
Internet usage and communications. More robust software programs even allow
parents to capture screen shots of sites their kids have visited. Finally, these tools allow
parents to do all this in a surreptitious fashion since, once the software is installed on a
child’s computer, it is entirely invisible to the user.

Many of these tools include e-mail monitoring capabilities and some are
exclusively tailored to ensuring child-friendly e-mail experiences. For example, ZooBuh
lets parents approve their child’s e-mail contact list and manage file attachments.358 It
354
Gregory S. Smith, How to Protect Your Children on the Internet: A Road Map for Parents and Teachers
(Westport, CT: Praeger, 2007), www.gregoryssmith.com
355
Jason Illian, MySpace, MyKids: A Parent's Guide to Protecting Your Kids and Navigating MySpace.com
(Eugene, OR; Harvest House Publishers, 2007).
356
A comprehensive list of filter providers can be found on David Burt’s “Filtering Facts” blog:
http://filteringfacts.org/filtering/filtering-companies/
357
See Jessica E. Vascellaro & Anjali Athavaley, Foley Scandal Turns Parents Into Web Sleuths, Wall Street
Journal, Oct. 18, 2006, at D1.
358
www.zoobuh.com

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also has a bad-words filter to block foul language and parents can add specific words to
the system they want to see blocked. AOL and Microsoft have similar capabilities built
into their family safety offerings.

Similarly, IMSafer offers a free downloadable tool that can help parents monitor
instant messenger conversations and notify them when their child is engaged in a
potentially dangerous conversation on IM.359 Importantly, the IMSafer tool respects a
child’s privacy since parents are not allowed to read the full transcripts of online
communications. Instead, the application only monitors IM conversations for content
that is considered dangerous. Importantly, however, this includes the trading of phone
numbers or other personal information. Safe Chat Universal Messenger works much the
same way.360 It lets parents block foul language or specific sites and users on various IM
networks, such as MSN, Yahoo, AIM, and ICQ.

Some parents might flinch at this level of child surveillance, but others will find it
entirely appropriate, especially for very young children just getting online.361 Regardless,
a wide variety of such filtering and monitoring tools is available and they can be
calibrated to meet parents’ specific needs and values.

A comprehensive list of these software tools can be found at the GetNetWise.org
website,362 and some of the most popular filtering and monitoring tools are listed in the
adjoining exhibit. Of course, not all filtering and monitoring tools are equal, and
features vary by product. Moreover, tools come and go, and many change over time in
terms of functions and capabilities.

359
www.imsafer.com
360
www.zihtec.com/en/how_safe_chat_protects_children.html
361
As the National Research Council report concluded of monitoring software: “*A+ctive supervision of
children is often appropriate—not because they are criminals but because it is the responsibility of
adults to teach them how to internalize the appropriate values and to become better at avoiding
inappropriate behavior as they mature.” Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National
Research Council, Youth, Pornography, and the Internet (Washington, DC: National Academy Press,
2002), at 315.
362
See www.getnetwise.org

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Exhibit 46: Internet Filtering and Monitoring Software for PCs
AOL Parental Controls (http://parentalcontrols.aol.com)
BeNetSafe (www.benetsafe.com)
Bsafe Online (http://bsafeonline.com)
Clean Internet.com (http://cleaninternet.com)
Content Cleaner (www.contentpurity.com)
CyberPatrol (www.cyberpatrol.com)
Cyber Sentinel (www.cybersentinel.com)
CyberSitter (www.cybersitter.com)
eBlaster (www.spectorsoft.com)
FamiLink (www.familink.com)
Family Cyber Alert (www.itcompany.com)
FilterGate (http://filtergate.com)
FilterPak (www.surfguardian.net/products.shtml)
Guardian Monitor (www.guardiansoftware.com)
IamBigBrother (www.iambigbrother.com)
iShield (www.guardwareinc.com)
K9 Web Protection (www.k9webprotection.com)
KidsNet (www.kidsnet.com)
Livia Web Protection (www.liviaweb.com)
McAfee Internet Security Suite (http://us.mcafee.com)
McGruff SafeGuard (www.GoMcGruff.com)
Microsoft Live One Care (www.windowsonecare.com)
Miss America Kid Safe Web Browser (www.missamericakids.com)
NetIntelligence (www.netintelligence.com)
Netsweeper (www.netsweeper.com)
NetMop (www.netmop.com)
NetNanny (www.netnanny.com)
NoodleNet (www.noodlenet.com)
Norton Online Family (https://onlinefamily.norton.com)
Online Safety Shield (www.onlinesafetyshield.com)
Optenet PC (www.optenetpc.com)
Parental Control Bar (www.wraac.org)
PC Pandora (www.pcpandora.com)
PC Tattletale (www.pctattletale.com)
Razzul (www.kidinnovation.com)
SafeEyes (www.internetsafety.com/safe-eyes)
SafeSquid (www.safesquid.com)
Sentry At Home (www.sentryparentalcontrols.com)
Sentry Remote (www.sentryparentalcontrols.com)
SnoopStick (www.snoopstick.com)
Spector Pro (www.spectorsoft.com)
SoftActivity Keylogger (www.softactivity.com)
Spy Agent (www.spytech-web.com/software.shtml)
Surf On the Safe Side (www.surfonthesafeside.com)
SurfPass (www.cogilab.com)
Surf Recon (www.surfrecon.com)
Trend Micro Internet Security Pro (www.trendmicro.com)
Webroot Parental Controls (www.webroot.com)
WebWatcher (www.awarenesstech.com/parents/index.html)

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Exhibit 47: Filter and Monitoring Software Review Sites
 www.child-internet-safety.com
 www.monitoringsoftwarereviews.org
 http://filteringfacts.org/filtering/filtering-companies
 http://internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com
 www.filterreview.com
 www.download.com/sort/3150-2162_4-0-1-3.html
 www.consumersearch.com/www/software/parental-control-software/index.html
 www.pcmag.com/category2/0,1874,1639158,00.asp

What’s important for parents to keep in mind is that these two types of tools are
complementary. On their own, neither tool is perfect. When used in combination,
however, they provide parents a formidable set of tools to better control their children’s
online activities. As Gregory Smith, author of How to Protect Your Children on the
Internet, notes:

Content filtering and monitoring software has come a long way in the
past few years and is getting more powerful with every new release. That
said, it’s by no means perfect and should not be the only technical
solution that adults rely on to ensure that their kids are doing the right
things and are not putting themselves at risk by posting personal
information or conversing with strangers in cyberspace. That’s where
stealth software… comes into play. It removes any doubt about what
your children are doing on the Internet by providing the clear facts of
their online habits, tools, and even with whom they are conversing,
regardless of the tool used. Stealth software also fills in the gaps that
imperfect content filtering solutions have in the marketplace.363

(2) ISP-Integrated (“Server-Side”) Parental Controls and Filtering Tools: Stand-
alone or “client-side” filtering solutions, such as those described above, dominated the
online parental controls marketplace in the late 1990s. The market has changed
significantly since then, however. Today, Internet service providers (ISPs)—including
major broadband service providers (BSPs)—offer parental control services as part of an
integrated suite of security tools, which typically include anti-virus, anti-spyware, and
anti-Spam tools. These security options are often offered free of charge, or for a small
additional fee, when subscribers sign up for monthly Internet service. And most of these

363
Gregory S. Smith, How to Protect Your Children on the Internet: A Road Map for Parents and Teachers
(Westport, CT: Praeger, 2007), at97-99.

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integrated tools offer automatic updates such that consumers need not manually
download upgrades to stay current.

Thus, millions of parents now have free or quite inexpensive Internet parental
control tools at their disposal as soon as they sign up for Internet access through an ISP.
Of course, parents can also add on other tools or independent filtering and monitoring
solutions such as those outlined earlier.

The adjoining exhibit lists the Internet security websites for major ISPs and
broadband operators and provides screen shots of some of their websites.

Exhibit 48: Internet Security and Parental Control Websites
for Major ISPs and Broadband Operators
 AOL (http://daol.aol.com/security)
 AT&T (www.att.com/smartlimits) + (www.att.com/safety)
 Cablevision (www.powertolearn.com/internet_smarts/index.shtml)
 Charter (www.charter.com/Visitors/NonProducts.aspx?NonProductItem=65)
 Comcast (www.comcast.net/security)
 Cox (www.cox.com/takecharge/internet_controls.asp)
 Earthlink (www.earthlink.net/software/free/parentalcontrols)
 Insight BB (www.insightbb.com/pcsecurity/default.aspx)
 Microsoft (www.microsoft.com/protect)
 NetZero (www.netzero.net/support/security/tools/parental-controls.html)
 Qwest (www.incredibleinternet.com)
 Time Warner (www.timewarnercable.com)
 Verizon (http://parentalcenter.verizon.radialpoint.net)

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Exhibit 49: Major ISP Online Safety Sites
AT&T’s “Smart Limits” Qwest’s “Incredible Internet”

NCTA’s “Point Smart. Click Safe” Verizon’s “Parental Control Center”

Operating Systems and Web Browser Controls
Increasingly, companies like Microsoft and Apple are integrating parental
controls into PC operating systems and web browsers. As Walter Mossberg of The Wall
Street Journal notes, these are “powerful tools to help parents get a handle on their
children’s computing and online activities.”364 “The battle to one-up each other in
parental controls is only going to benefit consumers,” said Chris Swenson, director of
software industry analysis at the research firm the NPD Group. “There’s really no excuse
now for parents not to lock down their PCs for their children.”365

364
Walter S. Mossberg, You Have Weapons in Your Computer to Monitor Your Kids, Wall Street Journal,
June 14, 2007, at B1.
365
Quoted in Stefanie Olsen, Parents the Winner in Leopard, Vista Showdown, CNet News.com, Nov. 20,
2007, www.news.com/Parents-the-winner-in-Leopard%2C-Vista-showdown/2009-1025_3-
6219420.html

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(1) Microsoft’s “Vista” OS and Internet Explorer browser: Released in 2007,
Microsoft’s Windows “Vista” operating system is the company’s first version of
Windows that incorporates embedded family safety tools. As Seth Schiesel of The New
York Times reports, “With Vista, Microsoft has for the first time built a robust set of
parental controls directly into the operating system, not just for gaming but also for
Web browsing, file downloading and instant messaging.”366

Vista lets parents establish “administrator” accounts and then oversee the
individual users—namely, their own children—who are using the PCs. Parents can then
configure the Vista sub-accounts to enable various parental control features and
monitoring tools. They can turn on web filters that will block specific types of potentially
objectionable website content or downloads. Time limits can also be established for the
PC that restrict when or how long the child may use the computer.

Also, much like new video game consoles, Vista will also let parents restrict
video game play by rating or title, and games without ratings can be blocked entirely.
Parents can also see an “activity list” of the sites their child has visited, or attempted to
visit, as well as files and applications that have been downloaded. Applications or
software parents find objectionable can then be blocked from that same screen.367
Importantly, once these parental controls have been enabled within Vista, there is no
need for parents to configure additional controls within Internet Explorer. Vista controls
all Internet Explorer web-browsing activities.

Finally, Microsoft has opened up “application programming interfaces” (APIs) to
third-party software developers so that they can build additional parental control tools
on top of Vista. One of these developers is IMSafer, which was discussed earlier. A
number of other add-ons for Internet Explorer let parents add further layers of controls.

366
Seth Schiesel, For Parents, New Ways to Control the Action, New York Times, Jan. 8, 2007,
www.nytimes.com/2007/01/08/arts/08vist.html?ex=1325912400&en=3bb7bc1b6a470a23&ei=5090&
partner=rssuserland&emc=rss
367
www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/features/forhome/safety.mspx#more

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Exhibit 50: Vista Operating System Parental Controls

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(2) Apple’s OS X “Leopard” and Safari browser: With Apple’s recent release of its
OS X “Leopard” operating system, the company’s parental control tools have grown
more sophisticated and rival Microsoft’s Vista-based controls.368

Apple’s operating system allows parents to establish accounts for their children
and keep tabs on their online activities using monitoring tools and time management
controls. In addition, parents can also build a restricted “buddies list” for their children
and then disallow instant messaging to anyone else. The system can also hide the child’s
online status so that only those pre-approved buddies can see that they are online at
any time.

Apple’s Safari web browser works in conjunction with the Leopard filter to
maintain a safe online experience. Parents can establish whitelists of websites their
children can visit and then other sites will be blacklisted.

Exhibit 51: “Glubble” for the Firefox Web Browser

(3) Firefox / Glubble: Firefox is an independent web browser that managed by
the non-profit Mozilla Foundation. Although Mozilla does not offer parental controls
directly for the Firefox browser, third parties are free to devise and offer parental
control tools as “add-ons” to the browser. “Glubble” is one such example.369 Once the
program is loaded onto a user’s computer, Glubble locks the Firefox browser such that a
password is required before a user can access the Internet. Parents can then establish a
user account for their children that only allows them access to a set of pre-screened,
kid-friendly websites.
368
www.apple.com/macosx/features/parentalcontrols.html
369
www.glubble.com

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(4) KidZui: KidZui is a kid-friendly browser that works with both Windows and
Apple-based operating systems.370 As of October 2008, the service was providing access
to over 1.5 million kid-friendly websites, videos, and pictures that had all been pre-
screened by over 200 trained teachers and parents.371 The company employs a rigorous
5-step “content selection process” to determine if it is acceptable for kids between 3-12
years of age.372 Parents are also sent an activity report for their child to see what they
have been viewing. The service costs $39.95 a year, or $7.95 a month to access all
services, but a stripped-down version of the software is also available free.373 Finally, in
July 2009, KidZui partnered with cable operator Comcast to offer its portal to Comcast
subscribers across America at no additional charge to them.374

Exhibit 52: KidZui Web Browser

370
www.kidzui.com
371
www.marketwire.com/press-release/Kidzui-909109.html
372
www.kidzui.com/contentselection
373
For an independent review of the KidZui service, see: Walter Mossberg, KidZui’s Parent Plan Lets
Children Explore in Safe Corner of Web, Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2008, at B1,
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120597536349250547.html?mod=technology_featured_stories_hs;
Amy Tiemann, Kidzui Creates a New Online Environment for Kids, CNet News ParentThesis Blog, March
20, 2008, www.cnet.com/8301-13507_1-9900282-18.html
374
Comcast Corp., Comcast Launches Award-Winning KidZui, a Safe, Comprehensive Internet Portal for
Kids, July 22, 2009.

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(4) Other “Child-Safe” Browsers: There are other kid-friendly browsers that
operate much like KidZui and Glubble. They include Browser Buddy,375 KidRocket,376
KIDO’Z,377 Noodle Net,378 Hoopah Kidview Computer Explorerand379 and Peanut Butter
PC.380 Neil Rubenking of PC Mag.com notes that “Child-safe browsers strip away a lot of
the complexity of Internet Explorer or Firefox. They generally block pop-ups, allow only
one page to be open at a time, and suppress confusing right-click menus. Typically
you’ll find just a few big buttons—perhaps just a Home and a Back button. And they
limit the sites kids can visit.” These browsers also lock children out of the rest of mom
and dad’s PC so that they cannot access or delete important files on the hard drive.381

“Safe Search” Engine Filters and Web Portals for Kids
Parents can also use tools embedded in search engines to block a great deal of
potentially objectionable content that children might inadvertently stumble upon during
searches. For example, Google offers a SafeSearch feature that allows users to filter
unwanted content. Users can customize their SafeSearch settings by clicking on the
“Preferences” link to the right of the search box on the Google.com home page. 382 Users
can choose “moderate filtering,” which “excludes most explicit images from Google
Image Search results but doesn’t filter ordinary web search results,” or “strict filtering,”
which applies the SafeSearch filtering controls to all search engine results.

Similarly, Yahoo! has a SafeSearch tool that can be found under the
“Preferences” link on the “My Web” tab.383 Like Google, Yahoo! allows strict or
moderate filtering. Microsoft’s Live Search works largely the same way.384 Other search
engine providers such as AltaVista,385 AskJeeves,386 HotBot,387 Lycos,388 and
AllTheWeb,389 also provide filtering tools. Working in conjunction with other filters,
these search engine tools are quite effective in blocking a significant amount of
potentially objectionable content.
375
www.buddybrowser.com
376
http://kidrocket.org/
377
www.kidoz.net
378
www.noodlenet.com
379
www.hoopah.com
380
www.peanutbuttersoftware.com
381
See Neil J. Rubenking, “Child-Safe Browsers,” PC Mag.com, July 15, 2008,
www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2325581,00.asp.
382
www.google.com/intl/en/help/customize.html#safe
383
http://myweb.yahoo.com
384
http://search.msn.com/settings.aspx
385
www.altavista.com/web/ffset?ref=/
386
www.ask.com/webprefs
387
www.hotbot.com/prefs_filters.asp
388
http://search.lycos.com/adv.php?query=&adf=
389
www.alltheweb.com/customize?backurl=Lw&withjs=1

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Exhibit 53: “Safe Search” Filtering Tools
Google

Yahoo

Microsoft

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A better approach to use with younger children is to direct them to search
engines or web portals geared toward younger audiences. Several excellent websites,
such as those listed in an adjoining exhibit, let kids search numerous sites without
stumbling upon adult-oriented material.390 Better yet, they direct children to sites and
information that are educational and enriching. In essence, these search portals are
massive white lists of acceptable sites and content that have been pre-screened to
ensure that they are appropriate for very young web surfers. The only downside of using
such services is that a lot of wonderful material available on the World Wide Web might
be missed, but many parents will be willing to make that trade-off since they desire
greater protection of their children from potentially objectionable content.

Exhibit 54: Kid-Friendly Internet Search Engines and Web Portals
 ALA’s Great Web Sites for Kids (www.ala.org/greatsites)
 AOL for Kids (U.S.) (http://kids.aol.com)
 AOL for Kids (Canada) (http://canada.aol.com/aolforkids)
 Ask Kids (www.askkids.com)
 Awesome Library for Kids (www.awesomelibrary.org)
 Diddabdoo (www.dibdabdoo.com)
 Education World (www.education-world.com)
 Fact Monster (www.factmonster.com)
 FirstGov for Kids (www.kids.gov)
 KidsClick (www.kidsclick.org)
 Kid Zui (www.kidzui.com)
 Noodle Net (www.noodlenet.com)
 NetTrekker (www.nettrekker.com)
 SearchEdu.com (www.searchedu.com)
 Surfing the Net with Kids (www.surfnetkids.com)
 TekMom’s Search Tools for Students (www.tekmom.com/search)
 ThinkQuest (www.thinkquest.org)
 Yahoo! Kids (http://kids.yahoo.com)

More Online Content-Tailoring Options and Kid-Friendly Websites
The child-friendly web portals discussed above generally direct children to
informational and educational sites and resources. There are many other ways to tailor
the web-surfing experience to a family’s specific needs and values. The Internet is full of
wonderful sites dedicated to kids and teens. Many have an educational focus, whereas
others offer enjoyable games and activities for children. The adjoining exhibit highlights

390
This lists builds on the excellent compendium of sites listed at the Search Engine Watch website:
http://searchenginewatch.com/showPage.html?page=2156191

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some of the best of these websites, but this list only scratches the surface. If parents
wanted, they could configure their web browsers to access only sites such as these and
then block access to all other webpages.

Exhibit 55: Child- and Teen-Oriented Websites & Virtual Worlds
 Candy Stand (www.candystand.com)
 Clever Island (www.cleverisland.com)
 Club Penguin (www.clubpenguin.com)
 Disney’s Club Blast (http://disney.go.com/blast)
 Disney’s DGamer (http://disney.go.com/dxd2/index.html?channel=68447)
 Disney’s Playhouse (http://disney.go.com/playhouse/today/index.html)
 Disney Toontown Online (http://play.toontown.com)
 Everything Girl (http://pollypocket.everythinggirl.com)
 Fun Brain (www.funbrain.com)
 Habbo (www.habbo.com)
 HBO Family Games (www.hbofamily.com/games)
 Iland5 (www.iland5.com)
 Kaboose Family Network (www.kaboose.com)
 Kaboose FunSchool (http://funschool.kaboose.com)
 KidsClick (www.kidsclick.org)
 KidsFirst (www.kidsfirst.org)
 My Secret Circle (http://mysecretcircle.com)
 NeoPets (www.neopets.com)
 Net Smartz Kids (www.netsmartzkids.org)
 Nickelodeon Games (www.nick.com/games)
 Nick Jr. Playtime (www.nickjr.com/playtime)
 Nicktropolis (www.nicktropolis.com)
 Noggin Games (www.noggin.com/games)
 PopCap (www.popcap.com)
 PBS Kids (http://pbskids.org/go)
 Surfing the Net with Kids (www.surfnetkids.com)
 Webkinz (www.webkinz.com)
 Yahoo! Kids (http://kids.yahoo.com)
 YoKidsYo (www.yokidsyo.com)
 Zeeks (www.zeeks.com)
 ZoeysRoom.com (www.zoeysroom.com)
 Zwinky Cuties (www.zwinkycuties.com)

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Social Networking Site Safety & Cyberbullying Concerns
Social networking websites have become wildly popular with teenagers in recent
years. Sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Xanga, Bebo, LiveJournal, and Windows Live
Spaces attract millions of users and represent just a few of the hundreds of social
networking sites (SNS) online today.391 These sites offer their users the space and tools
to build the equivalent of an online journal and to easily network with others. It seems
that new sites surface every week, growing ever-more personalized in an attempt to
appeal to specific niches.392 Social networking services are also being integrated into
gaming consoles, and many video games increasingly feature interactive social
networking features.393

Many parents and policymakers have grown quite concerned about how
youngsters use these social networking sites and services. These concerns have
prompted lawmakers to introduce legislation to ban access to such sites in schools and
libraries.394 Others, including several state attorneys general, want such sites to age-
verify all users to exclude those over or under a certain age.395 Proposals to impose age
verification schemes on social networking websites are discussed in more detail in
Section V.B.396

391
For a list of notable social networking sites, see
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_networking_websites
392
See Robert D. Hof, There’s Not Enough ‘Me’ in MySpace, Business Week, Dec. 4, 2006, at 40.
393
Walaika Haskins, Gamin’s Play for Social Networks, Tech News World, May 12, 2008,
www.technewsworld.com/story/social-networking/62953.html
394
In the 109th Congress, former Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced the Deleting Online
Predators Act (DOPA), which proposed a ban on social networking sites in public schools and libraries.
DOPA passed the House of Representatives shortly thereafter by a lopsided 410-15 vote, but failed to
pass the Senate. The measure was reintroduced just a few weeks into the 110th Congress by Senator
Ted Stevens (R-AK), the ranking minority member and former chairman of the Senate Commerce
Committee. It was section 2 of a bill that Sen. Stevens sponsored titled the “Protecting Children in the
21st Century Act” (S. 49). See Declan McCullagh, Chat Rooms Could Face Expulsion, CNet News.com,
July 28, 2006, http://news.com.com/2100-1028_3-6099414.html?part=rss&tag=6099414&subj=news;
Anne Broache, “Congress Off to Slow Start with Tech,” ZDNet News, Jan. 9, 2007,
http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9588_22-6148312.html
395
Susan Haigh, Conn. Bill Would Force MySpace Age Check , Yahoo News.com, March 7, 2007,
www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17502005
396
Also see Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Social Networking and Age Verification:
Many Hard Questions; No Easy Solutions, Progress on Point 14.5, March 21, 2007. www.pff.org/issues-
pubs/pops/pop14.5ageverification.pdf

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Exhibit 56:
A Snapshot of Teen Online Social Networking Activity, 2006
o 55% of online teens (ages 12-17) had online profiles at the end of 2006.
o Among the teens who have profiles, 66% of them say that their profile is not visible to all
internet users. They limit access to their profiles in some way.
o Among those whose profiles can be accessed by anyone online, 46% say they give at
least a little and sometimes a good deal of false information on their profiles. Teens post
fake information to protect themselves, but also to be playful or silly.
o Most teens are using the networks to stay in touch with people they already know, either
friends that they see a lot (91% of social networking teens have done this) or friends that
they rarely see in person (82%).
o 49% of social network users say they use the networks to make new friends.
o 32% of online teens have been contacted by strangers online – this could be any kind of
online contact, not necessarily contact through social network sites.
o 21% of teens who have been contacted by strangers have engaged an online stranger to
find out more information about that person (that translates to 7% of all online teens).
o 23% of teens who have been contacted by a stranger online say they felt scared or
uncomfortable because of the online encounter (that translates to 7% of all online teens).

Of the 55% of online teens who have profiles; here is a rundown of the kinds of information
they post:

o 82% of profile creators have included their first name in their profiles
o 79% have included photos of themselves.
o 66% have included photos of their friends.
o 61% have included the name of their city or town.
o 49% have included the name of their school.
o 40% have included their instant message screen name.
o 40% have streamed audio to their profile.
o 39% have linked to their blog.
o 29% have included their email address.
o 29% have included their last names.
o 29% have included videos.
o 2% have included their cell phone numbers.
o 6% of online teens and 11% of profile-owning teens post their first and last names on
publicly-accessible profiles.
o 3% of online teens and 5% of profile-owning teens disclose their full names.

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, Teens, Privacy & Online Social Networks, April
18, 2007, www.pewinternet.org

These concerns are not surprising. “People naturally fear what they do not
understand,” says Jason Illian, author of MySpace, MyKids.397 But, “regardless of how
you feel about the Internet and online communities, they are here to stay… Likewise,
we’re not going to stop our teenagers from chatting online and meeting new people.
We just need to teach them how to do it properly so that they don’t get hurt.”398

397
Jason Illian, MySpace, MyKids (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2007), at 10.
398
Id., at 11.

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To begin, parents need to understand social networking websites, quite unlike
other “professional” websites, feature a great deal of “amateur” user-generated
content. This makes it more difficult for filters or other parental control tools to screen
out potentially undesirable material (although many traditional filtering providers are
improving their systems to account for material and information shared on social
networking sites.)399 Fortunately, most mainstream social networking sites take steps to
pre-screen many of the images that are uploaded to their sites and to block
objectionable material. But it will be impossible for website operators to control
everything that is said or posted in light of the sheer volume of material and user-to-
user communication taking place. But it will be impossible for website operators to
control everything that is said or posted in light of the sheer volume of material and
human communication taking place.

Parents will need to determine which social networking sites are right for their
children. As the SNS marketplace evolves and grows, niche SNS are developing that are
tailored to specific age groups or interests. Parents of pre-teens should be particularly
careful about letting their kids go on social networking sites. But there are some smaller
social networking sites or virtual worlds such as ClubPenguin.com,400
ZoeysRoom.com,401 and Nicktropolis402 that have extremely strict enlistment policies,
primarily because they target or allow younger users.403 Some of these sites also tightly
limit chat capabilities to ensure added safety.404 These sites are discussed in more detail
in the section on age verification in Section V.B. Parents could also use the “walled
garden” browser tools like Glubble and KidZui, which were highlighted above.

Parents of tweens and teens will need to consider additional solutions once their
kids grow tired of those sites and service and want to move on to more mainstream
social networking sites. Monitoring software could certainly be part of the answer.
Many monitoring tools, discussed earlier, give parents a clear idea of how much time
their kids spend online, the specific sites they are visiting, and with whom they are
conversing. In January 2008, MySpace.com announced a major agreement with 49 state
Attorneys General aimed at better protecting children online.405 (This agreement is

399
See David Burt, Filtering Industry to Social Networking with Monitoring, Filtering Facts, June 15, 2009,
http://filteringfacts.org/2009/06/15/filtering-industry-adapts-to-social-networking-with-monitoring
400
www.clubpenguin.com
401
www.zoeysroom.com
402
www.nicktropolis.com
403
A comprehensive list of such sites is available from Virtual Worlds Management:
www.virtualworldsmanagement.com/2008/youthworlds.html
404
Mike Musgrove, Kid e-Land, Washington Post, May 16, 2008, at D1, www.washingtonpost.com/wp-
dyn/content/article/2008/05/15/AR2008051503762.html
405
Anne Barnard, MySpace Agrees to Lead Fight to Stop Sex Predators, New York Times, Jan. 15, 2008,
www.nytimes.com/2008/01/15/us/15myspace.html?ref=us. Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom

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discussed in more detail in Section IV.D). As part of that agreement, MySpace pledged
to take various steps to enhance site safety and privacy.406 Facebook.com struck a
similar agreement with AGs following MySpace.

Exhibit 57: MySpace.com’s Safety & Security Website

Additional tips for parents about social networking sites can be found in two very
accessible booklets: MySpace Unraveled: A Parent’s Guide to Teen Social Networking, by
Larry Magid and Anne Collier407 and MySpace, MyKids, by Jason Illlian.408 Also, the
Federal Trade Commission’s OnGuardOnline.gov website offers “Social Networking
Safety Tips for Tweens and Teens” as well as “A Parent’s Guide” to social networking
sites.409 And the Federal Bureau of Investigation offers “A Parent’s Guide to Internet

Foundation, The MySpace-AG Agreement: A Model Code of Conduct for Social Networking? Progress
on Point 15.1, Jan. 2008, www.pff.org/issues-pubs/pops/pop15.1myspaceAGagreement.pdf
406
News Corp., MySpace and Attorneys General Announce Joint Effort to Promote Industry-Wide Internet
Safety Principles, Press Release, Jan. 14, 2008, www.newscorp.com/news/news_363.html
407
Larry Magid and Anne Collier, MySpace Unraveled: A Parent’s Guide to Teen Social Networking
(Berkeley, CA: Peachtree Press, 2007), at 2, www.myspaceunraveled.com.
408
Jason Illian, MySpace, MyKids (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2007).
409
http://onguardonline.gov/socialnetworking_youth.html and
http://onguardonline.gov/socialnetworking.html

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Safety” on its website offering similar advice.410 MySpace.com also offers safety tips for
kids and parents on its site,411 which includes an “Official Parent and Family Guide” to
help them understand how to keep their kids safe online.412 GetNetWise.org also offers
excellent step-by-step video tutorials about how to establish privacy settings on major
social networking sites to keep your online activities more private.413

Parents should realize that social networks offer them a “window into the world”
their kids are living in. As Jason Illian notes of MySpace, but is also true of all other social
networking sites and activities in which our kids engage:

Believe it or not, MySpace can be a great tool for parents. It can be a
second pair of eyes and ears for those who want to better understand
their children and the challenges they face. Parents can use this virtual
community to monitor, interact with, and encourage their kids like never
before.
In many instances, MySpace doesn’t create problems, it simply reveals
them. Teenagers face difficult decisions and peer pressure nearly every
day. Some parents don’t want to admit that their children struggle with
sexual temptations, drinking opportunities, drug-related issues,
depression, or loneliness. But most teenagers do face most of those
pressures. In the past, parents were able to turn a blind eye to these
issues and act as if they didn’t exist. But in the virtual world, teens are
writing down their problems and reaching out for help. Instead of
guessing about our ignoring the issues that teenagers have, we have the
unique opportunity through portals such as MySpace to understand their
problems and provide help.414
Finally, as was outlined in Section II.C, parents should discuss proper online
etiquette with their children before they allow them to get online or visit social
networking sites. The websites and books mentioned above can greatly assist parents in
this regard.

A particular concern for many parents is cyberbullying, which is a growing
problem. Luckily, sites are responding with new tools and reporting features. Sue
Shellenbarger of the Wall Street Journal notes that “YouTube and some social-

410
www.fbi.gov/publications/pguide/pguidee.htm
411
www.myspace.com/Modules/Common/Pages/SafetyTips.aspx
412
MySpace.com, The Official Parent and Family Guide,
http://cms.myspacecdn.com/cms/SafetySite/documents/MySpaceParentGuide.pdf
413
http://kids.getnetwise.org/safetyguide/technology/socialnetworking
414
Jason Illian, MySpace, MyKids (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2007), at 13.

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networking sites are making it easier to report abuses such as cyberbullying, in which
kids—and, appallingly, some adults—use online postings and emails to hurt others. The
trend puts more tools in the hands of parents whose kids are the targets or the
perpetrators of bullying.”415 Moreover, when children place cyberbullying videos online,
it gives school administrators, law enforcement authorities, and others the chance to
review the incident, track down the parties involved, and intervene as is appropriate.416

In late 2008, YouTube created a new “Abuse and Safety Center” to make it easier
for users to report abusive behavior or inappropriate content.417 The site makes it easy
for users to find helpful information from various expert organizations who deal with
troubling behavior. For example, if a YouTube user reports “hateful content,” they are
directed to tips from the Anti-Defamation League. Similarly, information from the
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is provided to those who report suicide concerns,
and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children provides information and links
about sexual abuse of minors. YouTube also has strict “community guidelines”
governing appropriate behavior on the site.418 Finally, in May 2009, YouTube announced
a new “Filter W*rds” program that lets users block profanity and racial slurs. According
to the site: “Users can opt into this by clicking on ‘Options’ next to the Comments
header and checking the ‘Filter W*rds’ box. Users can also choose to hide comments
altogether by clicking on ‘Hide Comments.’” Those user preferences will then be saved
by the browser. According to YouTube, the site uses “a combination of feedback from
users, proprietary technology, and a commonsense collection of words in English to
decide what to filter.”419

415
Sue Shellenbarger, Cyberbully Alert: Web Sites Make It Easier to Flag Trouble, Wall Street Journal, Dec.
16, 2008, http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB122947489283812469-
lMyQjAxMDI4MjE5NzQxNzc0Wj.html
416
For example, following a skirmish at Beaufort High School in South Carolina that was captured on
video and uploaded to YouTube, Beaufort Police Chief Matt Clancy told his local paper that a video of a
fight or any other crime posted online makes the job of investigators easier when identifying possible
suspects. “It’s a great tool for us,” he told the Beaufort Gazette. “You’ve got it on video, and you can
identify the person and see what they're doing.” See Patrick Donohue, YouTube Gives Beaufort High
Skirmish Wide Exposure, Beaufort Gazette.com, April 2, 2009,
www.islandpacket.com/1482/story/802554.html
417
Safety, Education, and Empowerment on YouTube, Google Public Policy Blog, Dec. 11, 2008,
http://googlepublicpolicy.blogspot.com/2008/12/safety-education-and-empowerment-on.html
418
YouTube Community Guidelines, www.youtube.com/t/community_guidelines. Also see Comments of
Google Inc., Implementation of the Child Safe Viewing Act; Examination of Parental Control
Technologies for Video or Audio Programming, MB Docket No. 09-26, April 16, 2009, at 7,
http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520213673
419
http://help.youtube.com/support/youtube/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=147963

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Exhibit 58: You Tube “Abuse & Safety Help Center”

The Importance of Website Labeling, Metadata Tagging, and Community Policing
Many of the parental control tools mentioned throughout this study rely on
labeling schemes and metadata tagging. As was explained in previous sections,
metadata are machine-readable digital data that describe audiovisual media content.
For example, MPAA movie ratings and ESRB video game ratings are digitally embedded
within DVDs and video games so that other parental control tools (i.e., DVD players,
computers, video game consoles, etc.) can then be used to screen out unwanted
content.

This same approach can work for Internet websites. Machine-readable content
descriptors can be embedded within websites or online content to “tag” the sites or
material. Once tagged, the sites or content can be automatically screened by other
devices (i.e., filters, operating systems, etc.) regardless of how that content is accessed.

The Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA),420 which is part of the Family
Online Safety Institute (FOSI),421 is helping to develop improved Internet filtering
systems through comprehensive website labeling and metadata tagging. ICRA has
created a wide variety of content descriptors that website operators can use to self-
label their sites. ICRA does not rate Internet websites or the content itself. It leaves it
to the content providers to do that using the ICRA labeling system.422 ICRA’s website
provides additional detail about how the system works:

420
www.fosi.org/icra
421
www.fosi.org
422
For a description of the ICRA labels and the labeling process, see www.icra.org/label/generator

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The centerpiece of the organization is the descriptive vocabulary, often
referred to as “the ICRA questionnaire.” Content providers check which
of the elements in the questionnaire are present or absent from their
websites. This then generates a small file containing the labels that is
then linked to the content on one or more domains.…
The descriptive vocabulary was drawn up by an international panel and
designed to be as neutral and objective as possible. It was revised in 2005
to enable easier application to a wide range of digital content, not just
websites. Most of the items in the questionnaire allow the content
provider to declare simply that a particular type of content is present or
absent. The subjective decision about whether to allow access to that
content is then made by the parent.423
Once these metadata labels have been embedded within websites, parents can
freely download the ICRAplus filter from ICRA’s website and customize it to their specific
needs / tastes.424 Or they can use unaffiliated filters or computer operating system
controls to screen content by ICRA labels.

Other metadata labeling initiatives exist. The Association of Sites Advocating
Child Protection (ASACP), a nonprofit
organization founded in 1996 by the adult
entertainment industry to eliminate child
pornography from the Internet.425 ASCAP Many of the parental control tools
also works to help parents prevent mentioned throughout this study
children from viewing age-inappropriate rely on labeling schemes and
material online through its “Restricted to metadata tagging. This same
Adults” (RTA) website metadata labeling approach can work for Internet
initiative.426
The RTA label is a general websites.
descriptor that all adult entertainment
website operators are encouraged to use
to help parents who wish to block all such content. Incidentally, websites using the RTA
metadata tag can use it in conjunction with more descriptive ICRA metadata labels.
Many of the parental control tools
Microsoft also has an “Essential Metadatamentioned
Initiative”throughout
that worksthis study
in conjunction
rely on labeling schemes
with a wide variety of organizations to develop digital metadata tags for media and
metadata tagging. This same
approach can work for Internet
websites.
423
See “About ICRA,” www.fosi.org/icra
424
www.icra.org/icraplus
425
www.asacp.org
426
www.rtalabel.org Many of the parental control tools
mentioned throughout this study
rely on labeling schemes and
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approach can work for Internet
websites.
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content.427 Specifically, Microsoft works closely with the Geneva, Switzerland-based
International Standard Audiovisual Number International Agency (ISAN-IA), which
operates the International Standard Audiovisual Number (ISAN). ISAN is a widely
recognized, global content labeling system for digital audiovisual material.428

Although it is generally known as a system to help content creators manage their
intellectual property rights, ISAN tags can also be useful in identifying many other
attributes of the underlying content in question. Specifically, content rating and labeling
information can be embedded within the ISAN tag. Microsoft products such as Vista and
Internet Explorer can read ISAN metadata tags and then filter accordingly. 429 And the
motion picture industry is using ISAN tags to better identify its content, and rating
information from various countries is included in those tags.430 According to Patrick
Attallah, ISAN Managing Director, as of April 2007, the ISAN identification and metadata
system supported over 90 different content-specific tags and more than 50 worldwide
rating systems in over 35 languages.431

Metadata tagging can also be done by average users for a great deal of user-
generated content.432 On popular websites like YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, and others,
individuals can label much of their content with various descriptors. And these and
other sites also allow readers or viewers to tag the content created or posted by others.
Most sites also allow users to flag inappropriate or content or abusive communications.
Website operators can then deal with the offending content or individuals.433

427
“International Organization Licenses Microsoft’s New Multicolor Bar Code Technology for Identifying
Audiovisual Works,” Microsoft Corporation, Press Release, April 16, 2007,
www.microsoft.com/Presspass/press/2007/apr07/04-16MSBarCodePR.mspx
428
www.isan.org
429
Kevin J. Comerford & Michael A. Dolan, Microsoft Corporation, ISAN Implementation in Windows
Media Technologies, May 2006,
www.isan.org/docs/ISAN%20Implementation%20in%20WindowsMedia%20May%202006.pdf
430
Motion Picture Association of America, Audiovisual Works Identification for the Motion Picture Studio:
Conceptual, Operational, and Technical, 2007.
431
E-mail conversation on April 17, 2007, on record with author.
432
Dan Farber, The Next Big Thing: User-Contributed Metadata, ZD Net.com, Oct. 29, 2007,
http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=6779&tag=nl.e550
433
This is how the process works at YouTube.com: “Flagged videos are reviewed for compliance with the
guidelines 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Users can also contact YouTube directly with privacy,
harassment, or bullying complaints through the Help & Safety Tool. The Help & Safety Tool lets users
report concerns to the YouTube team, block comments from specific other users and disable the video
comments feature on videos. Users who repeatedly violate guidelines have their accounts
terminated.” Comments of Google Inc., Implementation of the Child Safe Viewing Act; Examination of
Parental Control Technologies for Video or Audio Programming, MB Docket No. 09-26, April 16, 2009,
at 7, http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520213673

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Internet and Computing Tips for Parents

 Place computers in an area of the home where you can keep an eye on what
your kids are doing.
 Teach your children basic etiquette as they start to use more interactive and
online services, such as e-mail, blogs, and instant messaging. (See Section IIC
above for details).
 Do not allow pre-teens to go into chat rooms or on social networking sites
unsupervised, if at all. Talk to teenagers about safe online interactions and
proper behavior.
 Use a “layered” approach to online child protection that involves ISP-integrated
filters or independent filtering software, monitoring and time management
tools, “safe search” search engine controls, and other tools included in your
computer’s operating system or web browser. Contact your ISP or software
vendor for assistance in installing Internet controls and make sure they are set to
update automatically.
 Begin your search for these tools, and collect more helpful tips about online
monitoring, by visiting helpful sites such as iKeepSafe.org, GetNetWise.org,
StaySafe.org, NetSmartz.org, WiredSafety.org, and the many others listed in this
chapter.
 Enable Internet controls in other media devices (such as gaming consoles or cell
phones) if those devices allow online access.

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IV. The Importance of Media Literacy and
Consumer Education

As stressed from the outset, while tools and technologies are important and
have their place, education (in the broadest sense of the word) must serve as the
foundation of child safety efforts. Toward that end, this chapter will examine the
importance of various educational strategies and initiatives.

A. Why Media Literacy Is Important
Everyone understands what is meant by literacy. It’s about being able to read
and write, of course. But more importantly, it is about comprehension and critical
thinking skills. To be “media literate,” therefore, is to apply such skills when consuming
media. It means we can effectively analyze, comprehend, and critique the media we
consume. “To be a functioning adult in a mediated society,” notes a report from the
Center for Media Literacy, “one needs to be able to distinguish between different media
forms and know how to ask basic questions about everything we watch, read, or
hear.”434 Those questions include:

 What message or values are they trying to convey here?
 How was this made? Who was behind it?
 Is this fact or fiction? Fantasy or reality?
 Is there another perspective I should seek out on this issue?
 Could the story have been told or reported differently?
 What facts or values were left out?
 Where can I find the missing information or perspectives?
 How would others feel about this?
 Are they trying to sell me something? Is it really right for me?
 Is there something better I could be doing with my time?

Some of these critical thinking skills come to us naturally. Some are instilled by
parents, but perhaps not regularly enough. “Simple questions about the media can start
even at the toddler stage,” argue Center for Media Literacy scholars. This brings us back
the excellent advice of the National Research Council blue-ribbon panel: “teaching a
child to swim—and when to avoid pools—is a far safer approach than relying on locks,
fences, and alarms to prevent him or her from drowning.”435

434 st
Elizabeth Thoman & Tessa Jolls, Center for Media Literacy, Literacy for the 21 Century: An Overview
and Orientation Guide to Media Literacy Education, 2005, at 10,
www.medialit.org/reading_room/article540.html
435
Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council, Youth, Pornography,
and the Internet (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2002), at 187.

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B. Promoting Media Literacy and Consumer Education

(1) In the Classroom: Unfortunately, it is clear that not nearly enough media
literacy instruction is being done within America’s educational process at any level. For
the most part, media literacy is not routinely integrated into the curricula at elementary
school, secondary school, high school, or college. Michael Kaiser, Executive Director of
the National Cyber Security Alliance, notes that, “in the majority of K-12 schools across
the country, including many in California, comprehensive cybereducation is not part of
the curriculum. Today, just five states have mandated Internet safety be taught to K-12
students. Only 25 percent of educators, surveyed for a recent National Cyber Security
Alliance study, felt prepared to teach basic online safety and security principles.” 436

Exhibit 59: Virginia’s “Guidelines and Resources for Internet Safety in Schools”

This situation must be reversed, and it wouldn’t take much to make it happen.
After all, these are simple principles. These lessons could be drilled into children from a
young age as part of other routine studies. And beyond basic media literacy, extensive
Internet safety training should also be part of the mix. In September 2006, the
Commonwealth of Virginia produced an outstanding report entitled “Guidelines and
Resources for Internet Safety in Schools” that can serve as model legislation for other
states in this regard.437 The text of the enabling legislation is shown below.438

436
Michael Kaiser, California Schools Need to Start Teaching Internet Security to Kids, San Jose Mercury
News, April 26, 2009, http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_12205836?nclick_check=1
437
Guidelines and Resources for Internet Safety in Schools, Commonwealth of Virginia, Sept. 2006,
www.doe.virginia.gov/VDOE/Technology/OET/internet-safety-guidelines-resources.pdf. The
Washington Post discussed the rollout of the new safety plan in a May 2008 front-page article: Theresa

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Exhibit 60: Virginia’s Model Bill for Internet Safety Instruction
VIRGINIA ACTS OF ASSEMBLY
An Act to amend and reenact § 22.1-70.2 of the Code of Virginia, relating to Internet safety instruction in
schools. [H 58] Approved. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1. That § 22.1-70.2 of the Code of Virginia is amended and reenacted as follows:
§ 22.1-70.2 Acceptable Internet use policies for public and private schools.

A. Every two years, each division superintendent shall file with the Superintendent of Public Instruction an acceptable
use policy, approved by the local school board, for the international network of computer systems commonly known
as the Internet. At a minimum, the policy shall contain provisions that:

(i) are designed to prohibit use by division employees and students of the division's computer equipment and
communications services for sending, receiving, viewing, or downloading illegal material via the Internet;
(ii) seek to prevent access by students to material that the school division deems to be harmful to juveniles as
defined in § 18.2-390;
(iii) select a technology for the division's computers having Internet access to filter or block Internet access through
such computers to child pornography as set out in § 18.2-374.1:1 and obscenity as defined in § 18.2-372; and
(iv) establish appropriate measures to be taken against persons who violate the policy; and
(v) include a component on Internet safety for students that is integrated in a division's instructional program. The
policy may include such other terms, conditions, and requirements as deemed appropriate, such as requiring written
parental authorization for Internet use by juveniles or differentiating acceptable uses among elementary, middle, and
high school students.

B. The superintendent shall take such steps as he deems appropriate to implement and enforce the division's policy.

C. On or before December 1, 2000, and biennially thereafter, the Superintendent of Public Instruction shall submit a
report to the Chairmen of the House Committee on Education, the House Committee on Science and Technology, and
the Senate Committee on Education and Health which summarizes the acceptable use policies filed with the
Superintendent pursuant to this section and the status thereof.

D. In addition to the foregoing requirements regarding public school Internet use policies, the principal or other chief
administrator of any private school that satisfies the compulsory school attendance law pursuant to § 22.1-254 and
accepts federal funds for Internet access shall select a technology for its computers having Internet access to filter or
block Internet access through such computers to child pornography as set out in § 18.2-374.1:1 and obscenity as
defined in § 18.2-372.

E. The Superintendent of Public Instruction shall issue guidelines to school divisions regarding instructional programs
related to Internet Safety.

2. That within 45 days of the enactment of this act, the Superintendent of Public Instruction shall issue a
superintendent's memorandum advising school divisions of the provisions in this act and encourage cooperation with
local law enforcement agencies in its implementation.

State and local officials need to follow the road map outlined by Virginia and
begin integrating media literacy and Internet safety lessons into educational curricula at
every level. Librarians need to be trained to play a role, too. And funding needs to be
provided for all those efforts.

Vargas, “Virginia Tired to Ensure Students’ Safety in Cybersapce,” Washington Post, May 3, 2008, at
A1, www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/02/AR2008050203831.html?sub=AR
438
http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?061+ful+HB58ER

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Exhibit 61: Media Literacy Organizations or Efforts
 Action Coalition for Media Education (www.acmecoalition.org)
 Cable in the Classroom (www.ciconline.org)
 Center for Media Literacy (www.medialit.org)
 Children and the Media [a PBS project] (www.pbs.org/parents/childrenandmedia)
 Common Sense Media (http://www.commonsensemedia.org/digital-citizenship)
 Media Awareness Network [Canada]
(www.media-awareness.ca/english/corporate/about_us/index.cfm)
 Media Literacy Clearinghouse (www.frankwbaker.com)
 Media Education Foundation (www.mediaed.org)
 Media Literacy Online Project (http://interact.uoregon.edu/medialit/MLR/home)
 National Association for Media Literacy Education (www.AMLAinfo.org)
 National Telemedia Council (www.nationaltelemediacouncil.org)
 National PTA (www.pta.org/pr_category_details_1117232399312.html)
 Project Look Sharp (www.ithaca.edu/looksharp)

Many other media literacy organizations and efforts exist that can assist in these
endeavors. These organizations and efforts are summarized in a 2003 report by Marjorie
Heins and Christina Cho of the Free Expression Policy Project (FEPP) entitled, “Media
Literacy: An Alternative to Censorship.”439

A few of these efforts deserve special recognition. “Cable in the Classroom” (CIC)
is a media literacy initiative sponsored by the National Cable and Telecommunications
Association (NCTA), the cable industry’s trade association.440 It serves as a model for
what other companies or industries could
do if they wanted to get more serious
about promoting media education.
Started in 1989, the Cable in the Government officials at the federal,
Classroom program’s mission is “to foster state and local level should work
the use of cable content and technology together to devise media literacy
to expand and enhance learning for campaigns focused on online
children and youth nationwide.”441 CIC safety, understanding the existing
accomplishes this mission by providing rating systems, how to use parental
video and data connections to schools and controls, and so on.
libraries, providing access to vast archives
of educational video content and
enriching cable programming, and providing Government other learning officials at the(including
materials federal, a
magazine and newsletter) to educators, parents,state and local CIC
and children. levelalso
should work
offers helpful
together to devise media literacy
campaigns focused on online
439
Marjorie Heins & Christina Cho, Free Expression Policy Project,
safety,Media Literacy: An Alternative
understanding to
the existing
Censorship, 2003, www.fepproject.org/policyreports/medialiteracy.html
rating systems, how to use parental
440
www.ncta.com/ContentView.aspx?contentid=2695 controls, and so on.
441
Cable in the Classroom, Frequently Asked Questions, www.ciconline.org/faq

Government officials at the federal,
Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) state and local level should work 148
together to devise media literacy
campaigns focused on online
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parenting tips on its website and in its printed materials, such as “Ten Ways You Can Use
Television Actively with Your Children,”442 “Thinking Critically about Media: Schools and
Families in Partnership,”443 and “Navigating the Children’s Media Landscape—A Parent’s
and Caregiver’s Guide.”444 CIC also offers schools and parents a downloadable
“Recording Highlights Calendar,” which notifies them when educational and enriching
programming will be aired if they want to record it.445 The calendar breaks down
programming into several categories, including: arts, English language arts, history,
languages, math, preschool, science / health, social and personal development, and
social studies.

Exhibit 62: NCTA’s “Cable in the Classroom”

The Center for Media Literacy (CML) also deserves special recognition for its
excellent media literacy kits and orientation guides.446 Its report Literacy for the 21st
Century: An Overview and Orientation Guide to Media Literacy Education, which was
quoted in the introduction to this section, is probably the best layman’s overview of

442
www.ciconline.org/parenttips
443
www.ciconline.org/thinkingcritically
444
www.ciconline.org/parentsguide
445
www.ciconline.org/monthlycalendar
446
www.medialit.org

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media literacy available today.447 CML’s Media Lit Kit offers a step-by-step guide to
integrating media literacy skills at every education level, from pre-K to college.448

Finally, Common Sense Media launched a major media literacy campaign in the
summer of 2009 with the release of its report, Digital Literacy and Citizenship in the 21st
Century: Educating, Empowering, and Protecting America's Kids.449 The organization also
created an impressive “Digital Citizenship” website to accompany the effort.450 Their
white paper outlined the “essential components of Digital Literacy and Citizenship” and
“frame[d] the ways that they prepare children to learn and grow in the 21st century”
through the following four “Strategies for Teaching Digital Literacy and Citizenship”:

1. Redesign education to include Digital Literacy and Citizenship in every school in
America.

2. Disseminate a basic curriculum that defines the standards of ethical behavior on
digital platforms – for students, parents, and educators.

3. Educate and empower teachers so that they can understand and teach Digital
Literacy and Citizenship.

4. Educate and empower parents about technology and important behavioral
guidelines involving the use of digital media.

(2) Public and Parental Awareness Campaigns: Beyond classroom media
literacy efforts, government could undertake public awareness campaigns. Government
officials at the federal, state, and local level
should work together to devise media
literacy campaigns focused on online safety, Government efforts to promote
understanding the existing rating systems, awareness have been diffuse and
how to use parental controls, and so on. largely uncoordinated among
These campaigns should include broadcast various agencies and programs.
(radio and TV) ads, Internet websites and
advertising, and promotional posters and Government efforts to promote
brochures that could be distributed at awareness have been diffuse and
largely uncoordinated among
447 st
variousforagencies
Elizabeth Thoman & Tessa Jolls, Center for Media Literacy, Literacy and programs.
the 21 Century: An Overview &
Orientation Guide to Media Literacy Education, 2005, at 10,
www.medialit.org/reading_room/article540.html
Government efforts to promote
448
www.medialit.org/bp_mlk.html awareness have been diffuse and
Common Sense Media, Digital Literacy and Citizenship in the largely uncoordinated among
449
21st Century: Educating, Empowering,
and Protecting America's Kids, June 2009, various agencies and programs.
www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/CSM_digital_policy.pdf
450
www.commonsensemedia.org/digital-citizenship Government efforts to promote
awareness have been diffuse and
largely uncoordinated among
Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) 150
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Government efforts to promote
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schools and government institutions. Government has undertaken (or lent its support
to) such public awareness campaigns to address other concerns in the past and had a
great deal of success, including the following:

 Forest fire prevention: Since the mid-1940s, the federal government has used
the Smokey the Bear mascot to educate the public about the dangers of forest
fires and wildfires.451
 Anti-littering and Land stewardship: The U.S. Forest Service began a widespread
“Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute” anti-littering campaign in the early 1970s that
featured the mascot Woodsy Owl. In recent years, the campaign has expanded
its land stewardship mission and adopted a new slogan: “Lend a Hand—Care for
the Land.”452
 Crime prevention: Beginning in the early 1980s, the National Crime Prevention
Council (NCPC) developed its popular “McGruff the Crime Dog” campaign to
assist law enforcement agencies seeking to deter crime or build awareness about
criminal activities.453 The McGruff campaign, which included the “Take a Bite Out
of Crime” motto, offers publications and teaching materials on a variety of
topics; programs that can be implemented in communities and schools, local,
regional, and national training programs; public service announcements
broadcast nationwide starring McGruff the Crime Dog; and support for a national
coalition of crime prevention practitioners.454 The NCPC reports that “now 25
years after McGruff’s first TV appearance, more than 75 percent of children
recognize McGruff and over 4,000 law enforcement agencies own a McGruff
suit.”455
 Physical fitness: The President’s Council on Physical Fitness promotes physical
fitness and healthy living for citizens of all ages, but especially among children
and teens. The program, which celebrated its 50 th anniversary in 2006, circulates
a wide variety of promotional information including classroom materials. Two
prominent websites promote the Council’s efforts: www.presidentschallenge.org
and www.fitness.gov. To further boost the visibility of the program and its fitness
agenda, the Council has recruited well-known athletes to serve as chair or
spokespersons: actor and current California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger,
Olympian Florence Griffith Joyner, baseball player Stan Musial, college basketball
coach Al McGuire, professional football coach George Allen, and professional
football player Lynn Swann.

451
See www.smokeybear.com and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smokey_the_Bear
452
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodsy_Owl
453
http://mcgruff.org
454
www.ncpc.org/about
455
www.ncpc.org/about

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 Seat-belt and air-bag safety: Perhaps the most successful campaign has been
the efforts of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration,456 numerous other state and local agencies, and many
nonprofit organizations457 to educate the public about the benefits of wearing
seat belts while in automobiles. Of course, these efforts were also accompanied
by enforcement efforts, such as the “Click It or Ticket” warnings used in many
states. Regardless, the educational component of these campaigns clearly
helped communicate the importance of seat belts to the general public.458 The
effort was later expanded to promote air bags in automobiles.

Government officials should seek to emulate these examples if they want to
construct a serious public awareness campaign about parental controls and online child
protection efforts. Currently, however, government efforts to promote awareness have
been diffuse and largely uncoordinated among various agencies and programs. One
notable exception at the federal level has been the OnGuardOnline.gov website, which
“provides practical tips from the federal government and the technology industry to
help you be on guard against Internet fraud, secure your computer, and protect your
personal information.”459 Six federal agencies collaborated to create the website.460
Although the initiative does not focus exclusively on parental controls or online child
protection, it does offer some helpful tips on that front. The effort includes a “Stop-
Think-Click” promotion that recommends “Seven Practices for Safer Computing.” The
Federal Bureau of Investigation offers similar tips on its “Parent’s Guide to Internet
Safety” website.461 Again, however, these efforts are largely uncoordinated and receive
very little promotion from federal agencies or congressional lawmakers.462

456
www.nhtsa.dot.gov/portal/site/nhtsa/menuitem.cda13865569778598fcb6010dba046a0
457
The National Safety Council, in particular, has played a major role in these educational efforts.
458
U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Seat Belt Use in
2003 – Demographic Characteristics, DOT HS 809 729, May 2004,
www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/airbags/809729.pdf
459
http://onguardonline.gov/index.html
460
They are the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Commerce, the Securities and Exchange
Commission, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Office of Justice Programs, and the Department of
Homeland Security.
461
www.fbi.gov/publications/pguide/pguidee.htm
462
U.S. officials should look at the excellent online safety metasites that other nations have developed.
The Australian government has established www.netalert.gov.au, which serves as a model that other
governments could seek to emulate. Europe’s www.BeSafeOnline.org is another excellent online
safety meta-site.

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Exhibit 63: The Federal Government’s “OnGuardOnline.gov” Website

If policymakers want to encourage more widespread awareness and adoption of
parental control tools and online child safety methods, they will need to expand their
current efforts considerably. As was the case with the public awareness campaigns
discussed above, in addition to websites and online tips, a serious awareness campaign
will need a variety of public service announcements and outreach efforts, brochures and
banners, and other promotional campaigns. As the Smart Television Alliance told the
FCC in a May 2009 filing:

The websites of the White House, the Department of Education, and the
Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information
Administration (“NTIA”) should all have pages, similar to the FCC’s, that
explain control technologies and offer links to representative sources of
guidance on programming content. At a minimum, their websites should
link to the FCC webpage intended to accomplish the same thing.

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As additional outreach, Senators and Members of the House should
communicate with their constituents on this issue in order to educate
them, and the FCC’s report to Congress should note that it would
welcome this additional support. Members of Congress would garner
positive publicity and favorable constituent reaction if their own websites
flagged these issues and solutions, and provided helpful guidance and
links to sources of information about consumer electronic solutions for
controlling programming, as well as suggestions on quality content and
media literacy.463

Perhaps most importantly, such a campaign must include state and local officials
and agencies that can communicate the messages at the local level through various
institutions (schools, libraries, law enforcement agencies, civic clubs, etc.) as well as
nonprofit organizations, and even corporations and trade associations can assist in the
effort.

Such an approach was embodied in two bills introduced in the 110th Congress in
August 2007, which seek to better coordinate and expand federal online safety
efforts.464 Specifically, the bills propose the creation of a nationwide public awareness
and educational campaign about online safety, something that is very much needed to
supplement ongoing private efforts.

The first of those legislative measures, S. 1965, the “Protecting Children in the
21 Century Act,” was introduced on August 2nd by Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Vice
st

Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye
(D-Hawaii). The House measure, H.R. 3461, the “Safeguarding America’s Families by
Enhancing and Reorganizing New and Efficient Technologies Act of 2006,” or “SAFER
NET” Act, was introduced on August 4th by Rep. Melissa Bean (D-IL). (Rep. Bean’s bill was
a reworked version of a similar measure that she had introduced earlier).465

In October 2008, these measures were consolidated and passed into law as part
of the S. 1492, the “Broadband Data Services Improvement Act.”466 Title II of that bill

463
Reply Comments of The Smart Television Alliance, Implementation of the Child Safe Viewing Act;
Examination of Parental Control Technologies for Video or Audio Programming, MB Docket No. 09-26,
May 18, 2009, pg. 4,
http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520216918
464
Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Two Sensible, Education-Based Approaches to
Online Child Safety, Progress Snapshot 3.10, Sept. 2007, www.pff.org/issues-
pubs/ps/2007/ps3.10safetyeducationbills.pdf
465
See Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Rep. Bean’s ‘SAFER Net Act’: An Education-
Based Approach to Online Child Safety, Progress on Point 14.3, Feb. 22, 2007, www.pff.org/issues-
pubs/pops/pop14.3beanbillinternetsafety.pdf
466 th
Broadband Data Services Improvement Act of 2008, Public Law 110-385, 110 Congress.

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specified that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) “carry out a nationwide program to
increase public awareness and provide education” to promote safer Internet use. “The
program shall utilize existing resources and efforts of the Federal Government, State
and local governments, nonprofit organizations, private technology and financial
companies, Internet service providers, World Wide Web-based resources, and other
appropriate entities, that includes—

1. identifying, promoting, and encouraging best practices for Internet safety;

2. establishing and carrying out a national outreach and education campaign
regarding Internet safety utilizing various media and Internet-based resources;

3. facilitating access to, and the exchange of, information regarding Internet safety
to promote up to-date knowledge regarding current issues; and,

4. facilitating access to Internet safety education and public awareness efforts the
Commission considers appropriate by States, units of local government, schools,
police departments, nonprofit organizations, and other appropriate entities.”

Importantly, the measure also included a requirement that the National
Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) within the Department of
Commerce establish an Online Safety and Technology Working Group “comprised of
representatives of relevant sectors of the business community, public interest groups,
and other appropriate groups and Federal agencies to review and evaluate”:467

1. the status of industry efforts to promote online safety through educational
efforts, parental control technology, blocking and filtering software, age-
appropriate labels for content or other technologies or initiatives designed to
promote a safe online environment for children;

2. the status of industry efforts to promote online safety among providers of
electronic communications services and remote computing services by reporting
apparent child pornography under section 13032 of title 42, United States Code,
including any obstacles to such reporting;

3. the practices of electronic communications service providers and remote
computing service providers related to record retention in connection with
crimes against children; and

467
Full disclosure: I was appointed a member of this working group in April 2009.
http://pff.org/news/news/2009/040609-NTIA-working-group.html

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4. the development of technologies to help parents shield their children from
inappropriate material on the Internet.

This task force is required to issue a report of its findings back to the Senate
Commerce Committee within one year of convening.

These measures represent an admirable attempt to better coordinate and
expand Internet safety education.468 Importantly, there is no reason that these
measures couldn’t be expanded to highlight other parental control technologies and
methods for other types of media besides the Internet.

Such education-based legislative approaches have the added benefit of
remaining within the boundaries of the Constitution and the First Amendment because
government would not be seeking to restrict speech, but simply to better inform and
empower parents regarding the parental control tools and techniques already at their
disposal.469 The courts have shown themselves to be amenable to such educational
efforts, and not just in the case of online safety. For example, in a November 2006
decision which struck down an Illinois law that sought to regulate video game sales to
minors, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals noted that parents are already actively
involved in making decisions about the games their children buy. Noting how parents
are involved in well over 83 percent of their children’s video game purchases, the court
went on to argue that:

If Illinois passed legislation which increased awareness of the ESRB
[Entertainment Software Rating Board voluntary rating] system, perhaps
through a wide media campaign, the already-high rate of parental
involvement could only rise. Nothing in the record convinces us that this
proposal would not be at least as effective as the proposed speech
restrictions.470

468
“This act is a sign that Congress is beginning to get it right when it comes to protecting kids online
while not stepping over legitimate free expression rights of adult internet users.” Stephen Balkam,
“Rediscovering Online Safety,” The Huffington Post, Oct. 10, 2008, www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-
balkam/rediscovering-online-safe_b_133753.html
469
“Although government’s ability to regulate content may be weak, its ability to promote positive
programming and media research is not. Government at all levels should fund the creation and
evaluation of positive media initiatives such as public service campaigns to reduce risky behaviors and
studies about educational programs that explore innovative uses of media.” Jeanne Brooks-Gunn and
Elisabeth Hirschhorn Donahue, “Introducing the Issue,” in Children and Electronic Media, The Future of
Children, Vol. 18, No. 1, Spring 2008, at 8.
470
Entertainment Software Association v. Blagojevich, 7th Cir. Court of Appeals, WL 3392078, Nov. 27,
2006, at 16,
www.jenner.com/files/tbl_s18News/RelatedDocuments147/2652/Seventh_Circuit_ILVideoGame.pdf

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This is why education, not regulation, represents the superior approach to
address content concerns and online child safety. If Congress enacts more regulations
aimed at banning certain types of websites or online content, those measures will be
bogged down in the courts for years to come. For example, the Child Online Protection
Act (COPA) was passed by Congress in 1998 in an effort to restrict minors’ access to
adult-oriented websites. After a decade-long
series of court battles about the
constitutionality of the measure, in January
2009, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Such an education-based
government’s latest request to revive COPA, approach has the added benefit
meaning it is likely dead.471 If all the money of remaining within the
that has been spent litigating this case had boundaries of the Constitution
instead been spent on media literacy and and the First Amendment.
online safety campaigns, it could have
produced concrete, lasting results.

C. Private or Industry-Led Consumer Education Efforts Such an education-based
approach has the added benefit
of remaining within the
It is worth noting that several major private orboundaries
industry-led ofconsumer education
the Constitution
efforts are under way to help families learn more about and theparental controls, ratings
First Amendment
systems, and online child safety efforts. For example: because government would not
be seeking to restrict speech,
 Television / Broadcasting: TV Watch, a coalition butofsimply
27 prominent
to betterindividuals
inform andand
organizations representing more than four millionparents
empower Americans,
regarding sponsors
the
parents.472
initiatives such as the “1-2-3 Safe TV” tool kit forparental The group
control tools andcirculates
materials that provide parents easy-to-understand primers already
techniques on how at to their
safeguard
473
their children against objectionable content on television. disposal.The effort was
spearheaded by media operators such as CBS Corporation, News Corp., and NBC
Universal, but also includes groups as diverse as the American Conservative
Union, the Black Filmmakers Foundation, Center for Creative Voices in Media,
the Creative Coalition, the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, and
the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.474 Such an education-based
approach has the added benefit
 Cable Television: The National Cable and Telecommunications Association
of remaining within the
(NCTA) sponsors a $250 million public service campaign called “Cable Puts You in
boundaries of the Constitution
and the First Amendment
because government would not
471
See Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Closing bethe
seeking
Book onto restrict
COPA, speech,
PFF Blog, Jan. 21,
2009, http://blog.pff.org/archives/2009/01/closing_the_boo.html
but simply to better inform and
472
www.televisionwatch.org empower parents regarding the
Safe TV. Easy as 1-2-3: The TV Watch Guide to the TV Ratings andparental control TVtools and
473
Parental Controls, Watch,
http://www.televisionwatch.org/HelpForParents/default.html techniques already at their
474
Full disclosure: I serve on the advisory board of TV Watch. disposal.

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Such an education-based
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Control.”475 As part of the effort, the industry airs numerous educational ads and
distributes materials to subscribers. These materials are also made available to
consumers via in-store displays at retailers such as Best Buy and Circuit City. The
effort also includes an education website called Control Your TV476 that offers a
variety of educational links and videos showing parents how to block access to
certain channels or programs that they might find objectionable. The cable
industry also sponsors the impressive Cable in the Classroom media literacy
program discussed in the previous section.
 Television / Cross-Media: At a January 19, 2006, Senate Commerce Committee
hearing, Jack Valenti, the late CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America
(MPAA), announced that all media companies that “make and dispatch visual
programming” were launching a joint 18-month marketing campaign “to inform
and persuade the American people that they have the power” to control the
content that appears on their television screens.477
This unprecedented $300 million campaign included participation from the
Consumer Electronics Association (CEA); the National Association of
Broadcasters (NAB); MPAA; NCTA; Viacom; Time Warner; television broadcast
networks ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC Universal; and satellite TV providers DIRECTV
and EchoStar’s Dish Network. The Ad Council and various advertising agencies
assisted in the effort to help craft “simple messages” that were then broadcast
and cablecast by all these media providers over at least an 18-month period.478
The televised ads began airing on local broadcast stations and the top 100 cable
systems on July 26, 2006.479 Parents were also able to see the ads, and find a
great deal of other useful information, on an interactive Internet website that
came out of this effort called “The TV Boss.”480
 Cross-Media: The Pause-Parent-Play website offers an excellent compendium of
websites and services parents can use to learn more about the media their
children might want to see, hear, or play.481 The effort is sponsored by a diverse
coalition of companies and associations, including: Wal-Mart, the Girl Scouts, the

475
http://controlyourtv.org/faq.php
476
www.controlyourtv.org
477
Jack Valenti, A Plan to Communicate to Parents That They Have the Power to Control All TV Programs
in Their Homes, Testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee, Jan. 19, 2006,
http://commerce.senate.gov/pdf/Jack%20Valenti%20Testimony.pdf
478
National Association of Broadcasters, Industries Unite in Unprecedented Effort to Educate Parents That
They Have the Tools to Control TV Programming in Their Home, Press Release, Jan. 19, 2006.
479
Frank Ahrens, TV Industry Unites on Viewer Education, Washington Post, July 25, 2006, at D5;
www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/24/AR2006072401197.html
480
www.thetvboss.org
481
http://pauseparentplay.org

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YMCA, Microsoft, Comcast, Time Warner, News Corp., the Electronic Software
Association, Viacom, NBC Universal, MPAA, and the Recording Industry
Association of America (RIAA). The coalition’s website features numerous links
answering questions about how TV ratings and screening tools work (like the V-
Chip and cable and satellite set-top boxes).482 The links provided on the Pause-
Parent-Play website help parents better understand how to use these and other
technologies. There is also a “Get the Facts” section on the site that offers
detailed explanations of how many of the current rating systems work.483
 Cross-Media: Take Parental Control is a public service website provided by
Playboy Enterprises.484 It features parental control fact sheets for a wide variety
of media, including: television, cable, cell phones, video games, and Internet
surfing. The website also features a useful glossary of terms describing various
technologies and parental control tools. Public service announcements are
included as well.
 Video Games: To supplement its other consumer awareness efforts described
earlier, in November 2006 the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB)
announced an educational partnership with the Parents-Teacher Association
(PTA) to “encourage and enable state and local PTAs to educate their
community’s parents about the *ESRB+ ratings.”485 As part of this new
educational campaign, 1.3 million brochures will be distributed to 26,000 PTAs
nationwide in both English and Spanish. Additional online support and education
are available on both the ESRB and PTA websites.486 In December 2006, the ESRB
also launched a nationwide television PSA campaign that encourages parents to
use the video game ratings when buying games for their children. The spots
were introduced at an event featuring Senators Hillary Clinton and Joe
Lieberman.487 The ESRB has also sponsored PSA campaigns featuring state
attorneys general Mark Shurtleff of Utah and Thurbert Baker of Georgia.
 Internet: As mentioned in the section above on Internet tools, many helpful
Net-filtering and safety technologies and services are highlighted on
GetNetWise.org.488 This site is comprehensive public service website sponsored
482
http://pauseparentplay.org/see/index.php#tv
483
http://pauseparentplay.org/facts
484
http://takeparentalcontrol.org
485
Parent Teacher Association, PTA and ESRB Launch Nationwide Video Game Ratings Educational
Partnership, Press Release, Nov. 15, 2006,
www.pta.org/ne_press_release_detail_1163547309281.html
486
www.esrb.org/about/pta_partnership.jsp
487
Entertainment Software Rating Board, Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Joe Lieberman Join ESRB to
Launch Nationwide Video Game Ratings TV PSA Campaign, Press Release, Dec. 7, 2006,
www.esrb.org/about/news/12072006.jsp
488
www.GetNetWise.org

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by a wide array of Internet and computer companies, as well as a host of public
interest organizations and parental and child activists. The GetNetWise website
offers a comprehensive “Online Safety Guide” and lengthy inventory of “Tools
for Families” that can be custom-tailored to the needs and values of individual
families.489 Major corporate supporters include Dell, Microsoft, Verizon,
Amazon.com, Yahoo!, AOL, AT&T, Comcast, Earthlink, Visa, Wells Fargo, and the
RIAA. Key public interest organizations include the Center for Democracy and
Technology, the American Library Association, the Children’s Partnership, People
for the American Way Foundation, the National Consumers League, Net Family
News,490 ProtectKids.com,491 SafeKids.com,492 and Wired Patrol.493 Of course,
GetNetWise is not the only online safety website that corporations support or
cosponsor.
 Wireless: As mentioned earlier, CTIA has also developed an awareness campaign
called “Get Wise about Wireless,” which “helps educate students about cell
phone use and the responsible behaviors associated with using cell phones.”494
The program includes a variety of materials such as a teacher’s guide and a
family take-home pamphlet about safe and courteous cell phone use.495 As part
of this effort, CTIA also runs a student essay contest about sensible wireless
use.496

D. A Voluntary Code of Conduct / Industry Pledge to Parents
The empowerment and education steps outlined in the preceding sections
illustrate the impressive strides that industry and others have made to provide parents
with the tools and information they need to protect their children from potentially
objectionable content. However, more can be done by industry to tie these efforts
together.

All modern media operators—broadcasters, cable and satellite operators, music
providers, broadband providers, Internet service providers, search providers, web
portals, social networking sites, game developers, online gaming services, and so on—
need to take additional steps to show policymakers and the general public that they are

489
See http://kids.getnetwise.org/safetyguide and http://kids.getnetwise.org/tools
490
http://netfamilynews.org/index.shtml
491
http://protectkids.com
492
www.safekids.com
493
www.wiredsafety.org
494
www.wirelessfoundation.org/GetWise/index.cfm
495
See www.wirelessfoundation.org/GetWise/teachers_guide2007.pdf and
www.wirelessfoundation.org/GetWise/family_takehome2007.pdf
496
www.wirelessfoundation.org/GetWise/contest.cfm

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serious about addressing concerns about online safety and access to objectionable
content. If companies and trade associations do not step up to the plate and meet this
challenge soon—and in a collective fashion—calls will only grow louder for increased
government oversight or regulation.

One possibility that industry should consider is the adoption of a voluntary code
of conduct.497 This code of conduct, or set of industry “best practices,” would be based
on a straightforward set of principles and policies that could be universally adopted by
the wide variety of operators mentioned above. These principles and policies, which
could take the form of a pledge to parents and consumers, must also be workable
throughout our new world of converged, cross-platform communications and media.
The adjoining exhibit outlines the basic elements of this voluntary “pledge.”

For such a code of conduct to gain traction and be taken seriously, it will require
the leadership of major online companies, digital media providers, and their respective
trade associations. Such commitments by these market leaders will help recruit smaller
players while increasing credibility for the effort with policymakers, the public, and the
press. Benchmarks will also be needed to evaluate the effectiveness of these efforts
over time. Those evaluations can inform potential future adjustments to the voluntary
code, especially as new services and technologies come online.

Two important caveats are in order. First, unlike previous industry “codes”—
such as those pushed on the movie and comic book industry by government officials a
half century ago—this code would not seek to delimit acceptable forms of speech or
expression by those adopting it. Rather, its purpose is to allow for the maximum amount
of legal speech and expression, while providing users with the information and tools
needed to block or curtail the flow of potentially objectionable media content in their
lives. Information and education lie at the core of this effort, not censorship.

497
This was originally proposed in: Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Saving Online
Free Speech: A Voluntary Code of Conduct for Internet Operators, Progress Snapshot 2.19, Aug. 2006,
www.pff.org/issues-pubs/ps/2006/ps_2.19_conduct_net_ops.pdf

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Exhibit 64: Digital Media Provider Voluntary Code of Conduct

We at (company or trade association name) pledge to take the following steps to
help parents and all our customers or users create a better, safer online environment
and modern media marketplace:

Pledge 1: When feasible, we will offer voluntary ratings or labels to provide
clear information about proprietary content. For certain types of proprietary content,
we will attempt to offer ratings or labels that clearly designate the nature of the content
on the website or in the product. We will use machine-readable metadata tagging
whenever possible to allow rating or labeling systems to be fully automated by the end
user and work seamlessly across platforms and products. And where applicable, we will
provide clear notices of the ratings, labels, or other content descriptors on all content
packaging or product and website promotions.

Pledge #2: We will offer parental controls or filters to help families block or
control objectionable content. We will offer Internet filters, set-top box controls, or other
screening and blocking technologies to empower families to make decisions about the
forms of content that are appropriate in their lives. Where applicable, we will also
provide links or contact information for sites and services that provide additional
assistance or types of controls.

Pledge #3: We will provide reasonable assistance to law enforcement in its
effort to root out online threats or predators. We will cooperate with law enforcement
officials who are conducting investigations into online crimes. Within reasonable bounds,
we will preserve data necessary to help law enforcement officials track potential online
criminals. On our websites, we will offer a link to the National Center for Missing and
Exploited Children’s (NCMEC) CyberTipline to allow users to report potential child
pornography or abuse. Finally, when feasible, we will offer training assistance for law
enforcement officials to help them better understand how to police and prosecute
potential criminal activity online.

Pledge #4: We will offer various forms of education for parents, consumers, and
even children. On our website(s), we will provide clearly displayed links, buttons, or
phone numbers (i.e., hotlines) for parental and child assistance. When possible, we will
offer integrated “how-to” guides with all products or offer “out-of-the-box” setup guides
to help users immediately enable parental controls and filters. We will also produce and
widely circulate brochures or tip-sheets to help in this task. We will create or fund public
service announcements or sponsor other parental and consumer education efforts to
promote consumer awareness. Finally, we will craft clearly worded acceptable-use
policies that lay out these policies and make it clear what responsibilities end users and
parents must exercise for themselves and their own families.

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Second, the creation of such a code would go a long way toward satisfying one of
the leading criticisms of current industry policies or approaches: the lack of consistency
or standardization. A voluntary code of conduct would have many similar elements and,
hopefully, companies and trade associations might even work together to develop a
common “look and feel” to their tools and systems. That being said, this code should not
be considered a universal rating or filtering scheme that would replace all other
systems. Ample room should remain for
experimentation by those adopting such a
code, especially for those who wish to
provide more stringent controls to their All modern media operators need
users. to take additional steps to show
policymakers and the general
This process should not be viewed public that they are serious about
by industry actors as a burden, but rather as addressing concerns about online
an opportunity to highlight the many steps safety and access to
each organization is already taking—or will objectionable content.
commit to undertake in the near future—to
address concerns about potentially
objectionable media content and online child safety. All modern media operators
By making need to
a commitment
parents and consumers to help them get this job done to take
in aadditional steps
unified and to show
comprehensive
policymakers and the general
manner, digital media providers and distributors will help head off the inevitable push
for greater government involvement and regulation. public that they are serious about
addressing concerns about access
to objectionable
Some companies have already taken steps to implement content.
such codes of conduct
for their industries:

All modern
Model #1: The cable industry’s “PointSmart, ClickSafe” initiativemedia operators need
to take additional steps to show
policymakers and
In June 2007, the National Cable & Telecommunications the general
Association (NCTA)
public that they are
announced that its members—which represent roughly 90 percent of all cable serious about
addressing concerns
households nationwide—would adopt such an industry-wide code of about access
conduct. Under
the NCTA’s new initiative, which is called “Cable Puts to objectionable
You in Control: content.
PointSmart,
ClickSafe,” NCTA’s member companies “pledge to help parents, families, customers and
consumers create a better, safer online media environment and foster a better
All modern 498
understanding and working knowledge of the digital media media operators
landscape.” need
The NCTA
to take additional steps
members made a pledge to offer parents an unprecedented level of assistance to helpto show
policymakers
parents keep their children safe online. The commitments are inandlinethe general
with the model
code of conduct outlined above. Also, along with public that they
Common are serious
Sense Mediaaboutand the
addressing concerns about
Internet Keep Safe Coalition, NCTA hosted a well-attended online safety summit in access
to objectionable content.
498
www.pointsmartclicksafe.org
All modern media operators need
to take additional steps to show
Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) policymakers and the general 163
public that they are serious about
addressing concerns about access
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

Washington, DC in 2008, and then convened a task force of child safety experts to
further study the issue.499 The working group concluded its work in July 2009 and its
report is summarized in an appendix to this report (See Appendix: Review of Five Online
Safety Task Forces.”)

The NCTA’s efforts are being coordinated online through an impressive website
(www.pointsmartclicksafe.org) that contains interactive tips, manuals, and public
service announcements to assist and educate parents and children. The new effort
complements two other important efforts that the cable industry has operated for
several years and that were mentioned earlier: “Control Your TV.org”500 and “Cable in
the Classroom.”501 The “Control Your TV” initiative and website coordinates the cable
industry’s parental control efforts aimed at the video programming side of their
business. And Cable in the Classroom is an impressive media literacy initiative that also
provides broadband connectivity and educational programming to schools and libraries
for classroom use.

Exhibit 65: NCTA’s “Point Smart. Click Safe” Website

The cable industry’s new code of conduct illustrates how online operators can
take parental controls and online child protection to the next level. The first order of
business was creating parental control tools and making them widely available. After

499
Full disclosure: I am a member of this task force.
500
http://controlyourtv.org
501
www.ncta.com/ContentView.aspx?contentid=2695

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that, companies and trade associations need to concentrate on boosting awareness
about those tools and making them even easier to use. That is what the NCTA is doing
with its new initiative.

In addition, the focus on consumer education and media literacy that pervades
the cable pledge is vitally important. This new “PointSmart, ClickSafe” initiative, as well
as the Cable in the Classroom project serve as models for what other companies or
industries could do if they wanted to get more serious about promoting media literacy
and online safety education.

Model #2: MySpace and Facebook “Key Principles for Social Networking Safety”

On January 14th, 2008, social networking website operator MySpace.com
announced a joint effort with 49 state Attorneys General (AGs) aimed at better
protecting children online.502 At a press conference in New York City, MySpace and the
AGs unveiled a “Joint Statement on Key Principles of Social Networking Safety” involving
expanded online safety tools, improved education efforts, and law enforcement
cooperation.503 They also agreed to create an industry-wide Internet Safety Technical
Task Force to study online safety tools, including a review of online identity
authentication technology.504 (Facebook struck a similar agreement with the AGs in May
2008,505 although some of the details differed.506 The analysis below focuses on the
particulars of the MySpace agreement.)

The agreement represented a major step forward for online safety. Indeed,
many of the principles in the agreement could form a potential model code of conduct
that other social networking sites could adopt. The agreement included the following
“Principles of Social Networking” (as described in a MySpace press release)507:

502
Anne Barnard, MySpace Agrees to Lead Fight to Stop Sex Predators” New York Times, Jan. 15, 2008,
www.nytimes.com/2008/01/15/us/15myspace.html?ref=us. Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom
Foundation, The MySpace-AG Agreement: A Model Code of Conduct for Social Networking? Progress
on Point 15.1, Jan. 2008, www.pff.org/issues-pubs/pops/pop15.1myspaceAGagreement.pdf
503
News Corp., MySpace and Attorneys General Announce Joint Effort to Promote Industry-Wide Internet
Safety Principles, Press Release, Jan. 14, 2008, www.newscorp.com/news/news_363.html
504
Full disclosure: I am a member of this task force.
505
Gina M. Scott, Facebook Attorneys General Announce Agreement to Make Site Safer for Kids,
Government Technology, May 8, 2008, www.govtech.com/dc/articles/319429
506
The full text of Facebook-AG agreement can be found at:
http://law.ga.gov/vgn/images/portal/cit_1210/33/63/113153056Facebook%20Agreement%20on%20
design%20and%20functionality.pdf
507
News Corp., MySpace and Attorneys General Announce Joint Effort to Promote Industry-Wide Internet
Safety Principles, Press Release, Jan. 14, 2008, www.newscorp.com/news/news_363.html

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 Site Design and Functionality: The Principles incorporate safety initiatives that
MySpace has already implemented and initiatives it will work to implement in
the coming months. Examples of safety features MySpace has in place include
reviewing every image and video uploaded to the site, reviewing the content of
Groups, making the profiles of 14 and 15 year old users automatically private
and protecting them from being contacted by adults that they don’t already
know in the physical world, and deleting registered sex offenders from MySpace.
Examples of improvements MySpace will make include defaulting 16 and 17 year
old users’ profiles to private and strengthening the technology that enforces the
site’s minimum age of 14.

 Education and Tools for Parents, Educators and Children. The Principles
acknowledge that MySpace has already been devoting meaningful resources to
Internet safety education including a new online safety public service
announcement targeted at parents and free parental software that is under
development. MySpace will explore the establishment of a children’s email
registry that will empower parents to prevent their children from having access
to MySpace or any other social networking site. In addition, under the Principles
MySpace will increase its communications with consumers who report a
complaint about inappropriate content or activity on the site.

 Law Enforcement Cooperation. The Attorneys General view MySpace’s
cooperation with law enforcement, which includes a 24-hour hotline, to be a
model for the industry. The parties will continue to work together to enhance
the ability of law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute Internet
crimes.

 Online Safety Task Force. As part of the Principles, MySpace will organize, with
the support of the Attorneys General, an industry-wide Internet Safety Technical
Task Force to develop online safety tools, including a review of identity
authentication tools. While existing age verification and identity products are not
an effective safety tool for social networking sites, the Task Force will explore all
new technologies that can help make users more safe and secure including age
verification. The Task Force will include Internet businesses, identity
authentication experts, non-profit organizations, academics and technology
companies. That Internet Safety Technical Task Force concluded its work in
January 2009 and its final report is summarized in an appendix to this report.

The agreement then goes on—in the form of two appendices—to detail over 70
specific steps that MySpace will take to expand upon these principles. As part of the
agreement, MySpace agreed to:

 Implement “age locking” for existing profiles such that members will be allowed
to change their ages only once above or below the 18 year old threshold. Once

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changed across this threshold, under 18 members will be locked into the age
they provided while 18 and older members will be able to make changes to their
age as long as they remain above the 18 threshold. MySpace will implement “age
locking” for new profiles such that under 18 members will be locked into the age
they provide at sign-up while 18 and older members will be able to make
changes to their age as long as they remain above the 18 threshold.

 Users able to restrict friend requests to only those who know their email address
or last name. “Friend only” group invite mandatory for 14 and 15 year olds.
“Friend only” group invite by default for 16 and 17 years olds. Users under 18
can block all users over 18 from contacting them or viewing their profile. Users
over 18 will be limited to search in the school section only for high school
students graduating in the current or upcoming year. Users over 18 may
designate their profiles as private to users under 18, and users under 18 may
designate their profiles as private to users over 18.

 Change the default setting for 16-17 year olds’ profiles from “public” to “private”
and create a closed high school section for users under 18. The “private” profile
of a 16/17 year old will be viewable only by his/her “friends” and other students
from that high school who have been vouched for by another such student.
Students attending the same high school will be able to “Browse” for each other.

 Obtain a list of adult sites on an ongoing basis and sever all links to those sites
from MySpace. They will also demand that adult entertainment industry
performers set their profiles to block access to all under 18 users and remove all
under 18 users from profiles of identified adult entertainment industry
performers.

There is much more to the agreement. In fact, it is difficult to imagine how
MySpace could have gone any further to satisfy the online safety concerns raised by AGs
or other public policymakers. Indeed, some MySpace users will likely protest that some
of the changes go too far.

Generally speaking, however, MySpace struck the right balance with most of the
other proposals in the agreement, especially considering the pressure they were under
from some policymakers to go much further. In that regard, the agreement with the AGs
is especially notable for what it did not include: age verification mandates. The call for
an Internet Safety Technical Task Force to study online safety methods and identity
authentication tools was also a sensible alternative to the rush to mandate age
verification, which many AGs favored at the time. (See Section V.B below for more
discussion of age verification issues.)

The agreement’s focus on education and empowerment was also laudable. In
particular, the agreement noted how MySpace will “engage in public service

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announcements [and] develop free parental monitoring software.” The importance of
education initiatives cannot be overstated. Technical solutions, such as those the AGs
clearly favor, will always suffer from inherent limitations and will often be
circumvented. Education, by contrast, lasts a lifetime. As this report has repeatedly
stressed, we need to be teaching our kids how to be good cyber-citizens and how to
identify and report legitimate online threats (predators, bullies, scam artists, etc).
Today’s youth are probably far more savvy and sensible about these threats than most
adults or policymakers give them credit for. Nonetheless, it is important to be vigilant
about online safety education and etiquette in an attempt to teach kids—especially
more “at-risk” youth who might be susceptible to online threats—basic life lessons
about sensible cyberspace behavior and interactions.

Despite the handful of concerns raised above, the MySpace agreement serves as
a model for what other social networking companies and online operators could do if
they wanted to get more serious about promoting Internet safety.

Model #3: Verizon’s company-wide content / online safety efforts

In mid-2008, Verizon Communications released a comprehensive, company-wide
set of content policy principles that the company will apply across all its services
(including FiOS TV, Verizon Wireless, and Verizon Online) and all lines of its business. It
also included guidelines on user-generated content and advertising.

Although, technically speaking, it is not an industry code of conduct, Verizon’s
plan incorporates many of the elements of the code of conduct and best practices
described above. As part of the effort, the company produced a detailed Content Policy
for Verizon Networks set of guidelines,508 as well as a layman-friendly Guiding Principles
for Content on Verizon Networks document that summarized the company’ efforts.509

The plan details the steps Verizon will take to deal with certain forms of
objectionable content or communications on their networks, but also notes that the
company “offers content management tools to help customers establish appropriate
controls” regarding the content that is accessible through the Internet, video, or mobile
network connections that Verizon offers. Those tools are found at Verizon’s “Parental
Control Center” web portal.510

508
http://responsibility.verizon.com/contentpolicy/policy.htm
509
http://responsibility.verizon.com/contentpolicy/guide.htm
510
www.verizon.net/parentalcontrol

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V. Getting Serious about Online Child Abuse

A. Putting the Problem in Perspective
This section will discuss online child safety and the specific threat posed by
cyber-predators and online harassment. These are issues of great concern for parents
and policymakers today, and these concerns have prompted recent calls for drastic
regulatory mandates like age verification of minors before they go online, or extensive
data retention requirements for Internet service providers and other websites. This
section will argue that there are better ways to address these concerns.

A National Child Abduction Epidemic?
Debates about online child safety are often driven by fear—fear of bad guys
lurking online and waiting to snatch up our
children. Indeed, there have been a handful of
highly publicized cases of minors being Debates about online child
contacted and later abducted or abused by safety are often driven by
child predators on social networking sites.511 fear—fear of bad guys lurking
Such cases do not mean that a national online and waiting to snatch
epidemic of Internet-related child abductions up our children.
is occurring, however. The reality is quite
different. As Internet safety expert Larry Magid
has noted: Debates about online child
safety are often driven by
Contrary to what some people might imply,fear—fearmost kids of who become
bad guys lurking
victims of online sex predators are not abducted.online and waiting toafter
They are lured snatch
being groomed by their predators. And, though any case is tragic,
up our the fact
children.
is that such crimes are relatively rare considering the millions of children
and teens that go online every day. Despite thousands of arrests of
would-be predators caught up in sting operations, tragic
Debates casesonline
about like this
child
512
don’t appear to occur very often. safety are often driven by
fear—fear
Indeed, generally speaking, abductions by strangers of bad guys
“represent anlurking
extremely
online andwas
small portion of all missing children *cases+.” That conclusion waiting to snatch
a central finding of
up our children.
the 2002 National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway
Children (NISMART), a study conducted by the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile

Debates about online child
511
safety are often driven by
Claire Osborn, Teen, Mom Sue MySpace.com for $30 Million, Austin American-Statesman, June 20,
fear—fear of bad guys lurking
2006.
512
online and waiting to snatch
Larry Magid, Abductions by Online Predators Rare, San Jose Mercury News, Oct.children.
up our 22, 2007,
www.connectsafely.org/articles--advice/commentaries---staff/abduction-by-online-predators-
rare.html

Debates about online child
Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) safety are often driven by 169
fear—fear of bad guys lurking
online and waiting to snatch
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Justice and Delinquency Prevention.513 Although the survey is several years old and
suffers from some data and methodological deficiencies, it remains the most
comprehensive survey of missing and abducted children in the United States.

The NISMART survey broke down juvenile abductions into two categories—
family versus non-family. It found that the vast majority of kidnapping victims were
abducted by family, friends of the family, or people who had a close relationships with
(or the trust of) the minors. Only 115 of
the estimated 260,000 abductions—or
less than a tenth of a percent—fit the Not only is it a myth that there is a
stereotypical abduction scenario that growing epidemic of Internet-
parents most fear: complete strangers facilitated child abductions, but it is
snatching children and transporting also a myth that all children are
them miles away.514 And Lenore equally susceptible to falling prey to
Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids: online predators.
Giving Our Children the Freedom We
Had Without Going Nuts with Worry,
notes that, “the chances of any one Not only is it a myth that there is a
American child being kidnapped and killed by a stranger areepidemic
growing almost infinitesimally
of Internet- small:
515
.00007 percent.” facilitated child abductions, but it is
also a myth that all children are
Despite those findings, public policy equally debates and media
susceptible reports
to falling preyremain
to
preoccupied with the horror stories about abductions byonline random strangers,
predators. leaving the
impression that the problem is much larger than the more serious issues of family or
acquaintance abductions.516
513
Not only is it a myth that there is a
Andrea J. Sedlak, David Finkelhor, Heather Hammer, and Dana J. Schultz, National Estimate of Missing
growing epidemic of Internet-
Children: An Overview, National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway
Children (NISMART), Oct. 2002, at 7, facilitated child abductions, but it is
www.missingkids.com/en_US/documents/nismart2_overview.pdf also a myth that all children are
514 equally susceptible to falling prey to
A recent study of cases about missing children in Ohio revealed a similar trend. Of the 11,074
online
documented missing child cases in 2005, only five involved abduction predators.
by strangers compared with 146
abductions by family members. Ohio Missing Children Clearinghouse, 2005 Annual Report, at 4;
www.ag.state.oh.us/victim/pubs/2005ann_rept_mcc.pdf
515 Not
Lenore Skenazy, Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the only isWe
Freedom it Had
a myth thatGoing
Without there is a
Nuts with
Worry (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2009), at 16. growing epidemic of Internet-
Indeed, one recent study suggests that perception has facilitated child abductions, butinitthe
is
516
replaced reality in the minds of many
also a that
press and general public, who have increasingly come to believe myth that all
stranger childrenaccount
abductions are for
most missing child incidents. A 2006 analysis of New York
equally susceptible to falling preyGlenn
Times articles about kidnappings, by to
W. Muschert, Melissa Young-Spillers, & Dawn Carr in the Justice Policy
onlineJournal, argued that “the Times
predators.
disproportionately focuses on stereotypical kidnapping incidents, while social science data suggest
that familial abductions are far more prevalent.” And abduction estimates made by some activists
were also “highly exaggerated,” they found. Unsurprisingly, for those reasons, the authors note that
Not believed
various public opinion polls have revealed that most people only is itthat
a myth thatby
abductions there is a
strangers
accounted for most missing child cases even though the exact opposite
growing was true.of
epidemic Glenn W. Muschert,
Internet-
Melissa Young-Spillers, & Dawn Carr, 3 Justice Policy Journal, No. 2, Fall 2006, at 4-6.
facilitated child abductions, but it is
also a myth that all children are
equally susceptible to falling prey to
Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) 170
online predators.
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

Research has shown that this conclusion is also true of child abuse and sex
offenders in general, not just abductions. As psychologist Anna C. Salter, author of
Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists, and Other Sex Offenders, points out, “*Sex offenders+ are
part of our communities, part of our network of friends, worse yet, sometimes part of
our families.”517 And former FBI special agent Kenneth V. Lanning, author of Child
Molesters: A Behavior Analysis, notes the following:

The often forgotten piece in the puzzle of the sexual victimization of
children is acquaintance molestation. This seems to be the most difficult
manifestation of the problem for society and the law to face. People
seem more willing to accept a sinister stranger from a different location
or father/stepfather from a different socioeconomic background as a
child molester than a clergy member, next-door neighbor, law-
enforcement officer, pediatrician, teacher, or volunteer with direct access
to children. The acquaintance molester, by definition, is one of us. He is
not just an external threat. We cannot easily distinguish him from us or
identify him by physical traits. These kinds of molesters have always
existed, but society and the criminal-justice system have been reluctant
to accept the reality of these cases.518
Clearly, the problem of family and acquaintance abductions and sex abuse
predated the rise of the Internet, and it will unlikely be diminished by age verification of
minors on social networking websites or other websites. But the argument could be
made that abductions by strangers—while exceedingly rare—could be reduced even
further by age-verifying minors or adults before they enter certain sites.

This potential reduction may be true, but it is important to remember that
predators can’t magically reach through a computer screen and grab our kids. Predators
must meet them somewhere in the physical world (i.e., a mall, park, playground, etc.).
The danger of the Internet is that it allows predators to groom minors over a protracted
period, while doing so from a distance. However, the fact that they are doing so from a
distance—and over electronic communications networks, no less—means we have
actually gained some important advantages in our effort to combat child predation.
Many of the predators leave digital tracks for us to follow. Thus, to the extent that

517
“Sex offenders only very rarely sneak into a house in the middle of the night. More often they come
through the front door in the day, as friends and neighbors, as Boy Scout leaders, priests, principals,
teachers, doctors, and coaches. They are invited into our homes time after time, and we give them
permission to take our children on the overnight camping trip, the basketball game, or down to the
Salvation Army post for youth activities.” Anna C. Salter, Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists, and Other Sex
Offenders (New York: Basic Books, 2003), at 5, 76.
518
Kenneth V. Lanning, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Child Molesters: A Behavior
Analysis, 2001,
www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/ResourceServlet?LanguageCountry=en_US&Pageid=469

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disturbing things are happening online or being facilitated by the Internet in any fashion,
at least there is a digital record of those activities or crimes. The electronic tracks have
made it easier to recover children or to track perpetrators on many occasions.519

Of course, digital records have also made it easier to catch minors engaging in
foolish behavior after they post information or photos about their actions online. 520 In
past generations, parents often warned their kids to behave themselves in public or else
“it will go down on your permanent
record.” It was largely just a scare tactic,
because there really was no permanent It is important to remember that
record of the mundane activities of youth. predators can’t magically reach
Today, however—for better or for worse— through a computer screen and
the Internet is becoming “your permanent grab our kids.
record.” No doubt, this raises some
serious, long-term privacy concerns, but
It is important
the one positive aspect is that the existence of electronic to remember
records that for
makes it easier
parents, website operators, or law enforcement predators can’tto
officials magically reachonline
deal with
521
through a computer screen
troublemakers of all varieties. (As will be discussed at greater length below, andthat is
why education is essential to make sure both kids and their grabparents
our kids.
understand that
serious consequences are associated with what they post online.)

“At-Risk” Youth are the Real Concern It is important to remember that
Not only is it a myth that there is a growingpredators
epidemic can’t magically reach child
of Internet-facilitated
abductions, but it is also a myth that all children are equally susceptible screen
through a computer and
to falling prey to
522
grab our kids.
online predators. In reality, the population of “at-risk” youngsters who are most likely
to become the victim of online predators is very small.

It is important
A 2004 study by researchers from the Crimes to remember
against Children that
Research Center
(CCRC) at the University of New Hampshire (UNH)predators
surveyedcan’t
moremagically reach
than 2,500 cases in
through a computer screen and
grab our kids.
519
See Mark Sherman, Chat Rooms Help FBI Hunt for Pedophiles, USA Today, May 15, 2006,
www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2006-05-15-fbi-chat-rooms_x.htm
520
Wendy Davis, Teens’ Online Postings Are New Tool for Police, Boston Globe, May 15, 2006,
www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2006/05/15/teens_online_postings_are_new_tool_for_police
; Andrew L. Wang, “Teen Blog Watch is On,” Chicago Tribune, May 23, 2006.
521
Eric Tucker, Police Departments Turning to YouTube to Catch Suspects, Boston Globe, Feb. 24, 2007,
www.boston.com/news/local/rhode_island/articles/2007/02/24/police_departments_turning_to_you
tube_to_catch_suspects
522
Actual communication with strangers is actually far more limited than more parents or policymakers
think. As the USA Today noted in 2009: “New research about online and offline friends shows that
most teens use the Internet to interact with people they already know rather than strangers who
might turn out to be predators.” Sharon Jayson, For Teens, A Friend Online is Usually a Friend Offline,
Too, USA Today, April 2, 2009, www.usatoday.com/tech/webguide/internetlife/2009-04-02-online-
friends_N.htm

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which juveniles became the victims of sex crimes by people they met through the
Internet.523 The authors found that those children—almost all of whom were
teenagers—were not, generally speaking, the victims of the stereotypical scenario that
most parents and policymakers fear: “strangers who are pedophiles and who deceive
and lure children, frequently over long distances, into situations where they can be
forcibly abducted or sexually assaulted.”524 In fact, the opposite was the case.

The study found that “although they undoubtedly manipulated juveniles in a
variety of ways, the offenders in the Internet-initiated crimes did not generally deceive
victims about being older adults who were interested in sexual relationships. Victims
usually knew this propensity before their first face-to-face encounters with
offenders.”525 The survey results supporting this finding are startling:

 Only 5% of the adult offenders lied about their age and tried to pass themselves
off as being minors.
 Only 21% of the adult offenders lied about their sexual desires with the minor.

Yet, despite the fact that most offenders did not hide their desires:
 The great majority of victims (83%) who met with offenders face-to-face
voluntarily went somewhere with them afterward (a hotel, movie, restaurant,
etc.), and many (41%) spent at least one night with the offender.
 Most victims (73%) willingly met with offenders more than once.
 In 89% of the cases, the victims willingly engaged in some sort of sexual activity
with the offender; only 5% of the cases involved violence or rape.

More recently, CCRC researchers noted that, although arrests of online
predators increased between 2000 and 2006, “most arrests and the majority of the
increase involved offenders who solicited undercover investigators, not actual youth.”526
“Online predator arrests comprise only 1 percent of arrests for sex crimes committed
against minors,” says Janis Wolak, a CCRC senior researcher and co-director of the
National Juvenile Online Victimization Studies. “The recent growth in arrests is best
explained by increasing numbers of youth online,527 migration of crime from offline to
523
Janis Wolak, David Finkelhor, and Kimberly Mitchell, Internet-initiated Sex Crimes against Minors:
Implications for Prevention Based on Findings from a National Study, 35 Journal of Adolescent Health,
No. 5, 2004, at 11-20, www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/CV71.pdf
524
Id., at 18.
525
Id.
526
Crimes against Children Research Center, University of New Hampshire, Trends in Arrests of Online
“Predators,” March 2009, www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/CV194.pdf
527
The percentage of Americans under age 18 using the Internet was growing significantly during this
period, from 73 percent to 93 percent. See Larry Magid, Study Has Mostly Good News about Predator
Risk, CNet News.com, March 31, 2009, http://news.cnet.com/8301-19518_3-10208135-238.html

Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) 173
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online venues and the intensification of law enforcement activity against online crimes,”
Wolak says.528 The UNH researchers thus conclude:

The publicity about online “predators” who prey on naive children using
trickery and violence is largely inaccurate. Internet sex crimes involving
adults and juveniles more often fit a model of statutory rape—adult
offenders who meet, develop relationships with, and openly seduce
underage teenagers—than a model of forcible sexual assault or
pedophilic child molesting. This is a serious problem, but one that
requires different approaches from current prevention messages
emphasizing parental control and the dangers of divulging personal
information. Developmentally appropriate prevention strategies that
target youth directly and focus on healthy sexual development and
avoiding victimization are needed. These should provide younger
adolescents with awareness and avoidance skills, while educating older
youth about the pitfalls of relationships with adults and their criminal
nature. Particular attention should be paid to higher risk youth, including
those with histories of sexual abuse, sexual orientation concerns, and
patterns of off- and online risk taking.529
The fact that some children would consent to meet with older strangers and
engage in such acts is shocking and disturbing, and most parents would find it
unfathomable that their own children would voluntarily involve themselves with older
men in this fashion. But therein lies the real problem. The researchers in this study
found that most youngsters involved in those cases did not have a good relationship
with their parents. In many cases, the victims reported a high degree of conflict with
their parents or very little parental interaction and mentoring. In some cases, parents
were absent from the home altogether. Loneliness and depression were also prevalent
traits in many of the youngsters. And some of the boys who became willing victims were
“gay or questioning” about their sexuality and were scared to talk to their parents or
educators about it.

Those children are at-risk youth who need help. What they need most is love
and understanding. When they cannot get them because of parental estrangement or
incompetence, it is not surprising that some will look elsewhere for acceptance. As
Nancy E. Willard, author of Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens notes:

528
Janis Wolak, David Finkelhor & Kimberly Mitchell, Crimes against Children Research Center, University
of New Hampshire, National Study Finds Large Increase in Arrests of Online Predators in Undercover
Operations, March 31, 2009, www.unh.edu/ccrc/Presspacket/033109_pr.pdf
529
Janice Wolak, David Finkelhor, Kimberly Mitchell & Michele Ybarra, Online “Predators” and their
Victims: Myths, Realities and Implications for Prevention and Treatment, 63 Am. Psychologist 2, 111-
128 (2008), www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/Am%20Psy%202-08.pdf.

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All humans crave companionship and acceptance. Children who, for
whatever reason, do not have healthy relationships and do not feel
accepted in the “real world” will be inclined to seek out online
connections and communities in which they feel accepted. And this can
lead to greater danger online.530

Although the Internet and social networking websites provide them with one
potential way of finding help or building rewarding friendships, the danger exists that
they might be so desperate for such acceptance that they would even seek it from older
strangers who might want to befriend them only to satisfy perverted sexual desires.

It would be wrong, however, to assume that all youth share those same
problems or would voluntarily meet—or engage in sexual activity with—an older man.
Rather, only a handful of at-risk youth give rise to this problem.531 And even if we could
find an effective way for all Internet sites to age-verify their users, many of these at-risk
youth would likely still seek out acceptance from older figures using alternative means.
Indeed, 79 percent of the victims in the study mentioned earlier were also contacted by
the offenders by telephone, and almost 20 percent received correspondence by
traditional mail. But no one would seriously consider trying to solve such a problem by
age-verifying minors before they use phones or send letters.

Educators, health officials, and
other organizations need to devise better
strategies for assisting such at-risk youth. Educators, health officials, and
The first step is finding them. Again, this other organizations need to devise
step is where the Internet and social better strategies for assisting at-
networking sites actually help solve risk youth.
problems. For example, John Draper,
director of the National Suicide Prevention
Lifeline,532 has said that referrals from MySpace.comEducators,
users health officials,the
have become andlargest
source of calls to the hotline. He says that someother organizations
kids are increasinglyneed
usingtotheir
devise
social
betterhad
networking profiles “to in some way convey that they strategies
suicidal for assisting
intent. Thereat-
is very
much the potential for saving lives because the first people torisk
hearyouth.
about kids at risk are

Educators, health officials, and
other organizations need to devise
Nancy E. Willard, Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens (Sanbetter strategies for assisting
2007), atat-
530
Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 155-6.
531 risk youth.
A 2009 study also found that girls who had a history of childhood abuse were more likely later in life to
engage in risky online sexual encounters as well as offline, in-person encounters. Study: Abuse,
Provacative Images Increase Internet Risk for Girls, CNN.com, May 26, 2009,
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/TECH/05/26/girls.internet.study Educators, health officials, and
532
www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org other organizations need to devise
better strategies for assisting at-
risk youth.
Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) 175

Educators, health officials, and
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

other kids.”533 In fact, the organization has recently established its own MySpace profile
to enable easier reporting of problems.534

Another independent MySpace suicide prevention site—“SOS” (Students
Overcoming Suicide)—aims “to prevent and raise awareness about teenage suicide in
the place where teens are most reachable; schools... Through SOS, our goal is to reach
out to those in need, and offer hope to
those who would otherwise have
nowhere else to turn. In doing so, we
want to show that nobody is truly alone in Whatever their concerns are about
this world, no matter how bad it may current domestic sites, parents and
seem. SOS aims to bring teens together in policymakers should understand
an attempt to unite and overcome that those sites are generally more
feelings of despair, isolation, and accountable and visible than
hopelessness.” 535 offshore sites.

Many other examples of peers
assisting other at-risk peers can be found on social networking sites. On MySpace.com
alone, notable examples include: “Helping Teens”536 and “Teens Helping Teens,”537
Whatever their concerns are about
which both let youth counsel each other or suggest places where others might find help.
current domestic sites, parents and
policymakers should understand
Teens Soliciting Teens
that those sites are generally more
In this debate, much is also made of a statistic culled from the second Youth
accountable and visible than
Internet Safety Survey (YISS-2) from the National Center for Missing and Exploited
offshore sites over which we have
Children, which found that one out of every seven (13%) children has received a sexual
virtually no influence but that have
solicitation while online.538 Although this figure represents a decline from the 1-in-5
the same reach as domestic sites.
(19%) finding from the first survey (YISS-1), it is still a disturbing number.

Importantly, however, the YISS survey noted that a significant percentage of
those “solicitations” are kids talking to other kids. In other words, when 17-year-old
Johnny propositions 16-year-old Jenny, it counts as a “solicitation.” Of course, teens
Whatever their concerns are about
were delivering salacious solicitations to each other long before the Internet came
current domestic sites, parents and
policymakers should understand
533
that those sites are generally more
Quoted in Larry Magid and Anne Collier, MySpace Unraveled: A Parent’s Guide
accountable andtovisible
Teen Social
than
Networking (Berkeley, CA: Peachtree Press, 2007), at 174, www.myspaceunraveled.com.
offshore sites over which we have
534
www.myspace.com/suicidepreventionlifeline virtually no influence but that have
535
www.myspace.com/studentsovercomingsuicide the same reach as domestic sites.
536
www.myspace.com/helpingteens
537
www.myspace.com/whymeteenshelpingteens
538
Janis Wolak, Kimberly Mitchell, and David Finkelhor, Online Victimization: Five Years Later, National
Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 2006, Whatever their concerns are about
www.missingkids.com/en_US/publications/NC167.pdf
current domestic sites, parents and
policymakers should understand
Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0)
that those sites are generally more 176
accountable and visible than
offshore sites over which we have
virtually no influence but that have
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

along, but parents had no way to track sexual solicitations unless they found a dirty note
in a schoolbag or pants pocket.

This reality is not to condone the rude and raunchy behavior some teens engage
in, but we need to be realistic about the issue and to understand that, in a certain sense,
this problem has always been with us. It is simply more visible to us now. For the first
time, we are measuring things that were previously unmeasured or unmeasurable.
Regardless, teens trash-talking to other teens is a problem that will not disappear with
the regulation of the Internet or the imposition of age verification on social networking
sites.

B. Wrong Solution: Mandatory Age Verification
Many policymakers are advocating mandatory age verification of minors as a
potential solution to some of the concerns expressed above.539 In particular, many state
attorneys general (AGs) are demanding that social networking websites such as
MySpace, Facebook, Xanga, and others verify the age of their users before they are
allowed on such sites.540

That is unfortunate because, as will be shown below, perfect age verification is a
quixotic objective and the pursuit of it could create a false sense of security for both
parents and children. It could also have profound ramifications for freedom of speech
and privacy.541 And, as the adjoining exhibit notes, this has also been the general
conclusion of the major online safety task forces that have examined the issue. These
task force reports are discussed at greater length in an appendix to this report.

539
This section is condensed from a much longer study on the issue I published in March 2007. See Adam
Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Social Networking and Age Verification: Many Hard
Questions; No Easy Solutions, Progress on Point 14.5, March 21, 2007, www.pff.org/issues-
pubs/pops/pop14.5ageverification.pdf . Also see Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation,
Statement Regarding the Internet Safety Technical Task Force’s Final Report to the Attorneys General,
Jan. 14, 2008, www.pff.org/issues-pubs/other/090114ISTTFthiererclosingstatement.pdf.
540
Emily Steel & Julia Angwin, MySpace Receives More Pressure to Limit Children’s Access to Site, Wall
Street Journal, June 23, 2006, http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB115102268445288250-
YRxkt0rTsyyf1QiQf2EPBYSf7iU_20070624.html?mod=tff_main_tff_top
541
In the most recent COPA-related decision in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
[discussed further below], Judge Lowell Reed held that, “Requiring users to go through an age
verification process would lead to a distinct loss of personal privacy.” American Civil Liberties Union v.
Gonzales, No. 98-5591 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 22, 2007), at 55, www.cdt.org/speech/copa/20070322copa.pdf.

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Exhibit 66: What Major Child Safety Task Forces Said about Age Verification
2000 – Commission on Online Child Protection (“COPA Commission”)
[Age verification] imposes moderate costs on users, who must get an I.D. It imposes high costs on content
sources that must install systems and might pay to verify I.D.s. The adverse effect on privacy could be
high. It may be lower than for credit card verification if I.D.s are separated from personally-identifiable
information. Uncertainty about the application of a harmful to minors standard increases the costs
incurred by harmful to minors sites in connection with such systems. An adverse impact on First
Amendment values arises from the costs imposed on content providers, and because requiring
identification has a chilling effect on access. Central collection of credit card numbers coupled with the
"embarrassment effect" of reporting fraud and the risk that a market for I.D.s would be created may have
542
adverse effect on law enforcement.

2002 – Youth, Pornography, and the Internet (“Thornburgh Commission”)
In an online environment, age verification is much more difficult because a pervasive nationally available
infrastructure for this purpose is not available. *…+ Note that each of these [age verification] methods
imposes a cost in convenience of use, and the magnitude of this cost rises as the confidence in age
543
verification increases.

2008 – Safer Children in a Digital World (“Byron Review”)
[N]o existing approach to age verification is without its limitations, so it is important that we do not fixate
544
on age verification as a potential ‘silver bullet’.

2009 – Internet Safety Technical Task Force (ISTTF)
Age verification and identity authentication technologies are appealing in concept but challenged in terms
of effectiveness. Any system that relies on remote verification of information has potential for
inaccuracies. For example, on the user side, it is never certain that the person attempting to verify an
identity is using their own actual identity or someone else’s. Any system that relies on public records has
a better likelihood of accurately verifying an adult than a minor due to extant records. Any system that
focuses on third-party in-person verification would require significant political backing and social
acceptance. Additionally, any central repository of this type of personal information would raise
545
significant privacy concerns and security issues.

2009 – “Point Smart. Click Safe.” Blue Ribbon Working Group
The task force acknowledges that the issues of identity authentication and age verification remain
substantial challenges for the Internet community due to a variety of concerns including privacy, accuracy,
546
and the need for better technology in these areas.

542
COPA Commission, Report to Congress, Oct. 20, 2000, www.copacommission.org
543
Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council, Youth, Pornography
and the Internet (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2002), at 63-4,
www.nap.edu/html/youth_internet/
544
Safer Children in a Digital World: The Report of the Byron Review, March 27, 2008, at 99.
www.dcsf.gov.uk/byronreview
545
Internet Safety Technical Task Force, Enhancing Child Safety & Online Technologies: Final Report of the
Internet Safety Technical Task Force to the Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking of State
Attorneys General of the United States, Dec. 31, 2008, at 10,
http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/pubrelease/isttf.
546
www.pointsmartclicksafe.org/report

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It is vitally important that lawmakers do nothing that could force mainstream,
domestic social networking sites offshore or, even worse, that could drive the users we
are trying to protect to offshore sites. Whatever their concerns are about current
domestic sites, parents and policymakers should understand that those sites are
generally more accountable and visible than offshore sites over which we have virtually
no influence but that have the same reach as domestic sites.

The Complexities of Human Identification
Generally speaking, the problem that age verification is supposed to solve is to
keep older people away from youngsters, at least in certain circumstances. Also, some
proponents wish to use age verification to ban preteen access to social networking sites.
To accomplish either of those objectives, we must be able to effectively verify
everyone’s age by consulting reliable
records about those looking to create an
account on a social networking site. In Perfect age verification is a quixotic
other words, when Janie Smith comes to a objective and the pursuit of it could
social networking site for the first time, the create a false sense of security for
site must be able to verify not only that both parents and children.
she is Janie Smith, but that she really is as
old as she claims to be. But this verification Perfect age verification is a quixotic
is easier said than done. objective and the pursuit of it could
create a false sense of security for
Consider first what is required to verify an adult’s identity.and
both parents When government
children.
officials or even corporations seek to verify someone’s identify or age, they can rely on
birth certificates, Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses,
Perfect military records,
age verification home
is a quixotic
mortgages, car loans, other credit records, or credit cards. and the pursuit of it could
objective
create a false sense of security for
But even with all those pieces of information, challenges
both parents remain. Is the
and children.
information publicly accessible or restricted by legal or other means? Are all the
underlying pieces of information and documentation
Perfecttrustworthy, or have
age verification they been
is a quixotic
manipulated or misreported in some way? Has someone
objectivefaked his pursuit
and the or her identity?
of it couldAnd
so on. Thus, while the identity authentication systems—both
create a falsepublic
senseand private—have
of security for
improved significantly in recent decades, they still face some inherent challenges
both parents and children. and
547
concerns about fraud.
Perfect age verification is a quixotic
The current concern about “identity theft” demonstrates
objective and the the complexities
pursuit of it couldand
level of difficulty involved in stamping out this problem.
create aEven
falseU.S. passports,
sense which
of security for are
relatively robust identification documents that contain authentication
both parents data, are
and children.
occasionally forged with success. “It is safe to assume that future age verification efforts
will yield failures on par with other identification/authentication mechanisms,”
Perfect age verification is a quixoticsays
547
objective and the pursuit of it could
For a comprehensive discussion of such matters, see Jim Harper, Identity Crisis: How Identification Is
create a false sense of security for
Overused and Misunderstood (Washington, DC: Cato Institute, 2006).
both parents and children.

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objective and the pursuit of it could
create a false sense of security for
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information security expert Jeff Schmidt, CEO of Authis, Inc.548 “When one considers
how frequently college students successfully circumvent age verification requirements
in person and with government issued documents, one can begin to grasp the
challenges that lie ahead.”549

Importantly, we are only talking just about adults here. When the focus of
identity verification efforts shifts to minors, the endeavor becomes far more
complicated. Minors don’t have home mortgages, car loans, or military records, and
most have never worked. Most don’t have driver’s licenses or credit cards either.

Of course, minors do have birth certificates, Social Security numbers, and school
records, but both parents and government officials have long demanded that access to
those records be tightly guarded. That’s for a very good reason: As a society, we take
privacy seriously—especially the privacy of our children. Laws and regulations have
been implemented that shield such records from public use, including the Family
Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 and various state statutes.550

Also, to the extent that age verification of adults works for some websites—
online dating services, for example—it is important to realize that in most of those cases
the users want to be verified. In that context, identify authentication increases
marketability of a user’s “profile,” or it allows him or her to participate more actively in
an environment where trust is essential. This fact makes it far more likely that age
verification will work because user compliance is driven by market forces, not
regulation. That compliance will not be the case when users—especially kids—
inherently resist the idea of being age-verified before they go onto certain websites.
(We should also not forget that some kids will share their online credentials or
passwords with friends.)

It is also important to realize that age verification and background checks are not
synonymous. Information security expert John J. Cardillo, president and CEO of Sentinel,
a leading authentication firm, argues that:

Most people are ignorant of what we do. They hear the words “check” or
“verification” and they assume a full background check will be run on the
individual. When this is sponsored by an AG, the chief law enforcement
officer of their state, there’s a perception that the criminal background
checks are inclusive in whatever they’re proposing. Age verification, on
its own, doesn’t indicate whether or not a person is a convicted sex
offender. Mandated age verification, as proposed, would allow the

548
Jeff Schmidt, e-mail conversation on file with author, Feb. 19, 2007.
549
Id.
550
www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html

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hundreds of thousands of offenders … who are over 18, unrestricted
access to sites. Worse, it would allow these offenders the ability to vouch
for children that might or might not exist. This is where it gets most
dangerous. People might assume that “verified” users have undergone
some type of vetting, and let their guard down just that little bit the
offenders need to exploit. In the case of convicted sex offenders, age
verification actually helps them by giving them an additional layer of
legitimacy.551
Again, this points to the danger of creating a false sense of security online by
mandating a solution that doesn’t address the real problem.

And, once again, the special challenges raised by the nature of the Internet and
online communication must be reiterated. Finding a dependable source of identity or
age information and then reliably matching it to someone thousands of miles away on
the Internet (perhaps in another jurisdiction, or even another country) is a daunting
challenge—made even more difficult by the fact that a remote individual may be
actively attempting to subvert the age verification process. Solving this problem
necessitates authentication data that are appropriate for online interaction. In the real
world, we perform in-person authentication with a photo or physical description; the
online world requires a username / password combination, biometric authenticator, or
physical security token. An arms-race scenario is obviously at work here, and because a
perfect solution is impossible, we must guard against a false sense of security.

Lastly, because technology is evolving at such a rapid pace in this area, there is a
risk that legislative solutions will become obsolete very rapidly. That is particularly the
case since “social networking” is still an evolving notion. Clearly, sites like MySpace and
Facebook qualify. But what about other types of sites or services that allow similar
forms of interaction? For example, what about traditional e-mail and IM services, or
new location-based mobile networking services? Finally, what about gaming platforms?
As mentioned earlier, social networking capabilities are increasingly being integrated
into gaming consoles, and many video games already feature interactive social
networking capabilities.552 That is, gamers can create their own profiles and text or chat
with friends real-time while engaging in online gaming activities.

Why Credit Cards Won’t Work
Although there are many potential variations of age verification, the leading
varieties mentioned in these debates are credit card authorizations and parental
permission-based systems of authentication. Unfortunately, both methods have serious
flaws and drawbacks.

551
John J. Cardillo, e-mail conversation on file with author, March 11, 2007.
552
Walaika Haskins, Gamin’s Play for Social Networks, Tech News World, May 12, 2008,
www.technewsworld.com/story/social-networking/62953.html

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Credit cards are often viewed by policymakers as the silver bullet solution for age
verification. Even though credit card companies typically do not wish their cards to be
used as age verification tools, government has advocated their use in that way in the
past, but they are not a silver bullet.

“Mere possession of a credit card is not a reliable assertion of identity or age,”
argues Jeff Schmidt of Authis.553 Credit
cards can be a rough proxy for age on the
assumption that only adults over the age of Credit cards are often viewed by
18 have credit cards, but that assumption policymakers as the silver bullet
is false. Many minors are given credit cards solution for age verification. But
by their parents. Youngsters can borrow or they are not a silver bullet.
steal credit cards from their parents or
others. And Schmidt notes that newly
created stored value cards, specifically Credit cards are often viewed by
marketed for use by children, “are in many casespolicymakers
indistinguishable
as thefrom
silveractual
bulletcredit
cards—both in physical appearance and in the back-end
solution transaction
for age verification.processing
But
systems.”554 Sentinel’s John Cardillo points out additional reasons why credit
they are not a silver bullet.cards are
not effective age verification tools:

When a card is used for verification purposes,
Creditan authorization
cards on thatby
are often viewed
card is run for $1.00 (or less), however a policymakers
charge isn’t put through.
as the The
silver bullet
card typically isn’t reconciled against any database for age
solution for name and/or age,
verification. But
nor is a signature checked. Because of the insignificant dollar amount, the
they are not a silver bullet.
only thing that’s checked for security purposes, in some instances, is zip
code. Anyone who’s ever bought gasoline with a credit card knows this to
be true. Our names and ages aren’t checked at cards
Credit the pump. Check
are often yourby
viewed
statement online next time you gas up. You’ll see an authorization
policymakers for
as the silver bullet
$1.00 and the actual charge a few days later. The same
solution merchant
for age banks
verification. But
handle the transactions online. In other words, in most cases, all that’s
they are not a silver bullet.
being verified is that the card account isn’t closed or stolen. Who’s using
it is irrelevant.555
Credit cards are
Moreover, “many parents may feel uncomfortable often
giving viewed
their by card
credit
number online at children’s Web sites where therepolicymakers as the
is no transaction silver bullet
involved,” 556
noted
solution for age verification. But
they are not a silver bullet.
553
Jeff Schmidt, e-mail conversation on file with author, Feb. 19, 2007.
554
Id.
555
Credit cards are often viewed by
John J. Cardillo, e-mail conversation on file with author, March 11, 2007.
policymakers as the silver bullet
556
American Advertising Federation, American Association ofsolution
Advertising
forAgencies, Association But
age verification. of
National Advertisers, the Direct Marketing Association, Inc., &
they are not a silver bullet. Filing
Magazine Publishers of America,
in COPPA Rule Review 2005, June 27, 2005, at 5.

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policymakers as the silver bullet
solution for age verification. But
they are not a silver bullet.
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a joint filing by a coalition of major commercial organizations, including the American
Advertising Federation, American Association of Advertising Agencies, Association of
National Advertisers, the Direct Marketing Association, Inc., and Magazine Publishers of
America. In a June 2005 filing to the Federal Trade Commission, these organizations
noted that “in light of current online scams, heightened concerns about online security,
and the rise of such practices as phishing, parents may be reluctant to provide credit
card numbers absent a transaction.”557 But that begs the question: If lawmakers
required social networking sites to process a credit card transaction to age-verify, is that
fair? In particular, is it fair for low-income families? And what about those families that
do not possess a credit card?

Finally, the law is not even settled
about using credit cards for access to Because websites are far away from
adult-oriented websites. Congress passed the parents, how is the site operator
the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) in going to ensure that the person
1998 in an effort to restrict minors’ vouching for the child’s age is really
access to adult-oriented websites. The the parent or even an adult?
measure provided an affirmative defense
to prosecution if a website operator could Because websites are far away from
show that it had made a good-faith effort the parents, how is the site operator
to restrict site access by requiring a credit card, adult personal
going identification
to ensure number, or
that the person
some other type of age-verifying certificate or technology.
vouching for the child’s age is really
the parent or even an adult?
The legislation was immediately challenged and was twice reviewed by the
Supreme Court. The legal wrangling about COPA’s constitutionality
Because websites are continued
far away forfrom
over a
decade. The last substantive COPA decision wasthe handed down
parents, howon March
is the site22, 2007, by
operator
Judge Lowell Reed Jr., senior judge of the U.S. District
goingCourt for the
to ensure thatEastern District of
the person
Pennsylvania.558 Judge Reed issued a permanentvouching
injunctionfor the child’s age is really of
against the enforcement
COPA. In July 2008, the full Third Circuit Court of Appeals
the parent upheld Judge
or even Reed’s ruling
an adult?
559
striking down COPA, and then, in January 2009, the Supreme Court rejected the
560
government’s latest request to revive the law, meaning
Becauseit websites
is likely dead.
are far away from
the parents, how is the site operator
In his evidence-laden decision, Judge Reed going
held that COPA that
to ensure was the
unconstitutional
person
because it was not “the least restrictive, mostvouching
effectivefor
alternative in achieving
the child’s age is reallythe
*government’s+ compelling interest” and it remains “impermissibly
the parent vague and
or even an adult?

Because websites are far away from
557
Id. the parents, how is the site operator
558 going to ensure that the person
American Civil Liberties Union v. Gonzales, No. 98-5591 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 22, 2007), at 35,
www.cdt.org/speech/copa/20070322copa.pdf. vouching for the child’s age is really
559 the parent or even an adult?
www.cdt.org/speech/20080722COPA3rdCircuit.pdf
560
See Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation,Because
Closing the Book on COPA,
websites PFF
are far Blog, Jan.
away from 21,
2009, http://blog.pff.org/archives/2009/01/closing_the_boo.html.
the parents, how is the site operator
going to ensure that the person
vouching for the child’s age is really
Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) 183
the parent or even an adult?

Because websites are far away from
The Progress & Freedom Foundation

overbroad.”561 Regarding age verification, Judge Reed held that, “From the weight of the
evidence, I find that there is no evidence of age verification services or products
available on the market to owners of Web sites that actually reliably establish or verify
the age of Internet users. Nor is there evidence of such services or products that can
effectively prevent access to Web pages by a minor.”562 Specifically, regarding the use of
credit cards as an age verification tool, Judge Reed argued that, “payment cards cannot
be used to verify age because minors under 17 have access to credit cards, debit cards,
and reloadable prepaid cards” and… “there are many other ways in which a minor may
obtain and use payment cards.”563

In a sense, Judge Reed’s decision was unsurprising since many other experts had
arrived at the same conclusion in previous studies. For example, when COPA was
passed, it established an expert Commission on Online Child Protection to study
methods for reducing access by minors to harmful material on the Internet. As part of
its final report, the COPA commission said credit card-based age verification would be
completely inappropriate for instant messaging and chat, which were the precursors of
social networking. The commission found: “This system’s limitations include the fact
that some children have access to credit cards, and it is unclear how this system would
apply to sites outside the U.S. It is not effective at blocking access to chat, newsgroups,
or instant messaging.”564

Parental Consent / Notification Mandates
With opposition to strict age verification mandates growing, some regulatory
advocates now seek to institute such mandates through the back door of “parental
consent” mandates in the model of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
of 1998.565 COPPA required websites that marketed to children under the age of 13 to

561
American Civil Liberties Union v. Gonzales, Id., at 1.
562
Id., at 44.
563
Id., at 46. “The minimum information required by a DVS *data verification services+ company to
attempt a verification is a first name, last name, street address, and zip code. This minimum
information requirement can easily be circumvented by children who generally know the first and last
name, street address and zip codes of their parents or another adult. … I find from the testimony that
without a physical delivery of goods and an accompanying visual age verification, neither the [data
verification services] nor the Web page operator can know whether an adult or a child provided the
information. Attempting to verify age with this information in a consumer-not-present transaction is
therefore unreliable.” Id., at 49.
564
Commission on Online Child Protection, Final Report, Oct. 20, 2000,
www.copacommission.org/report/ageverification.html. Also see Computer Science and
Telecommunications Board, National Research Council, Youth, Pornography, and the Internet,
(Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2002), at 206-9, 339-49.
565
For an extended discussion of these issues, see Berin Szoka & Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom
Foundation, COPPA 2.0: The New Battle over Privacy, Age Verification, Online Safety & Free Speech,
Progress on Point 16.11, May 2009, http://pff.org/issues-pubs/pops/2009/pop16.11-COPPA-and-age-
verification.pdf;

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get “verifiable parental consent” before allowing children access to their sites. The
Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is responsible for enforcing COPPA, adopted a
so-called sliding scale approach to obtaining parental consent. The sliding scale
approach allows website operators to use a variety of the methods described above to
comply with the law. The FTC also authorized four “safe harbor” programs operated by
private companies that help website operators comply with COPPA.566

Efforts to expand this approach will appeal to many because it can be likened to
a parent signing a “permission slip” for a child. Unfortunately, parental permission-
based approaches are more complicated for online activities. Because websites are far
away from the parents, how is the site operator going to ensure that the person
vouching for the child’s age is really the parent or even an adult? Would the verifier mail
or fax notarized documents? Those documents can be forged, of course. Mandatory
follow-up phone calls would be cumbersome, costly, and potentially viewed as intrusive.
And the use of credit cards to satisfy the permission requirement might raise some of
the same problems already discussed.

Nonetheless, legislation has been introduced at the state level that would extend
the COPPA parental-consent framework to cover all minors between the ages of 13 and
17 inclusive (“adolescents”). Some of these bills would also broaden the range of sites
covered, increase the amount of information required to be collected to achieve
“verifiable parental consent” or impose other mandates such as parental access.

Two such bills were introduced in 2007, in North Carolina (with the support of
that state’s Attorney General Roy Cooper)567 and Georgia.568 While these bills were
never passed, a similar bill is currently pending in Illinois.569 Because the scope of such
bills would reach all “social networking sites” that offered certain functionality (e.g.,
user profiles), rather only those sites directed at a particular age bracket (as under
COPPA), they would extend age verification mandates far beyond sites that might be
considered “adolescent-oriented.” Another bill is currently pending in New Jersey; like
COPPA, this bill would reach only sites directed at adolescents, but it might reach a

566
The programs are administered by: the Children’s Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better
Business Bureaus (CARU); the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB); TRUSTe; and Privo.
567
S.B. 132, 2007 Gen. Assem., Reg. Sess. § 8 (N.C. 2007), available at
www.ncga.state.nc.us/Sessions/2007/Bills/Senate/HTML/S132v3.html; see also Roy Cooper,
Protecting Children from Sexual Predators: SB 132, July 24, 2007,
www.ncdoj.com/DocumentStreamerClient?directory=WhatsNew/&file=S132%20Summary%20final.pd
f; see also Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Age Verification Showdown in North
Carolina, PFF Blog, July 26, 2007, http://blog.pff.org/archives/2007/07/age_verificatio.html.
568
S.B. 59, Gen. Assem., 2007-2008 Leg. Sess. (Ga. 2007), available at
www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2007_08/fulltext/sb59.htm.
569
H.B. 1312, 96th Gen. Assem., Synopsis as Introduced (Il. 2007) [hereinafter SNWARA], available at
www.ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp?DocNum=1312&GAID=10&GA=96&DocTypeID=HB&LegID=430
38&SessionID=76.

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broader range of sites, because its scope is not limited specifically to “social networking”
functionality.570

The introduction of these bills, which might best be grouped together as “COPPA
2.0” efforts, makes it clear that future online identity verification debates will be
increasingly tied up with efforts to expand the COPPA framework. These mandates will
likely arrive in the form of state-level expansions of, or federal amendments to, COPPA,
or such proposals will at least cite COPPA’s regulatory framework as precedent. Yet
COPPA 2.0 advocates seem to forget that, back in 1998, Congress considered, but
ultimately rejected, a requirement in the original version of COPPA that operators make
“reasonable efforts to provide the parents with notice and an opportunity to prevent or
curtail the collection or use of personal information collected from children over the age
of 12 and under the age of 17.”571 This requirement would have been significantly less
burdensome than the COPPA 2.0 approaches advanced today, but it was stricken from
the final version of COPPA after likely constitutional and practical problems were
identified.572

In a 2007 report to Congress, the FTC argued that no changes to COPPA were
necessary at this time because it had “been effective in helping to protect the privacy
and safety of young children online.”573 In discussing the effectiveness of the sliding
scale methods, however, the agency also found that “none of these mechanisms is
foolproof” and that “age verification technologies have not kept pace with other
developments, and are not currently available as a substitute for other screening
mechanisms.”574
One of the problems associated with COPPA is that “Children quickly learned
to lie about their age in order to gain access to the interactive features on their favorite
sites,” notes Denise G. Tayloe, CEO of Privo, Inc., one of the four FTC-approved safe
harbor programs.575 “As a result, databases have become tainted with inaccurate
information and chaos seems to be king where COPPA is concerned,” she says. 576

570
A.B. 108, Gen. Assem., 213th Leg. Sess. (N.J. 2008) [hereinafter AOPPA], available at
www.njleg.state.nj.us/2008/Bills/A0500/108_I1.HTM.
571 th
Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, S. 2326, 105 Cong. § 3(a)(2)(iii) (1998).
572
Testimony of Deirdre Mulligan, Staff Counsel, Center for Democracy and Technology, before the
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Communications,
Sept. 23, 1998, available at www.cdt.org/testimony/980923mulligan.shtml [hereinafter Mulligan
Testimony].
573
Federal Trade Commission, Implementing the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act: A Report to
Congress, Feb. 2007, at 1, www.ftc.gov/reports/coppa/07COPPA_Report_to_Congress.pdf
574
Id., at 12-13.
575
Denise Tayloe, It’s Time to Comply with COPPA, Privacy Advisor, Vol. 6, No. 10, Oct. 2006, at 5.
576
Tayloe, Id. Others have confirmed that this is taking place. Parry Aftab of Wired Safety notes that
“Preteens quickly learned that if they say they are under thirteen they will be prohibited from using

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Nonetheless, Tayloe argues that, despite these flaws, COPPA is important. Even though
“there is no perfect solution” and it is not possible to completely “stop a child from lying
and putting themselves at risk,” Tayloe points out that the law “provides a platform to
educate parents and kids about privacy.”577 Of course, providing a platform to educate
parents and kids is important, but it is not necessarily synonymous with strict age
verification.

Nonetheless, these permission-based verification schemes might work for
smaller, closed online communities in which the kids and parents are willing to take the
time (and expense) to undertake extensive authentication. For example, smaller social
networking sites such as ZoeysRoom.com, ClubPenguin.com, and Tweenland.com have
extremely strict enlistment policies, primarily because they target or allow younger
users. As Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall Street Journal explains:

The under-16 sites pose few of the hazards linked to networking sites for
older people. The activities range from chats and blogging to creating
virtual pets or characters and acting out roles in virtual cities. For a child
to register, the sites typically require a parent’s email permission, a
parental signature on a permission form, or a parent’s credit card
verification. Some limit young children’s interchanges to drop down
menus of preapproved words and phrases. Most filter content for
inappropriate material and employ live adult monitors who ensure that
kids’ conversations don’t stray off course. Some limit chats or blog access
to participants who are already preapproved and already known to a
child’s family.578
Ironically, one can probably safely assume that the kids using such services are
not in the high-risk group discussed earlier. The parents who use such services are
probably doing a fine job of mentoring their kids and don’t really need to resort to such
restrictive solutions. Nonetheless, such highly restrictive “walled garden” approaches do
provide parents with greater ease of mind. That’s not necessarily because of the strict
enlistment policies so much as the extreme limitations on what kids can do on those
sites or with whom they can communicate while online.

Regardless of how well the above schemes work in practice for these smaller,
more closed online communities—and some experts do question how well they actually
work579—such solutions lack scalability. Schemes that demand laborious and expensive

many sites. So they regularly lie about their age everywhere online.” Parry Aftab, Filing in COPPA Rule
Review 2005, June 27, 2005, at 5, www.ftc.gov/os/comments/COPPArulereview/516296-00021.pdf
577
Denise Tayloe, e-mail conversation on file with author, March 15, 2007.
578
Sue Shellenbarger, How Young is Too Young When a Child Wants to Join the MySpace Set? Wall Street
Journal, Oct. 19, 2006, at D1.
579
Internet security expert Cardillo argues that even these sites and schemes are vulnerable:

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enrollment requirements, or that greatly limit functionality and interactivity after users
sign up, will almost certainly not work for larger social networking sites with a massive
community of users.580 The administrative burdens would be significant for both site
operators and parents alike. For example, Parry Aftab of Wired Safety notes that COPPA
has made it much more difficult for some smaller website operators to stay afloat. “The
cost of obtaining verifiable parental consent for interactive communications is very high,
estimated at more than $45 per child, and even at that price [consent is] difficult to
obtain.”581

And because users would sacrifice a great deal of autonomy and functionality
once online, many would likely rebel against the system or would seek to subvert it in
some fashion. If such a system significantly slows or impedes the creation of new
accounts for domestic social networking sites, it will create a perverse incentive for kids
to seek other sites with less-restrictive policies, including offshore sites.

One can imagine other ways parents could work together and use publicly
available information about kids to credential them before they go online, but the
scalability of those solutions will always likely limit their effectiveness.

During an analysis of the security processes of certain sites we tested Imbee’s. Our
security team was able to create several fake children. More troubling was the
inconsistency of the information used to do so. We used a fake name for the parent, a
different fake name created for the Yahoo! e-mail account used at registration, and my
credit card info (because the name on the CC is irrelevant). Fictional child, and three
fake identifiers on supposedly the same adult. Not one red flag was raised, and we were
allowed onto the site without a problem. Our team was able to do this multiple
times. Had we been a real bad guy, we could have, at any time, chatted with other kids
on the site as a child. One of several different children actually. Not only isn’t it a
security solution, it’s downright dangerous.
John J. Cardillo, e-mail conversation on file with Adam Thierer, March 11, 2007. Thus, the real bad
guys out there intent on doing harm to children might still be able to exploit this sort of process.
Because many predators have children of their own, they might use this approach to obtain an ID for
their own kids and then go online under their child’s name to prey on other children. But because they
are “verified,” a false sense of security now exists. Again, this is a major problem. As Cardillo has noted
elsewhere, it allows the bad guys to essential create a “pedophile passport” and operate freely in
supposedly “safe and secure” environments. See The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Age
Verification for Social Networking Sites: Is It Possible? Is It Desirable?” Progress on Point 14.8, May
2007, at 6, www.pff.org/issues-pubs/pops/pop14.8ageverificationtranscript.pdf
580
In the most recent COPA-related decision in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania,
Judge Reed held that, “It is not economically feasible for a Web page operator, especially one that
provides free content, to verify the information of every customer that visits the Web page with [an
age verification service+.” American Civil Liberties Union v. Gonzales, No. 98-5591 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 22,
2007), at 53, www.cdt.org/speech/copa/20070322copa.pdf.
581
Parry Aftab, Filing in COPPA Rule Review 2005, June 27, 2005, at 2,
www.ftc.gov/os/comments/COPPArulereview/516296-00021.pdf

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Summary of Problems with Mandatory Age Verification
In sum, mandatory age verification represents a dangerous solution to concerns
about online child safety because it:582

 Won’t Work: Mandatory age verification will not work as billed. For the reasons
detailed below, it will fail miserably and create more problems than it will solve.
 Will Create a False Sense of Security: Because it will fail, mandatory age
verification will create a false sense of security for parents and kids alike. It will
lead them to believe they are entering “safe spaces” simply because someone
has said users are “verified.”
 Is Not a Background Check: Moreover, even if age verification did work as billed,
it is important to realize it is not synonymous with a complete background check.
In other words, even if the verification process gets the age part of the process
right, that tells us little else about the person being verified.
 Is a Grave Threat to Privacy: Mandatory age verification is dangerous because it
would require that even more personal information (about kids, no less) be put
online at a time when identity theft and privacy violations continue to be a major
concern.
 Will Seriously Misallocate Resources: Devising and enforcing age verification
regulations might also divert valuable time and resources that could be better
used to focus on education and awareness-building efforts, especially K-12
online safety and media literacy education. Moreover, it might divert law
enforcement energy and resources away from policing serious crimes or more
legitimate threats to children.

582
See Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Statement Regarding the Internet Safety
Technical Task Force’s Final Report to the Attorneys General, Jan. 14, 2008, www.pff.org/issues-
pubs/other/090114ISTTFthiererclosingstatement.pdf.

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C. Wrong Solution: Extensive Data Retention Mandates
Internet service providers, search engine providers, and many other interactive
digital service providers and website operators routinely collect data about online
activities. They use this information for a variety of purposes, but they usually do not
release it publicly or to government officials. And much, if not all, of this information is
eventually discarded.

Many lawmakers argue that data
about subscribers or consumers should
be retained for much longer periods to How much innocent activity or
aid law enforcement efforts. State AGs speech will be monitored by
and federal and state law enforcement companies or the government
officials are increasingly argue for during this process? How much
extensive data retention mandates to information is being collected
better monitor online networks and overall? Where is it all being
websites for potentially criminal activity. stored? Is it secure?
These officials contend that such
mandates will help them track child
pornography or child predators, as well as potential terrorist activities.
How much innocent activity or
In 2006, members of Congress583 and officials at the Justice Department584
speech will be monitored by
floated new proposals that would have required ISPs and others (including search
companies or the government
engines and social networking sites) to retain data on their customers and traffic flows
during this process? How much
for long periods (typically between six months and three years, if not longer). These
information is being collected
proposals mimic data retention laws that have been implemented in the European
overall? Where is it all being
Union.585
stored? Is it secure?
The Two Sides
It is importation to step back and consider this issue from two very different
perspectives. On one side, we have law enforcement officials telling us that data
retention is an essential tool for tracking down bad guys (namely, terrorists and child
How much innocent activity or
predators) in our modern world of digital communications. In essence, imposing
speech will be monitored by
extensive record-keeping requirements on ISPs and others would create massive
companies or the government
databases on end-user activities and traffic flows. Those records could later be searched
during this process? How much
information is being collected
583 overall? CNET
Declan McCullagh, Congress May Consider Mandatory ISP Snooping, Where is it all April
News.com, being 28, 2006,
stored? Is it secure?
http://news.com.com/Congress+may+consider+mandatory+ISP+snooping/2100-1028_3-
6066608.html?tag=nl
584
Declan McCullagh, Gonzales Pressures ISPs on Data Retention, CNET News.com, May 26, 2006,
http://news.com.com/2100-1028_3-6077654.html
585
Jo Best, Europe Passes Tough New Data Retention Laws, CNET News.com, Dec. 14, 2005,
How much innocent activity or
http://news.com.com/Europe+passes+tough+new+data+retention+laws/2100-7350_3-
5995089.html?tag=nl speech will be monitored by
companies or the government
during this process? How much
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stored? Is it secure?
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to determine if criminal activity had been plotted or carried out. For example, who did
Terrorist Suspect X communicate with over a two-year period? Or how many youngsters
did Suspected Pedophile Y attempt to communicate with over the past year? And so on.

On the other side, there are those who are concerned about ISPs becoming
“watchdogs” that are essentially deputized by the state to police private networks for
various activities.586 Will the deputization of the middleman only require them only to
assist in the pursuit of terrorists and child predators, or will it grow to encompass much
more activity that government officials might want monitored? Even if it does not, how
much innocent activity or speech will be monitored by companies or the government
during this process? How much information will be collected overall? Where will it all be
stored? Will it be secure? And there are a host of other privacy-related concerns one
could think of.

A Bit of Ancient History
To understand where the government is coming from and why it is asking for this
authority, it is important to recall how this process worked in the past. Back in the days
of a regulated communications monopoly, the monopolist (namely, the old AT&T) was
willing to comply with whatever the government demanded on these matters because
(a) cost recovery was possible or even guaranteed through rate-of-return regulatory
proceedings, and (b) it was more commonly understood that this was part of the
regulatory compact or quid pro quo. Indeed, if you go back and read cold war-era
histories that incorporate a communications component, you will discover how AT&T
bent over backward to cooperate with federal officials on these matters. And it was an
open secret that top AT&T engineers and government officials often worked together
on network surveillance or data retention. (Indeed, AT&T officials would occasionally
move in and out of government positions at the National Security Agency or other law
enforcement or surveillance agencies).

But the world has changed since then and the communications industry has
expanded to include more companies, sectors and technologies. Thus, even if the
government can demand that telecom companies like AT&T, Qwest, and Verizon retain
all the information government wants collected, how far does that really get them?
What about Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, eBay, MySpace,
Facebook, Live Journal, and the countless other companies that move or retain data
about users or customers? And what about offshore sites that carry Internet traffic?

A More Balanced Approach
In other words, government still wants to play the game the old way, but now
must contend with dozens (and potentially hundreds) of stakeholders instead of one big
communications monopoly. That is what makes this issue so challenging today. The

586
Declan McCullagh, Your ISP as Net Watchdog, CNET News.com, June 16, 2005,
http://news.com.com/Your+ISP+as+Net+watchdog/2100-1028_3-5748649.html?tag=nl

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government has legitimate national interests here, but that does not mean it should be
able to impose massive unfunded mandates on everyone to accomplish those goals.

The better approach would be limited, targeted data preservation requirements.
Specifically, the government should be able to ask an ISP (or any other Internet
company) to retain data but:

 only through a well-established judicial subpoena process;
 only for specific individuals who officials have probable cause to believe
are engaging in illegal activities (terrorism, child porn, etc.); and,
 only for a limited period (officials should seek additional subpoenas for
extended data retention).
There is a significant difference between this type of data preservation policy
and the sweeping data retention mandates many lawmakers are proposing today, which
would require ISPs and other Internet companies to retain massive amounts of
customer data for an extended period. Moreover, it’s unclear where companies would
even store all the information that government wants them to collect. After all, we are
potentially talking about terabytes or even petabytes of daily data traffic flows that
would have to be stored in server farms as tall as skyscrapers.

This raises some serious concerns about who should have access to such data
and how those parties would protect all that information from unauthorized uses. As
John Morris, a lawyer with the Center for Democracy and Technology, notes, “If
Congress were to require ISPs to retain extensive amounts of data, such databases
would be gold mines for abuse, including unwanted marketing and identify theft.”
Morris argues that “a broad range of other prosecutors, divorce lawyers, advertising
executives, and hackers would misuse the data.”587 John D. Ryan, chief counsel of
compliance and investigations for AOL, points to additional concerns:

[A] careful assessment of these proposals will show that they are in fact
counterproductive and the efforts to create this massive and costly
database will fall far short of its intended goal. Warehousing of data
requires the allocation of enormous resources to maintain and secure
that data. Those resources would be better focused on supporting law
enforcement in the investigation of real-time active cases. Additionally,
creating such a voluminous database will actually frustrate law
enforcement’s goal of locating and identifying the suspects they are
pursuing. As databases grow in size and complexity the risk of data

587
Quoted in Are More Laws Needed to Protect Kids Online, Wall Street Journal Online, Nov. 10, 2006,
http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB116299783252817209-
lqXuBka9GdpFDf3LJtAdvnYbpfQ_20061209.html?mod=tff_main_tff_top

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corruption increases as well. As a result, the possibility of not finding the
requested information increases as does the potential for a false match.
Finally, even the best efforts at creating these massive databases are
destined to fall short of their desired goal because they are easily
circumvented. There are thousands of Internet access points that would
not be covered by this data retention net, including universities and other
academic institutions, libraries, governments, the military, employers,
and tens of thousands of wireless hotspots. A determined predator need
only utilize one of these services to avoid the net.588
Incidentally, almost everyone in the Internet and communications industry has
already said they can live with the targeted data preservation approach outlined above.
Indeed, companies already retain data upon request in this fashion. ISPs, social
networking site operators, and most other Internet operators will retain data for as long
as government wants if law enforcement officials come to them with a specific request
about a problematic user. Federal law already requires Internet providers to retain data
for up to 90 days upon request from law enforcement and also report any child
pornography they discover to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children so
they can work with law enforcement officials to investigate. This is a much more
sensible approach to the problem than the sort of blanket (and unfunded) data
retention mandates some lawmakers are currently proposing.

D. Wrong Solution: Increased Intermediary Liability
Some academics and lawmakers have flirted with the idea of addressing online
safety problems by “deputizing the middleman” through increased liability for online
intermediaries. In theory, hanging the threat of greater legal liability over the necks of
online sites and networks might encourage them to take steps to somehow address the
situation. However, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act currently grants
online intermediaries such as website operators and ISPs broad immunity from suit for
third-party content for which they might otherwise have been liable as a publisher
under traditional tort law.589 Some are already calling on Congress to reopen, revise, or
repeal this immunity to provide a civil remedy to victims of cyberbullying or
cyberharassment.590

588
John D. Ryan, Making the Internet Safe for Kids: The Role of ISPs and Social Networking Sites,
Testimony before the House Committee on Commerce and Energy, Subcommittee on Oversight and
Investigations, June 27, 2006, at 6,
http://energycommerce.house.gov/reparchives/108/Hearings/06272006hearing1954/Ryan.pdf
589
See generally Adam Thierer & John Palfrey, The Future of Online Obscenity and Social Networks, Ars
Technica, March 5, 2009, http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/03/a-friendly-exchange-
about-the-future-of-online-liability.ars
590
See Andrew LaVallee, What to Do About Cyberbullying? Wall Street Journal, May 12, 2009,
http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2009/05/12/what-to-do-about-cyberbullying.

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One proposal would create a “notice and take-down” scheme like that for
copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). If an online
intermediary refuses to take down cyberbullying material after receiving “actual notice”
that the material constitutes cyberbullying, it could be held liable under tort law.591 This
proposal is, in fact, simply a narrow application of proposals to create such “qualified
immunity” for online defamation.592

But imposing qualified immunity on Internet intermediaries for cyberbullying is
especially problematic because cyberbullying is likely to be even more difficult to
identify than defamation. Cyberbullying, like all forms of harassment, is not just an
isolated offense, as defamation can be; instead, it requires a course of conduct or
“repeated” acts (as required by the Sánchez bill). This evidentiary requirement
generally helps courts to distinguish between genuine harassment and constitutionally
protected speech, but it may make it more, not less, difficult for an intermediary to
decide whether to take down material that allegedly constitutes cyberharassment, since
the intermediary would have to evaluate a range of material, which might be on other
sites. This, in turn, makes it even more likely that intermediaries who receive
cyberbullying notices will simply take down any material complained about, including
material that is clearly constitutionally protected. Thus, a “notice and takedown”
regime for cyberbullying could be a sword against free speech rather than a shield
against genuine cyberbullying.

Joan Lukey—a partner at Ropes & Gray, soon-be-president of the American
College of Trial Lawyers and herself a victim of cyberstalking—has proposed to require
intermediaries to take down harassing, stalking or defamatory material upon notice by a
plaintiff, but only after a lawsuit has been filed and an appropriate court order has been
issued.593 While this approach is less drastic, the details of Lukey’s legislation remain
unclear. The downside with this approach is that the only victims of such harm who
would be able to seek resolution are those who can afford an attorney.

Importantly, however, the most popular sites for children and teens, including
MySpace and Facebook already have excellent Terms of Use policies that prohibit
harmful speech and complaint procedures that result in the take down of material that
breaches these terms of use and other sanctions on users. Generally speaking,
however, the threat of liability should not be used to accomplish this goal, as it would

591
Bradley A. Areheart, Regulating Cyberbullies Through Notice-Based Liability, Yale Law Journal Pocket
Part, Vol. 117, 2007, http://ssrn.com/abstract=1081634.
592
See generally Adam Thierer, Emerging Threats to Section 230, Technology Liberation Front Blog, May
14, 2009, http://techliberation.com/2009/05/14/emerging-threats-to-section-230
593
Brian Baxter, Tormented By Cyber-Stalker, Ropes Partner Drafts New Legislation, April 17, 2009,
http://amlawdaily.typepad.com/amlawdaily/2009/04/ropes-gray-partner-fights-cyberstalker.html.

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force the online intermediaries to take sweeping steps to address the issue that could
massively chill online speech and threaten the viability of smaller site operators.

E. Right Solutions: Education, Empowerment, and Enforcement

The best way to deal with concerns about online child safety is through a “3-E
Solution,” which stands for “education, empowerment, and enforcement.”594 The
empowerment and education components have already been discussed extensively in
previous sections of this report. But, to reiterate, it is essential that parents take steps to
mentor and monitor their children as they enter the world of cyberspace. In addition,
industry should empower parents with more and better tools to help them do that job.
The tools discussed throughout Section III provide a great deal of assistance already.

As Section IV made clear, education is even more important. “You need to take a
holistic approach” to such problems, notes Ron Teixeira, former executive director of
the National Cyber Security Center.”595
Teixeira argues it is essential that we drill
basic lessons into our children—the
digital equivalent of “don’t take candy The best way to deal with concerns
from strangers,” for example—to ensure about online child safety is through
they are prepared for whatever a “3-E Solution,” which stands for
technologies or platforms follow social “education, empowerment, and
596
networking sites. “Education is the way enforcement.”
you teach children to be proactive, and
that will stay with them forever,” he
rightly concludes.597 As Parry Aftab of Wired Safety argues, it’s about teaching our kids
to “use the filter between their ears” and “make responsible decisions about their use
The is best wayform
to deal with concerns
of technology.”598 Critical thinking, in other words, the best of self-protection.
about online child safety is through
a “3-E Solution,” which stands for
594
“education, empowerment, and
Adam Thierer, Child Protection and the Internet: The ‘3-E’ Solution (Empower, Educate & Enforce),”
enforcement.”
Submission to the Advisory Committee of the Congressional Internet Caucus, 2006,
www.netcaucus.org/books/childsafety2006/pff.pdf
595
Quoted in Anick Jesdanun, Age Verification at Social-Network Sites Could Prove Difficult, Associated
Press Financial Wire, July 14, 2006.
596
Id. Similarly, online safety expert Nancy E. Willard argues:
The“With
bestthewayexpanded
to dealability
withtoconcerns
meet and
interact with new people online comes the need for a new skill—online stranger literacy. Online
about online child safety is through
stranger literacy is the ability to determine the trustworthiness and safety of individuals who are
unknown in person, with whom one is communicating online. a “3-EIt Solution,” which
is the ‘people’ stands
equivalent of for
“education,
information literacy.” Nancy E. Willard, Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy empowerment,
Teens andJossey-
(San Francisco, CA:
Bass, 2007), at 120. enforcement.”
597
Id.
598
Parry Aftab, Filing in COPPA Rule Review 2005, before the Federal Trade Commission, June 27, 2005, at
4.

The best way to deal with concerns
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a “3-E Solution,” which stands for
“education, empowerment, and
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As will be discussed next, the final “E” in the 3-E Solution is enforcement, as in
stepped up law enforcement efforts to find and adequately prosecute child predators.

Getting Sentencing Right
The most essential role that government has is to protect people from harm,
especially helpless kids. It is not the job of private companies to enforce law and order
or bring criminals to justice; that is the government's job. Unfortunately, our
government is not doing a very good job of it when it comes to online child safety.

Here is the sobering fact to consider: a 2003 Department of Justice study
reported that the average sentence for child molesters was approximately seven years
and, on average, they were released after serving just three of those seven years.599
That is an extremely troubling statistic. If you have young children in your home, it is
even more upsetting. When our government is putting people who viciously hurt
innocent children behind bars for just seven years and then letting them out after only
three, then our government has failed us at a very fundamental level.

Worse yet, policymakers then point fingers at everyone else and scold Internet
companies and ISPs for not doing enough to protect children from predators, all the
while conveniently ignoring the government's own failed policies that allow those
predators to be on the streets and behind keyboards in the first place. It is not “market
failure” at work when child predators are lurking online; it is government failure in the
extreme. We are never going to solve this problem until we hunt down the bad guys and
lock them up for a long, long time.

Consider a startling October 2006 special report by Wired reporter Kevin
Poulsen.600 In his article, Poulsen explained how he helped New York law enforcement
officials track down and apprehend a sex offender by writing a program that searched
MySpace’s member profiles for registered sex offenders. Here is what was shocking
about the specific perpetrator that they nabbed, a 39-year-old man named Andrew
Lubrano:

Lubrano was sentenced to three years probation in 1987 for sexual abuse against
a 7-year-old boy, according to police. In 1988, he got another probation term for
second-degree sex abuse. In 1995, he earned a 3 to 9 year prison term for
sexually abusing two boys he'd been babysitting, one 11, the other 9. The parole
board turned Lubrano down three times, and he was cut loose in September

599
U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, 5 Percent of Sex Offenders Rearrested for
Another Sex Crime within 3 Years of Prison Release, Nov. 16, 2003,
www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/press/rsorp94pr.htm
600
Kevin Poulsen, MySpace Predator Caught by Code, Wired.com, Oct. 16, 2006,
www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2006/10/71948

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2004 largely unsupervised, having served every day of his nine-year max. By
November 2005 he was on MySpace, making friends.

When this story broke, many critics were quick to jump on MySpace and other
social networking sites as the root of this problem. But is the existence of MySpace or
other social networking sites really the problem here? Or is it the fact that this child
abuser was sitting behind a keyboard when he should have been sitting in a jail cell?
Why is it MySpace’s problem to solve instead of the government’s?

What is even more troubling is
that after letting the child abusers out of
jail, governments then expend The most essential role that
considerable sums of money and law government has is to protect people
enforcement resources for “community from harm, especially helpless kids.
supervision” and “sex offender It is not the job of private companies
registries” to give us a better idea of to enforce law and order or bring
where all the child molesters live in our criminals to justice. That is the
neighborhoods. This is of little government's job.
consolation to most parents who would
probably feel much more comfortable
having these predators locked up in a prison instead of living somewhere in their
communities.
The most essential role that
What we must ask ourselves as a societygovernment
is this: With has
the is to protect
exception of people
murder, is
there any crime more heinous than child rape from harm,
or child especially
sexual abuse?helpless
If we cankids.
agree
It is not the job of private companies
that sexual abuse of children is indeed that serious, then we ought to be considering
sentences that are significantly longer than three to enforce law and
to seven order
years to orensure
bring that
convicted child abusers aren’t out on the streets andcriminals to justice.
sitting behind That is looking
keyboards the to
government's
prey upon children again. In 2006, President Bush signed the “Adam Walsh Childjob.
Protection and Safety Act,” which increases mandatory minimum sentences for various
crimes against children.601 That is certainly a helpful step in the right direction, but
more can be done.

And it is important that lawmakers fully fundThe suchmost essential
initiatives; it’srole
not that
enough just
government has is to
to pass well-intentioned laws. In particular, it is essential that law enforcement protect people
officials
from harm, especially
receive the resources and training necessary to adequately monitor online networks forhelpless kids.
predators and to bring them to justice whenIt is not are
they the job of private
found. 602
For companies
example, law
to enforce law and order or bring
criminals to justice. That is the
601
government's
White House, President Signs H.R. 4472, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety job.
Act of 2006,
Press Release, July 27, 2006, www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/07/20060727-6.html
602
Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) recently introduced legislation, S. 519, that
would require all convicted sex offenders to register their e-mail addresses with law enforcement
officials so that their online activities could be monitored. The e-mail addresses could also be
monitored by social networking sites to ensure that sex offenders were not on those sites. While there
The most essential role that
government has is to protect people
Parental Controls & Online Child Protection (Version 4.0) from harm, especially helpless kids. 197
It is not the job of private companies
to enforce law and order or bring
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enforcement agencies need online forensic labs and experts to help investigate online
crimes, and they need to be trained to conduct proper sting operations to find predators
before they harm our children. As outlined next, industry is already assisting law
enforcement officials in this regard.

Industry Assistance and Training for Law Enforcement
Many leading Internet operators provide valuable assistance to law enforcement
agencies or partner with law enforcement officials on investigations to help protect
children. For example:

 AOL: Since 1995, AOL has been working with law enforcement officials to trace
and apprehend child predators or child pornographers. AOL was an earlier
pioneer of 24/7 law enforcement hotlines and was the first ISP to initiate an
Amber Alert program.603 AOL personnel also offer extensive cybercrime, digital
evidence, and computer forensic science courses to a wide variety of federal and
state law enforcement officers.604 And AOL provides free litigation support and
expert witnesses to prosecutors for criminal cases involving records obtained
from the company.605
 Microsoft: Like AOL, Microsoft sponsors computer forensic and technical training
programs for law enforcement officials both here and abroad, and has
compliance officers on hand 24/7 to field law enforcement inquiries. 606 In 2003,
Microsoft developed the Child Exploitation Tracking System (CETS), “an open
standards-based software tool that enables law enforcement to better gather
and share evidence of online child exploitation over a secure system based on
legal agreements in place. CETS permits investigators to easily import, organize,
analyze, share and search information from the point of detection through the
investigative phase to arrest and conviction.”607

is nothing stopping offenders from changing their e-mails to avoid detection, the legislation also
stipulates that any offender caught doing so will be eligible for an additional 10 years of jail time on
top of the sentence for any other underlying offense.
603
John D. Ryan, Making the Internet Safe for Kids: The Role of ISPs and Social Networking Sites,
Testimony before the House Committee on Commerce and Energy, Subcommittee on Oversight and
Investigations, June 27, 2006, at 3-4,
http://energycommerce.house.gov/reparchives/108/Hearings/06272006hearing1954/Ryan.pdf
604
Id., at 4-5.
605
Id., at 5.
606
Philip K. Reitinger, Making the Internet Safe for Kids: The Role of ISPs and Social Networking Sites,
Testimony before the House Committee on Commerce and Energy, Subcommittee on Oversight and
Investigations, June 27, 2006, at 4-5,
http://energycommerce.house.gov/reparchives/108/Hearings/06272006hearing1954/Reitinger.pdf
607
Id., at 4.

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 Google: Google has a legal team devoted to responding to law enforcement
requests for assistance and the company responds to hundreds of subpoenas
each year to assist child safety investigations.608 Google strictly prohibits
advertising about illegal content in any of its products or sites and encourages
users to report any illegal content they encounter to the Google Help Center to
ensure that it is immediately passed along to law enforcement officials. It is also
worth noting that Google allows other organizations to freely use its Google
Maps technology to easily track convicted sex offenders living in their
communities. For example, www.mapsexoffenders.com and
www.familywatchdog.us both rely on the Google Maps service to trace
convicted sex offenders.
 Yahoo!: Yahoo! also has a compliance team in place to handle online
emergencies 24 hours a day and provides training and assistance to law
enforcement officials. Yahoo! created its “Law Enforcement Compliance Manual”
to ensure that law enforcement officials know how Yahoo! can assist them in
online investigations.609 In particular, Yahoo! provides assistance through the
Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces, the American Prosecutors
Research Institute, and the newly launched Financial Coalition Against Child
Porn.
 MySpace.com: MySpace has created and widely distributed its “Law
Enforcement Officer Guide” that instructs law enforcement agencies on how to
work with MySpace regarding subpoenas and requests for information.610

In addition, these companies and many others work closely with the National
Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to combat online child pornography
or predation in a variety of ways.611 NCMEC has developed a wide variety of excellent
resources to teach children about online safety. For example, in 2006 NCMEC partnered
with Duracell to create the “Power of Parents” program and website which helps
parents teach their kids about both online and offline safety.612 The site offers free

608
Nicole Wong, Making the Internet Safe for Kids: The Role of ISPs and Social Networking Sites,
Testimony before the House Committee on Commerce and Energy, Subcommittee on Oversight and
Investigations, June 27, 2006, at 5,
http://energycommerce.house.gov/reparchives/108/Hearings/06272006hearing1954/Wong.pdf
609
Elizabeth Banker, Making the Internet Safe for Kids: The Role of ISPs and Social Networking Sites,
Testimony before the House Committee on Commerce and Energy, Subcommittee on Oversight and
Investigations, June 27, 2006, at 8,
http://energycommerce.house.gov/reparchives/108/Hearings/06272006hearing1954/Banker.pdf
610
www.netcaucus.org/books/childsafety2006/myspace.pdf
611
For more information about what these and other companies are doing to assist law enforcement
efforts and officials, see “What ICAC Members Are Doing to Help Protect Children Online,” Internet
Caucus Advisory Committee, 2006, http://www.netcaucus.org/books/childsafety2006/
612
www.powerofparentsonline.com

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storybooks and “teachable moment” manuals to help parents talk to their kids about
protecting themselves.613

In May 2007, NCMEC also launched the “Take 25” project to coincide with the
25 anniversary of President Ronald Reagan designating May 25th as “National Missing
th

Children’s Day.”614 NCMEC’s new program encourages families to take 25 minutes to
talk with their children about safety and abduction prevention. Dozens of events across
the nation were planned to highlight the effort.615

613
www.powerofparentsonline.com/teaching%5Ftools
614
www.take25.org
615
www.take25.org/events

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VI. Conclusion

“Responsibility: A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate,
Fortune, Luck or one’s neighbor. In the days of astrology it was customary to
unload it upon a star.”
-- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

This study has demonstrated that parents now have multiple layers of protection
at their disposal to shield their children from potentially objectionable media content or
to protect them while they are online. These tools include the various content rating
and labeling systems, the V-Chip, set-top box parental controls (including gaming
console controls), personal video recorders, Internet and mobile media filtering and
screening services, monitoring tools, and so on.

Importantly, the many industry-led
educational efforts highlighted here prove
Parents have been empowered. It
that, contrary to what some critics claim,
is now their responsibility to take
media creators and information
advantage of the tools and
distributors are taking steps to help
controls at their disposal to
parents make content determinations and
determine what is acceptable in
better control child access to unwanted
their homes and in the lives of
media. And, as this report has made clear
their children.
repeatedly, education is absolutely
essential at every point in this process.
The best way to deal with concerns
Critics can always argue that media, communications, andchild
Internet
about online safetycompanies
is
should “do more” to address the concerns that parents
through a “3-E Solution,” which to
have, but it is important
realize they are already doing quite a bit. Of course, whether
stands parents are taking
for “education,
advantage of those tools and options is anotherempowerment,
matter entirely. But
and if, for whatever
enforcement.”
reason, parents are not taking advantage of these tools and options, their inaction
should not be used to justify government regulation as a surrogate for household /
parental choice. Parents have been empowered. It is now their responsibility to take
advantage of the tools and controls at their disposal to determine what is acceptable in
their homes and in the lives of their children. The best way to deal with concerns
about online child safety is
Some media critics and policymakers will continue
through a “3-EtoSolution,”
have their doubts,
which
however, and claim that the tools are not good enough.stands
Oftentimes this is just an effort
for “education,
to disguise a desire by some to sanitize or evenempowerment,
eliminate certain
andtypes of speech or
enforcement.”
artistic expression from society altogether. Other times, however, their concerns are
rooted in a heartfelt desire to give parents more tools or information to control
potentially objectionable media or keep their children safe from online threats.

Controls and ratings will continue to be The
refined
bestand
wayimproved to satisfy
to deal with concernsthese
concerns, and new tools and educational efforts will beonline
about developed and deployed.
child safety is
through a “3-E Solution,” which
stands for “education,
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Regardless, parents are already being offered an extensive array of empowerment tools
to sort and filter content they might find objectionable and to keep their kids safe
online. This is being done much more quickly, much more closely tailored to the
parents’ own desires, and without the censorship concerns typically associated with
government regulatory efforts.

In the extreme, if parents want to take radical steps to limit children’s potential
access to objectionable programming, they can get rid of certain media devices
altogether or severely restrict the availability of such devices in the home. While
impractical for most, some families do reject televisions, for example, and still find many
other ways to access important information and entertainment.616

Perhaps most sensibly, parents can always sit down with their children, consume
media programming with them, and talk to them about what they are seeing and
hearing. For those parents willing to accept the reality that children will be confronted
with many troubling or sensitive topics from peers at school or from other sources
outside their control, this option makes a great deal of sense. Drs. Lawrence Kutner and
Cheryl K. Olson, cofounders and directors of the Harvard Medical School Center for
Mental Health and Media, drive this point home in their book Grand Theft Childhood:

No matter how many or what restrictions or controls you may place on
your children’s video game play or their access to the Web, odds are that
your child will be exposed to the type of material that concerns you,
whether it’s violence, sex, radical politics or anything else. Children need
the tools and perspective to handle (or ignore) that material.
In fact, focusing exclusively on restricting your children’s access can
backfire. The “forbidden fruit” can become more attractive. This is not to
say that you should not use the parental controls… but they’re not
enough. Children, especially teenagers, need the tools to make informed
judgments about media content when you’re not around—no matter
what, or how inflammatory, that content may be.617
Most parents already provide such advice and education, of course.618 A recent
Kaiser survey of media usage by children under six years of age found that 69 percent of

616
See Rich Karlgaard, Net—One, TV—Zero, Forbes.com, Nov. 29, 2004,
www.forbes.com/columnists/business/forbes/2004/1129/041.html
617
Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl K. Olson, Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth about Violent Video
Games (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008), at 223.
618
Anton Olsen of Wired’s “Geek Dad” blog argues that: “No amount of software, supervision, or training
will keep them from seeing something inappropriate for their age. All you can hope to do is delay it.
When I took the time to educate my geeklets about “inappropriate” things, they listened close and
agreed that if they find something they don't think is appropriate they will hit Home and go back to a
nicer site. All my experiences so far indicate the kids are much more interested in playing games than
looking at naked pictures. I am sure that at some point their views will change, but with some
guidance they may adopt a healthy attitude about these things. If I forbid it, don't talk about it, and

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parents were in the room when children were watching TV, for example.619 Additionally,
many parents sit with children when they are online or playing games. Those are
“teachable moments” during which parents can talk to their children about media,
explain right and wrong, separate fantasy from reality, and teach them appropriate
online etiquette. At the end of the day, there is simply no substitute for talking to our
children in an open, loving, and understanding fashion about the realities of this world,
including the more distasteful bits.

Finally, while a certain degree of
cultural pessimism is inevitable from one
generation to the next,620 parents need to What is needed is a measured and
remember they were once kids too and balanced approach to children’s
managed to live through many of the exposure to media content and
same fears and concerns about media and online interactions. All-or-nothing
621
popular culture. As the late University extremes are not going to work.
of North Carolina journalism professor
Margaret A. Blanchard once noted:
“*P+arents and grandparents who lead the efforts to cleanse today’s society seem to
forget that they survived alleged attacks on their morals by different media when they
were children. Each generation’s adults either The
losebest
faithway to deal
in the with
ability ofconcerns
their young
people to do the same or they become convinced that the dangers facingisthe new
about online child safety
622
generation are much more substantial than the through
ones they a “3-E
facedSolution,” which
as children.” And
Thomas Hine, author of The Rise and Fall of the Americanstands for “education,
Teenager, argues that: “We
seem to have moved, without skipping a beat, fromempowerment,
blaming ourand enforcement.”
parents for the ills of

forbid them from seeing it, then I can only imagine they will be more curious and find ways to see it.”
Anton Olsen, Bad Dad: No Net Nanny, Geek Dad, Aug. 5, 2008,
http://blog.wired.com/geekdad/2008/08/bad-dad-no-net.html
619
Kaiser Family Foundation, Zero to Six: Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants, Toddlers and
Preschoolers, Fall 2003, at 11, www.kff.org/entmedia/entmedia102803pkg.cfm
620
As Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University, has noted:
Parents, who are entrusted with human lives of their own making, bring their dearest
feelings, years of time, and many thousands of dollars to their childrearing efforts. They
will react with extreme vigor against forces that counteract such an important part of
their life program. The very same individuals tend to adopt cultural pessimism when
they are young, and cultural pessimism once they have children. Parents often do not
understand the new generation of cultural products and therefore see little or no
benefit in their children’s interest in them.
Tyler Cowen, In Praise of Commercial Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), at 185.
621
“Throughout American history, adults have attributed undesirable changes in youth behavior to some
aspect of popular culture.” Bradford W. Wright, Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth
Culture in America (Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press, 2001), at 87.
622
Margaret A. Blanchard, The American Urge to Censor: Freedom of Expression Versus the Desire to
Sanitize Society—From Anthony Comstock to 2 Live Crew, 33 William and Mary Law Review, Spring
1992, at 743.

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society to blaming our children. We want them to embody virtues we only rarely
practice. We want them to eschew habits we’ve never managed to break.”623

What is needed, therefore, is a measured and balanced approach to children’s
exposure to media content and online interactions. All-or-nothing extremes are not
going to work. In particular, fear-mongering is not the answer. “Fear, in many cases, is
leading to overreaction, which in turn could give rise to greater problems as young
people take detours around the roadblocks we think we are erecting,” argue John
Palfrey and Urs Gasser, authors of Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of
Digital Natives.624 What parents, guardians, and educators need to understand, they
argue, “is that the traditional values and common sense that have served them well in
the past will be relevant in this new world, too.”625

In sum, it’s about parental responsibility and rational, measured responses. And
now that we have been better empowered to take responsibility for the media in our
lives and the lives of our children, we cannot blame “God, Fate, Fortune, Luck,” or even
the government for our own failures to be good stewards for our children.

623
Quoted in Nancy Gibbs, Being 13, Time, Aug. 8, 2005, at 43.
624
John Palfrey and Urs Gasser, Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives (New
York: Basic Books, 2008), at 9.
625
Id., at 10.

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VII. About the Author

Adam Thierer is a Senior Fellow at The Progress &
Freedom Foundation (PFF) and the Director of PFF’s Center
for Digital Media Freedom (CDMF). As Director of the CDMF,
Thierer analyzes public policy developments that impact the
economic and social aspects of the media industry, including
related First Amendment issues.

Prior to joining PFF in 2005, Thierer was Director of
Telecommunications Studies at the Cato Institute and a
Fellow in Economic Policy at The Heritage Foundation. His
work on communications, high-technology, and media policy
has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times,
USA Today, Forbes, The Economist, Newsweek, and numerous other media outlets. He
also writes regularly for The Technology Liberation Front blog.

Thierer is the author or editor of seven books on media regulation and child
safety issues, mass media regulation, Internet governance, intellectual property,
regulation of network industries, and the role of federalism within high-technology
markets.

Thierer has served as a member of Harvard Law School’s Internet Safety
Technical Task Force as well as a Blue Ribbon Working Group on child safety organized
by Common Sense Media, the iKeepSafe Coalition, and the National Cable &
Telecommunications Association. He also serves on the National Telecommunications
and Information Administration’s Online Safety and Technology Working Group. In
2008, he received the Family Online Safety Institute’s “Award for Outstanding
Achievement.” He is also an advisor to the American Legislative Exchange Council's
Telecom & IT Task Force.

Thierer earned his B.A. in journalism and political science at Indiana University,
and received his M.A. in international business management and trade theory at the
University of Maryland. He lives in McLean, VA with his wife and two children.

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VIII. Appendix: Thoughts on Mandatory Controls, Restrictive
Defaults and “Universal” Ratings

In late 2008, Congress passed, and President George Bush signed, the “Child Safe
Viewing Act of 2007.”626 Section 2(a) of the Child Safe Viewing Act required that the
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) shall examine “the existence and availability
of advanced blocking technologies that are compatible with various communications
devices or platforms.” Section 2(b) required the Commission to specifically consider
blocking technologies that “may be appropriate across a wide variety of distribution
platforms, including wired, wireless, and Internet platforms.”

In March 2009, the FCC released a Notice of Inquiry627 asking the public for
comment in the matter. It is apparent from the language of the Child Safe Viewing Act
as well as the Commission’s Notice628 that Congress and the Commission are both
interested in finding more “universal” solutions to parental control concerns. This
desire is entirely understandable. It would be wonderful if parental control and child
safety tools could be simplified—perhaps even unified under one rating system or
technological blocking device—to give parents more control over the content and
communications their children might experience.

Ultimately, however, the search for technological silver-bullet solutions and
“universal” ratings or controls represents a quixotic, Holy Grail-like quest. Simply
stated, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There are no simple solutions or
quick fixes to concerns about objectionable media content or online child safety. Only a
“layered” approach—involving many tools, methods, and strategies—can get the job
done right. And technological blocking controls are probably the least important part of
that mix. Education and mentoring are far more important.

Moreover, for the reasons stated below, any move to force “universal,” top-
down solutions could destroy future innovation in this space.629 This appendix will

626
Child Safe Viewing Act of 2007, S. 602, P.L. 110-452, 122 Stat. 5025, Dec. 2, 2008 (hereinafter Child
Safe Viewing Act).
627
Federal Communications Commission, Notice of Inquiry In the Matter of Implementation of the Child
Safe Viewing Act; Examination of Parental Control Technologies for Video or Audio Programming, FCC
09-14, MB Docket No. 09-26, March 2, 2009 (hereinafter FCC, Child Safe Viewing Act Notice).
628
Commenting on the language from Section 2(a) and 2(b) of the Child Safe Viewing Act, the Commission
argues that, “This language makes it clear that we are to consider blocking technologies appropriate
for use on a variety of devices that transmit audio and video programming.” FCC, Child Safe Viewing
Act Notice at ¶7.
629
“Assuming arguendo that it is even possible to coalesce all stakeholders around a non-existing and
speculative universal content blocking technology, the incentive to innovate could be diminished.”
Reply Comments of the Consumer Electronic Association, Implementation of the Child Safe Viewing
Act; Examination of Parental Control Technologies for Video or Audio Programming, MB Docket No.

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discuss the unforeseen downsides to mandating controls and defaults as well as efforts
to create universal rating or labeling schemes.

A. Why Mandatory Controls or Defaults Will Backfire
During ongoing debates about parental controls, ratings, and online child safety,
there have occasionally been rumblings about the possibility of requiring that media,
computing and communications devices: (1) be shipped to market with parental
controls embedded, and possibly, (2) those controls being defaulted to their most
restrictive position, forcing users to opt-out of the controls later if they wanted to
consume media rated above a certain threshold.

Imagine, for example, a law requiring that every television, TV set-top box, and
video game console be shipped with on-board screening technologies that were set to
block any content rated above the most general ratings (“G” for movies, “TV-Y” for
television, or “E” for video games); this requirement would constitute the most
restrictive default for each type of media. Similarly, all personal computers or portable
media devices sold to the public could be required to have filters embedded that were
set to block all “objectionable” content, however defined.

If “default” requirements such as this were mandated by law, parents would be
forced to opt-out of the restrictions by granting their children selective permission to
media content or online services. In theory, this might help limit underage access to
objectionable media or online content. Such a mandate might be viewed as less
intrusive than direct government censorship and, therefore, less likely to run afoul of
the Constitution.

For these reasons, such a proposal would likely have great appeal to some
policymakers, family groups, child safety advocates, and parents. But mandating
parental controls and restrictive defaults is a dangerous and elitist idea that must be
rejected because it will have many negative unintended consequences without being
likely to achieve the goal of better protecting our kids.

You Can Lead a Horse to Water, But You Can’t Make It Drink
One of the enduring mysteries about parental controls is why many parents do
not take advantage of the tools and options at their disposal. It’s the proverbial “you can
lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” problem. There are a few reasons
why this may be the case.630

09-26, May 18, 2009, at 15,
http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520216902
630
This section is adopted from: Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, The Perils of
Mandatory Parental Controls and Restrictive Defaults, Progress on Point 15.4, April 11, 2008,
www.pff.org/issues-pubs/pops/pop15.4defaultdanger.pdf

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As discussed in Section I, many households may not take advantage of parental
control tools because they instead rely on a variety of non-technical “household media
rules.” Moreover, as shown in Section III.A, technical controls and rating systems are
viewed as unnecessary in many homes where kids are below or above a certain age.
Many parents of children under 4 or 5 years of age, for example, do not let their kids
consume much media, or they at least exercise much tighter control over their
children’s media consumption habits. And after kids reach their mid-teen years, many
parents eschew technical controls because they either trust their kids, or better yet,
they constantly talk to them about media content and their online experiences.

Of course, it could also be the case that some parents do not use technical
controls or rating systems because they find them too confusing. That may be true to
some extent, but it is important to note that these controls and rating systems are
becoming increasingly easy to use. Most parental control tools are just one or two clicks
away on most TVs, gaming systems, or personal computers. And although there are
different rating schemes for different forms of media, those rating systems share much
in common and are all quite descriptive. Setting up parental controls is certainly no
more difficult now than programming a personal video recorder or uploading digital
photographs to the Internet.

Finally, it may be the case that some parents are simply not aware of the
controls or ratings. This too, however, is increasingly unlikely. Survey data suggests a
growing familiarity with most rating systems (some more than others). Companies and
non-profit organizations are increasingly offering more information and tutorials along
with the parental control tools that are typically embedded, free-of-charge, in almost all
modern media devices. In any event, the answer to concerns about insufficient parental
awareness is not imposing restrictive mandatory defaults but, as I explain below,
increased educational efforts.

Still, for whatever reason, many parents are not using parental controls or rating
systems and, at the same time, many feel or express some concerns about being able to
manage media use by their children. Regardless of the culprit—and it could be a
combination of all of the factors listed above—what more could be done to encourage
these parents to use existing technical controls and rating systems to limit children’s
access to potentially objectionable content or communications? There are two general
options.

One way to increase parental comfort levels is through better education and
awareness-building initiatives. Many companies already offer detailed information and
tutorials along with the parental control tools they offer, but more could always be done
to promote awareness of the tools and how to use them. Many parents may feel they
cannot effectively manage media use in their homes because they are unaware of their
options or unsure how to utilize the available tools.

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One sensible first step is the inclusion of easy-to-understand instructions in all
user manuals. “Tip sheets” could also be bundled along with the products, which
provide a summary of how set up parental controls, or what relevant ratings meant.
Most vendors already offer this and much more on their websites, but sometimes the
links to those pages can be difficult to find. All media companies should consider placing
clearly labeled links on their websites to guide visitors to parental controls, ratings
information, or online safety tips. Finally, customer support hotlines—whether
automated and human-based—could probably be improved and expanded.

Again, most companies are already moving in this direction today. It’s simply a
smart business practice since many parents increasingly expect such services to be
available. To the extent some companies aren’t keeping up, others—policymakers and
child safety groups, in particular—are increasing putting pressure on them to provide
such tools and assistance.

The second approach to encouraging more widespread use of parental controls
and rating systems would involve the sort of legal mandates described above.
Presumably, this would require a law or regulation that would: (1) spell out what sort of
controls or filters would be embedded in every “media or computing device” and then,
(2) determine how restrictive the default control settings would be before the hardware
or software in question was marketed. In essence, this would be a mandatory “opt-out”
regime for parental controls/filters.

The first portion of the mandate is largely unnecessary, as almost all major
media devices marketed today already contain some kind of parental controls: All TVs
include V-chips, all set-top boxes include additional TV screening controls, and all video
game consoles include blocking tools for both games and movies. With PCs, filters and
monitoring tools have been made ubiquitously available by ISPs and non-profits for little
or no charge, and newer operating systems such as Windows Vista include powerful
parental control tools. Importantly, almost all of these tools are free-of-charge. A variety
of supplementary tools can be purchased online or from electronics retailers or
computer stores. As a general matter, moreover, it is rarely sound public policy to have
governments—rather than markets—select a particular technology or service as a
mandatory feature. This risks locking in less effective technologies and perhaps also
creating financial windfalls for well-connected vendors of such technologies.

The real debate, then, comes down to the question of how effective those
embedded controls are at meeting the interests of parents, and whether the embedded
controls should have pre-established defaults set to the most restrictive setting
available before they are shipped or downloaded. Of course, any company could
voluntarily offer such an alternative today. It’s worth asking, therefore, why are no
companies currently doing so?

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Enforcement Hassles
There are many reasons why no media or communications companies are
currently offering such maximally restrictive defaults when they ship their products to
market. Those reasons are instructive when considering the wisdom of mandating that
such defaulted controls be mandated by law.

To begin, there’s just not as much demand for this as some might think. Again,
not all homes have children in them. And, in those that do, not all those parents see the
need to use parental controls or ratings, usually because they rely on household rules or
tightly monitor or restrict access to media and communications devices.

Moreover, because there are many adults who purchase media devices for their
own use, it would be illogical to ship all devices or products to market with the controls
set to the most restrictive setting.631 In fact, many consumers (even some who are
parents themselves) would likely find it annoying, and perhaps even somewhat
insulting, to be forced to opt-out of such controls when they purchase new media
hardware or software. And it’s likely that as soon as such devices or services hit the
market, consumer complaint hotlines would light up like Christmas trees due to calls
from irate users griping about what they imagine to be defective hardware or software.
Could companies offer multiple versions of their hardware or software products to solve
this problem? For example, some set-top boxes, gaming consoles, and PCs could be sold
and labeled as “Kid-Friendly” (or “locked”) while others are “Adult-Only” (or
“unlocked”). It goes without saying that this would represent a major expense to many
vendors (especially hardware vendors). It could also create potential confusion when
the devices are labeled and marketed for sale. And what would the penalty be for a
mislabeled device, or the accidental sale of such a device to a minor?

Perverse Incentives and Possible Evasion
It may be that there is a market for such “kid-friendly” devices or services. There
are, for example, some wireless device and service options designed for kids that have
limited features, or some toy (and toy-like) devices that have filters on by default, or
only work with certain age-appropriate internet services. Many social networking
services designed for kids have strict settings on by default. These may well be fantastic
choices for some parents and kids. But whether that is the case seems to be best
determined by the market.

Particularly for mass-market general use devices like PCs and televisions,
mandating the offering of dual versions (“locked”/“kid-friendly” and “unlocked”) seems

631
This is true even for video game consoles. For example, according to a survey by Hart Research, the
average age of a video game purchaser is 40. See Entertainment Software Association, Essential Facts
about the Computer and Video Game Industry: 2006 Sales, Demographics and Usage Data, 2005, at 3,
www.theesa.com/archives/files/Essential%20Facts%202006.pdf

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likely to create perverse incentives, both for consumers and for media and technology
providers. If services and devices are sold with the highest levels of restrictions active
by default, many parents might seek to avoid the annoyance associated with the “kid-
friendly” versions of the device and just purchase “unlocked” hardware or software. And
kids would likely get quickly to work cracking the defaults on the kid-friendly versions of
the hardware or software.632 The result would be some significant degree of consumer
dissatisfaction with restrictive-default services and, except perhaps in the case of
households with very young children, dissatisfaction with locked/kid-friendly services
and devices.

Among the possible consequences of such a dual version mandate would be a
perverse incentive for service providers and device makers to avoid investing in parental
control tools. If setting controls to the highest default level is mandatory, but at the
same time most consumers don’t prefer that default level, some consumer backlash is
inevitable. And when consumers are unhappy about a service feature—but companies
are not permitted to address that unhappiness by turning off the higher settings—a
likely result could be for companies to weaken or even not offer parental controls
altogether.

There are other problems involved in enforcing such a mandate. Regulators
would need to grapple with the possibility of widespread evasion in terms of offshore
sales and black market devices. For example, would it be illegal for an eBay vendor
located in Hong Kong to sell a U.S.-based customer an “unlocked” PlayStation Portable
without first verifying that they are indeed an adult? If so, that’s another layer of
regulation that needs to be considered in terms of online age verification.633

Of course, governments could forbid the development of “unlocked” devices or
software and mandate that every media or computing device sent to market had
defaults set to maximum restrictiveness. Even assuming such rules would not run afoul
of international trade law, many of the same problems would still develop, however. It
would likely be difficult to stem the flow of illegal devices or software, and hackers
would likely only work harder to defeat existing controls. And what about all the existing
“unlocked” devices already on the market? This mandate might breathe new life into
older devices and discourage some consumers from making the jump to new hardware
and software that includes superior parental control tools.

632
Witness what happened in Australia within a few days of the government releasing subsidized filtering
software. A 16-year old Melbourne schoolboy cracked the Australian government’s $84 million
internet porn filter in just over 30 minutes. See Nick Higginbottom and Ben Packham, “Student Cracks
Government’s $84m Porn Filter,” News.com.au, Aug. 26, 2007,
www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,22304224-2,00.html
633
Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Social Networking and Age Verification: Many
Hard Questions; No Easy Solutions, Progress on Point No. 14.5, March 21, 2007, www.pff.org/issues-
pubs/pops/pop14.5ageverification.pdf

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A final enforcement question relates to how broadly “media devices” are defined
for purposes of this mandate. TVs, set-top boxes, gaming consoles and PCs would all be
covered, of course. But what about mobile phones, iPods, MP3 players, PlayStation
Portables and GameBoys, and so on? If “media devices” is defined broadly enough, it
would bring an unprecedented array of consumer electronic devices and
communications technologies under the purview of the FCC. Each class of devices
would likely have its own set of enterprising hackers and renegade device makers, eager
to evade the mandates. Presumably, financial penalties would be required and various
enforcement actions would be sanctioned in an attempt to thwart such activity. Finally,
as a result of these new mandates, the prices of all the affected media devices would
likely rise for consumers.

Unintended Consequences and Constitutional Concerns
A proponent of mandatory defaults might object that regulation is often difficult,
even expensive, but we still find ways to enforce many other laws—if only to try to
teach the public, or kids, a lesson. In this case, some slippage in the system might be
viewed as an acceptable trade-off for increased awareness among some parents about
parental control tools or potentially objectionable media content or forms of online
communications. But this mentality myopically ignores the many unintended
consequences of such a regulatory regime. The fundamental problem with a mandate of
this sort is that, while well-intentioned, it threatens to upset the current balance of
things and could leave parents and their children less well off.

As explained throughout this report, there has never been a time in our nation’s
history when parents have had more tools and methods at their disposal for controlling
their children’s media consumption. Indeed, on the whole, parents are gaining control,
not losing it, with technological innovation. It would be foolish, however, to think that
this trend might not be slowed, or even reversed, by misguided public policy
prescriptions. One of the most unfortunate consequences of mandatory defaults would
be lulling some parents into a false sense of security: If parents came to believe that,
because a filter was installed, they need do nothing more to help their children go
online safely, or to remain engaged in their children’s media consumption, that would
be an extremely troubling outcome.

Moreover, as was noted above, a rule mandating restrictive parental control
defaults might create perverse incentives for industry to not rate content or build better
controls at all. After all, it is important to remember that the ratings and controls that
government is seeking to regulate here are voluntary and private; there is no reason
they couldn’t be abandoned tomorrow. Of course, if they were abandoned that might
lead to calls for government intervention or regulation and the substitution of some sort
of universal ratings regime for the voluntary systems that exist today. If that occurred,
lawmakers would be likely pressured into either making content-based determinations

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or mandating that a private organization do the same thing; either response would likely
run afoul of the First Amendment.

But even if voluntary rating systems remained in place as the basis of a new
federal enforcement regime, there are some constitutional issues in play here. Namely,
it would be unconstitutional for government to enshrine a private ratings scheme into
law or use it as a trigger for legal liability. That is what several courts have held in past
years after some state and local governments attempted to enact laws or ordinances
based upon the MPAA’s voluntary movie ratings system.

For example, in Borger v. Bisciglia a U.S. District Court held that “*A+ private
organization’s ratings system cannot be used to determine whether a movie receives
constitutional protection.”634 Similarly, in Swope v. Lubbers, the court held that “*t+he
standards by which the movie industry rates its films do not correspond to the… criteria
for determining whether an item merits constitutional protection or not.”635 Roughly a
dozen court cases have come to largely the same conclusion: Government cannot co-
opt a voluntary, private ratings system for its own ends.636 Recent video game cases
have reached similar conclusions.637 Thus, a law mandating parental control defaults
based on voluntary ratings systems will likely end up in court and become the subject of
another protracted legal battle between government and industry.

Are Mandatory Default Really Necessary?
Finally, it’s worth noting that most media, communications, and computing
devices cost substantial sums of money. Televisions, movies, video games, cell phones,
MP3 players, computers, and so on, do not just drop from high-tech heaven into our
kids’ laps! When our kids want those things—or want things that are advertised on
those media platforms—they must come to parents and ask for money (usually a lot of
it). As Section II.E notes, this “power of the purse” is, in many ways, the ultimate
parental control tool. If parents are shelling out money for such devices, they are
presumably also in a good position to set some rules about the use of those devices
once they are brought into the home. Whether those rules take the form of informal
household media rules or technical parental controls is, ultimately, a decision that each

634
Borger v. Bisciglia, 888 F. Supp. 97, 100 (E.D. Wis. 1995).
635
Swope v. Lubbers, 560 F. Supp. 1328, 1334 (W.D. Mich. 1983).
636
Interstate Circuit v. Dallas, 390 U.S. 676 (1968); Drive in Theaters v. Huskey, 305 F. Supp. 1232
(W.D.N.C. 1969); Engdahl v. City of Kenosha, 317 F. Supp. 1133 (E.D. Wis. 1970); Motion Picture
Association of America v. Specter, 315 F. Supp. 824 (E.D. Pa. 1970); State v. Watkins, 191 S.E. 2d 135
(S.C. 1972); Watkins v. South Carolina, 413 U.S. 905 (1973); Potter v. State, 509 P.2d 933, (Okla. Ct.
Crim. App. 1973); Neiderhiser v. Borough of Berwick, 840 F.2d 213 (3d Cir. 1988); Gascoe, Ltd. v.
Newtown Township, 699 F. Supp. 1092 (E.D. Pa. 1988).
637
Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Fact and Fiction in the Debate Over Video Game
Regulation, Progress on Point 13.7, March 2006, http://www.pff.org/issues-
pubs/pops/pop13.7videogames.pdf

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family must make for themselves. There is no reason for government to make that
decision preemptively for all households by mandating highly restrictive parental
control defaults.

Moreover, there are better ways for government and industry to encourage the
diffusion and adoption of parental control tools and rating systems. Instead of spending
money litigating cases against the government, industry should plow their resources
into improved, easier-to-use parental control tools and consumer education efforts. And
government education and awareness-building campaigns could go a long way toward
improving consumer adoption. In the past, government has helped change public
attitudes about safety in other contexts by undertaking (or lending support to) various
public awareness campaigns, including: forest fire prevention efforts (“Smokey the
Bear” campaigns); anti-littering efforts (“Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute”), and seat-belt
safety. Those campaigns have helped forever change behavior and improved public
safety as a result.

Policymakers should tap these more constructive, constitutional solutions and
steer clear of mandating parental controls and restrictive default settings that would,
ultimately, have many unintended consequences and leave parents and children worse
off in the long run.

B. Why Mandating Universal Ratings Would Be a Mistake
So-called “universal ratings” schemes would suffer from many of the same
problems that would plague mandatory parental controls or defaults.

We Already Have Universal Sectoral Ratings
First, however, it is important to acknowledge the fact that while we do not have
a “universal rating” system across all media—television, movies, music, video games,
and the Internet—the current voluntary rating systems are universal, or nearly
universal, within their respective sectors.

The same cannot be said of current “independent” ratings schemes. Although
those systems provide parents with beneficial information, they fall well short of being
as comprehensive as official industry-based rating systems. For example, Common
Sense Media provides the public with a wonderful informational resource that freely
offers detailed reviews of new movies, television programs, video games, music, and
more.638 Still, Common Sense Media does not come anywhere close to rating all the
media content emanating from those sectors. More obscure titles typically go unrated
by the organization, and older content that pre-dates the organization remains largely

638
www.commonsensemedia.org

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unrated.639 Moreover, independent rating sites have no formal means of enforcing their
rating schemes, and there is no guarantee that such services will exist forever. Indeed,
many independent media review sites and services have come and gone over the past
decade.

Finally, official industry rating systems establish a sort of baseline for all other
rating systems. Not only does the public—and parents in particular—use the official
rating systems as a rough proxy for whether or not content is acceptable for their kids,
but independent rating services also use the official industry ratings as point of
comparison. This represents a healthy form of competition among official rating systems
and independent systems, with the independent groups providing a useful “watchdog”
role in this regard. The public is better off for having access to both industry and
independent rating schemes.

Mandating Universe Ratings Would Destroy Innovation and Impose Serious Costs on
Media Providers and Consumer Electronics Companies
Mandating “universal” controls and ratings across all media platforms could
destroy innovation in this space by substituting a government-approved, “one-size-fits-
all” standard for today’s “let-a-thousand-flowers-bloom” approach, which offers diverse
tools for a diverse citizenry.

At a minimum, a universal ratings mandate would erase years’ worth of
educational efforts by industry and others to inform the public about existing rating
systems. Crafting a new ratings scheme for all media would require a massive public re-
education effort that would create confusion in the interim with no guarantee of
success in the long-run.640

639
“*T+hird parties purporting to provide information to parents assess, at best, a small percentage of the
games that are published each year, use a variety of untested criteria that are neither transparent nor
widely explained to consumers, have no access to a game’s packaging or advertising, and cannot
quickly and effectively enforce against misuse of the information they seek to provide.” Reply
Comments of the Entertainment Software Association, Implementation of the Child Safe Viewing Act;
Examination of Parental Control Technologies for Video or Audio Programming, MB Docket No. 09-26,
May 18, 2009, at 7,
http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520216861
640
“*P+roviding new ratings systems will result in parents using blocking technologies even less than they
do today because the cost of learning multiple systems and configuring television receivers to block
programs across a multiplicity of dimensions, labels, etc will be too great.” Comments of TiVo Inc.,
Implementation of the Child Safe Viewing Act; Examination of Parental Control Technologies for Video
or Audio Programming, MB Docket No. 09-26, April 16, 2009, at 6,
http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520213640.
“*P+arents have only so much time to learn a new ratings system and to configure all of the television
receiver equipment in the household to block programming according to the new ratings system. The
use of many different ratings systems could lead parents to give up on the technology rather than
make use of innovative features.” Reply Comments of TiVo Inc., Implementation of the Child Safe
Viewing Act; Examination of Parental Control Technologies for Video or Audio Programming, MB

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A universal rating mandate or mandatory technological “silver-bullet” solution
would also impose significant costs on media providers and consumer electronics (CE)
companies. Complying with such a mandate would force media creators to re-train the
employees who label new content, re-label their back catalogs of content, and re-
educate their consumers about the new system. For manufacturers of CE and digital
media devices, the costs associated with a universal ratings mandate would also be
steep. Each new device capable of receiving media content that was required to be
rated and filterable would have to have to be equipped with new filtering technology.
Moreover, all legacy content and devices would become a casualty of regulation:
Because it is unlikely they could be made backwards-compatible, they would suddenly
become obsolete-by-regulation—at a significant economic loss to manufacturers and
vendors who would be pressured to dispose of their inventory.

“Scientific Ratings” Are a Fiction
As noted previously, media rating and content-labeling efforts are not an exact
science but a fundamentally subjective exercise. While some academics have suggested
that ratings can be made more “scientific,” the reality is that rating and labeling artistic
expression will always be highly contentious. Attempting to give a rating system the
aura of “science” implies that the process would be more authoritative or trustworthy,
but there is no evidence to show why that would be the case. Indeed, even medical
sciences can be tainted by social and political prejudices. As Oliver Wendell Homes, Sr.
wrote in 1860:

The truth is, that medicine, professedly founded on observation, is as
sensitive to outside influences, political, religious, philosophical,
imaginative, as is the barometer to the changes of atmospheric density.
Theoretically it ought to go on its own straightforward inductive path,
without regard to changes of government or to fluctuations of public
opinion. But look a moment while I clash a few facts together, and see if
some sparks do not reveal by their light a closer relation between the
Medical Sciences and the conditions of Society and the general thought
of the time, than would at first be suspected.641
This is not to say all medical practitioners who might favor universal rating
schemes would always be tainted by social forces or political considerations. But if
responsibility for the creation and administration of any universal ratings scheme was
left to the “medical community,” one wonders what would stop other groups or forces

Docket No. 09-26, May 18, 2009,
http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520216917
641
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., “ Currents And Counter-Currents In Medical Science,” Medical Essays:
1842-1882 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1861),
http://books.google.com/books?id=TsgNAAAAYAAJ&output=html

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that did have a political agenda from coming to have more of a say in the rating process.
Again, this raises the “heckler’s veto” problem since a vocal minority’s preferences could
trump those of the public at large.642

Practically speaking, the problem with this approach is that it raises the prospect
of gridlock and delay in getting content rated and made available to consumers on a
timely basis. If every movie, television program, album, video game, and so on, were
required to be rated by some sort of “blue-ribbon” task force made up of academic
experts, media “experts,” child psychologists, and so on, how long would it take to get
their approval? Would the panel have the right to prohibit some media content from
being released altogether? Would they have the power to fine retailers for non-
compliance with their new system?

Of course, there is nothing stopping anyone, including medical organizations,
from voluntarily bringing together a group of independent experts to create alternative
guidelines or independent rating systems. But having such systems enshrined by law
raises many thorny Constitutional and practical questions.

Mandatory Universal Ratings Would Raise Profound First Amendment Concerns
The notion that the government should have a say in how speech and artistic
expression is rated and labeled raises serious First Amendment issues.643 As noted
above, many courts have held that it would be unconstitutional for government to
enshrine any private ratings scheme into law or use such a scheme as a trigger for legal
liability. A mandatory universal rating scheme would raise even more profound First
Amendment concerns since it tiptoes dangerously close to the definition of prior
restraint and/or compelled speech.

Presumably, if government required all content to be labeled according to some
“universal” standard or scheme, it would require that the government have some say in
creating, or at least blessing, that standard and then stipulating penalties for non-
compliance with that rating scheme. This is where a subtle—if not explicit—form of
prior restraint would enter the picture.

As the Supreme Court stated in Bantam Books Inc. v. Sullivan (1963), “Any
system of prior restraints of expression comes to this Court bearing a heavy
presumption against its constitutional validity.”644 In that case, the Court struck down
as unconstitutional a Rhode Island measure which had created a Commission “to
educate the public concerning any book… or other thing containing obscene, indecent
or impure language, or manifestly tending to the corruption of the youth as defined [in

642
Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844, 880 (1997).
643
My thanks to my PFF colleague Berin Szoka for his assistance in constructing this section.
644
Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan, 372 U.S. 58 (1963).

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other sections] and to investigate and recommend the prosecution of all violations of
said sections.” The Court found that the Rhode Island Commission to Encourage
Morality in Youth had engaged in “informal censorship” when it:

notif[ied] a distributor that certain books or magazines distributed by him
had been reviewed by the Commission and had been declared by a
majority of its members to be objectionable for sale, distribution or
display to youths under 18 years of age. Such notices requested the
distributor's "cooperation" and advised him that copies of the lists of
"objectionable" publications were circulated to local police departments
and that it was the Commission's duty to recommend prosecution of
purveyors of obscenity.645
Similarly, in Interstate Circuit v. Dallas (1968), the Supreme Court struck down as
unconstitutionally vague an ordinance authorizing the classification of certain films as
“not suitable for young persons” where the standard was defined as “describing or
portraying brutality, criminal violence or depravity in such a manner as to … incite or
encourage crime or delinquency on the part of young persons.”646 In Interstate Circuit,
the Court also noted that “there has been no retreat in this area from rigorous
insistence upon procedural safeguards and judicial superintendence of the censor's
action” and cited a long string of cases in support of that notion.647 Since that time, the
Supreme Court and lower courts have continued to strike down all prior restraint laws
and state and local ordinances dealing with content labeling requirements.

More recently, in a series of video game-related cases, Federal appellate and
district courts have consistently struck all state and local efforts aimed at imposing
labels on video games or co-opting the video game industry’s rating system and giving it
the force of law. In two of the most recent of these cases, appellate courts struck down
similar state laws banning the sale of certain video games to minors and mandating that
retailers place a label with the numerals “18” on such games.648

The two circuit courts agreed that the labeling mandates constituted compelled
speech—namely, the state’s conclusion that a particular video game was inappropriate

645
Id. at 58.
646
Interstate Circuit, Inc. v. City of Dallas, 390 U.S. 676 (1968).
647
Id. at 682-3. The other decisions cited by the court were: Freedman v. Maryland, 380 U.S. 51 (1965);
Winters v. New York, 333 U.S. 507 (1948); Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson, 343 U.S. 495 (1952); Gelling v.
Texas, 343 U.S. 960 (1952); Superior Films, Inc. v. Department of Education, 346 U.S. 587 (1954);
Commercial Pictures Corp. v. Regents, 346 U.S. 587 (1954); Holmby Productions, Inc. v. Vaughn, 350
U.S. 870 (1955).
648
Video Software Dealers Association v. Arnold Schwarzenegger, 556 F.3d 950 (9th Cir. 2009)
(Schwarzenegger); Entertainment Software Association v. Blagojevich, 469 F.3d 641 (7th Cir. 2006)
(Blagojevich).

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for minors because it qualified as “sexually explicit” (Illinois) or “violent” (California).
Both courts agreed that the government could compel only the disclosure of “purely
factual and uncontroversial information” for the sake of consumer protection, such as
product warning labels about mercury content or, in an attorney’s advertisement, the
fact that clients might be responsible for costs of litigation.649 By contrast, the Seventh
Circuit concluded that Illinois’s label “communicates a subjective and highly
controversial message—that the game's content is sexually explicit,” a message that the
court declared “non-factual,” “far more opinion-based than the question of whether a
particular chemical is within any given product,” and “unlike a surgeon general's
warning of the carcinogenic properties of cigarettes.”650 The Ninth Circuit reached the
same conclusion and, while declining to adopt the Seventh Circuit’s application of the
exacting standard of strict scrutiny, concluded that California’s labeling mandate could
not survive even the less demanding standard of intermediate scrutiny, also noting that
the mandate did not serve to protect consumers against deception.651

These two cases, and the Supreme Court cases on which they rest, make it clear
that any universal ratings system compelling disclosure of anything other than “purely
factual and uncontroversial information” about content for the sake of preventing
deception of consumers would almost certainly be struck down by the courts. Crafting a
universal content rating system within these constitutional constraints would be highly
challenging and, even if it could be done, the result would be highly unlikely to satisfy
those who advocate labeling mandates.652

Finally, because the vast majority of content regulated under a mandatory
universal rating system would be non-obscene, the constitutional bar would be even
higher.

649
See Blagojevich, 469 F.3d at 651-52 (citing Nat'l Elec. Mfrs. Ass'n v. Sorrell, 272 F.3d 104, 114-16 (2d
Cir. 2001); Zauderer v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel for Sup. Ct. of Ohio, 471 U.S. 626, 651 (1985)); see
Schwarzenegger, 556 F.3d at 966-67.
650
Blagojevich, 469 F.3d at 652.
651
Schwarzenegger, 556 F.3d at 967 (citing Zauderer, 471 U.S. at 651 (requiring that the “disclosure
requirements *be+ reasonably related to the State's interest in preventing deception of customers”).
652
Of course, to be truly “universal,” a content ratings system would have to apply not only to
“professional” content (like existing industry ratings systems), but also to user generated content. But
the prior restraint of requiring users to label (or have others label) their content would significantly
impair speech and content generation by users who wish to remain anonymous. Noting an honorable
tradition of advocacy and of dissent in America and recognizing anonymity as “a shield from the
tyranny of the majority,” the Supreme Court has rejected laws that burden anonymous speech, such
as prohibitions on anonymous pamphleteering and online age verification mandates for sexually
explicit content. McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334 at 357 (1995). Thus, the hope of
a “universal” ratings system appears to be ultimately inconsistent with the First Amendment.

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Universal Ratings May Evolve Naturally from Increased Metadata Tagging and
Crowdsourcing Efforts
The growth of user-generated content and interactive social networking sites
and services raises profound challenges for traditional rating systems and government
regulation alike. The sheer volume of speech and expression being produced in modern
times simply dwarfs all the content created over the past century.

Importantly, however, these new means of communications and content
creation are also spawning innovative approaches to content labeling through metadata
“tagging” as well as content “flagging,” which refers to user efforts to highlight
inappropriate or objectionable content or comments.

Consider the “reputational systems” and user-generated reviews already in place
on some major websites. An increasingly important part of the content offered by sites
such as Amazon.com, Netflix.com, Metacritic.com, and IMDB.com (the Internet Movie
Database) is the detailed reviews posted by users of movies, TV programs, and other
types of media content. These reviews can help parents screen content for their
children. Better yet, some of those sites allow users to find other users with similar
tastes and values and track their reviews regularly. Thus, once a parent finds a
particular piece of content they deem suitable for their children, these sites make it easy
for that parent to find other content that is likely to match their values—thus
“crowdsourcing” to other users the inherently subjective task of rating content and
allowing parents to follow reviews from users who seem to share their values.

On sites with a great deal of user-generated content, such as YouTube.com and
many social networking sites, users can “flag” inappropriate content through various
reporting mechanisms. Once enough users in that online community have flagged a
certain post or piece of content as inappropriate, the “wisdom of the crowd” will help
site administrators identify which content (or users) the online community feels are
problematic. Offending content can then be (and frequently is) removed and users who
cause problems can be dealt with, or even removed from the site.

Finally, the increased use of digital metadata tagging can facilitate greater user
screening. Metadata, which is essentially data about data, can be embedded in almost
any digital media file. It can be used either by the content creator or downstream
parties to embed useful information about content ratings, descriptors, warnings, etc.
As more and more content gets “tagged and flagged”—by both creators or crowds—it
will facilitate easier information retrieval and blocking.

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X. Appendix: Review of Five Online Safety Task Forces

Over the past decade, five major online safety task forces or blue ribbon
commissions have been convened to study these concerns, determine their severity,
and consider what should be done to address them. Two of these task forces were
convened in the United States and issued reports in 2000 and 2002. Another was
commissioned by the British government in 2007 and issued in a major report in March
2008. Finally, two additional online safety task forces were formed in the U.S. in 2008
and concluded their work, respectively, in January and July of 2009.

Altogether, these five task forces heard from hundreds of experts and produced
thousands of pages of testimony and reports on a wide variety of issues related to
online child safety. While each of these task forces had different origins and unique
membership, what is striking about them is the general unanimity of their conclusions.
Among the common themes or recommendations of these five task forces:

 Education is the primary solution to most online child safety concerns. These
task forces consistently stressed the importance of media literacy, awareness-
building efforts, public service announcements, targeted intervention
techniques, and better mentoring and parenting strategies.
 There is no single “silver-bullet” solution or technological “quick-fix” to child
safety concerns. That is especially the case in light of the rapid pace of change in
the digital world.
 Empowering parents and guardians with a diverse array of tools, however, can
help families, caretakers, and schools to exercise more control over online
content and communications.
 Technological tools and parental controls are most effective as part of a
“layered” approach to child safety that views them as one of many strategies or
solutions.
 The best technical control measures are those that work in tandem with
educational strategies and approaches to better guide and mentor children to
make wise choices. Thus, technical solutions can supplement, but can never
supplant, the educational and mentoring role.
 Industry should formulate best practices and self-regulatory systems to
empower users with more information and tools so they can make appropriate
decisions for themselves and their families. And those best practices, which
often take the form of an industry code of conduct or default control settings,
should constantly be refined to take into account new social concerns, cultural
norms, and technological developments.
 Government should avoid inflexible, top-down technological mandates. Instead,

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policymakers should focus on encouraging collaborative, multifaceted, multi-
stakeholder initiatives and approaches to enhance online safety. Additional
resources for education and awareness-building efforts are also crucial. Finally,
governments should ensure appropriate penalties are in place to punish serious
crimes against children and also make sure law enforcement agencies have
adequate resources to police crimes and punish wrong-doers.

The consistency of these findings from those five previous task forces is
important and it should guide future discussions among policymakers, the press, and
the general public regarding online child safety.653 The findings are particularly relevant
today since Congress and the Obama Administration are actively studying these issues.
For example, three federal agencies are currently exploring various aspects of this
debate:
 NTIA (OSTWG): The “Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act,” which was
signed into law by President Bush in 2008 as part of the “Broadband Data
Services Improvement Act,”654 authorized the creation of an Online Safety and
Technology Working Group (OSTWG). The National Telecommunications and
Information Administration (NTIA) at the U.S. Department of Commerce, which
is overseeing the effort, has appointed 35 members to serve 15-month terms to
study the status of industry efforts to promote online safety, best practices
among industry leaders, the market for parental control technologies, and
assistance to law enforcement in cases of online child abuse. The U.S.
Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Education, the Federal
Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commission all have
delegates serving on the working group. OSTWG began its work in early June
2009 and is due to report back to Congress one year later.655

653
Importantly, this is also the general approach that many other child safety experts and authors have
taken when addressing these issues. For example, see Nancy E. Willard, Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy
Teens (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2007), www.cskcst.com; Larry Magid and Anne Collier, MySpace
Unraveled: A Parent’s Guide to Teen Social Networking (Berkeley, CA: Peachtree Press, 2007),
www.myspaceunraveled.com; Sharon Miller Cindrich, e-Parenting: Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy
Kids (New York: Random House Reference, 2007), www.pluggedinparent.com; Jason Illian, MySpace,
MyKids: A Parent's Guide to Protecting Your Kids and Navigating MySpace.com (Eugene, OR; Harvest
House Publishers, 2007); Linda Criddle, Look Both Ways: Help Protect Your Family on the Internet
(Redmond, WA: Microsoft Press, 2006), http://look-both-ways.com/about/toc.htm; Gregory S. Smith,
How to Protect Your Children on the Internet: A Road Map for Parents and Teachers (Westport, CT:
Praeger, 2007), www.gregoryssmith.com.
654 th
Broadband Data Services Improvement Act of 2008, P.L. 110-385, 110 Congress.
655
See Leslie Cantu, Newest Online Safety Group Will Report on Industry Efforts, Washington Internet
Daily, Vol. 10 No. 107, June 5, 2009; Larry Magid, Federal Panel Takes a Fresh Look at Kids’ Internet
Safety, San Jose Mercury News, www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_12522370?nclick_check=1;
Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Online Safety Technology Working Group
(OSTWG) Is Underway, PFF Blog, June 4, 2009,
http://blog.pff.org/archives/2009/06/online_safety_technology_working_group_ostwg_is_un.html

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 FTC: That same bill that created the OSTWG, also requires that the Federal Trade
Commission (FTC) “carry out a nationwide program to increase public awareness
and provide education” to promote safer Internet use. “The program shall utilize
existing resources and efforts of the Federal Government, State and local
governments, nonprofit organizations, private technology and financial
companies, Internet service providers, World Wide Web-based resources, and
other appropriate entities, that includes (1) identifying, promoting, and
encouraging best practices for Internet safety; (2) establishing and carrying out a
national outreach and education campaign regarding Internet safety utilizing
various media and Internet-based resources; (3) facilitating access to, and the
exchange of, information regarding Internet safety to promote up to-date
knowledge regarding current issues; and, (4) facilitating access to Internet safety
education and public awareness efforts the Commission considers appropriate
by States, units of local government, schools, police departments, nonprofit
organizations, and other appropriate entities.”

 FCC: Pursuant to the requirements set forth in the Child Safe Viewing Act of
2007,656 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched a Notice of
Inquiry in March 2009 to survey the parental controls marketplace.657
Specifically, the Act requires the FCC to examine: (1) the existence and
availability of advanced blocking technologies that are compatible with various
communications devices or platforms; (2) methods of encouraging the
development, deployment, and use of such technology by parents that do not
affect the packaging or pricing of a content provider's offering; and, (3) the
existence, availability, and use of parental empowerment tools and initiatives
already in the market. The proceeding prompted a diverse assortment of filings
from industry and non-profit groups discussing the technologies and rating
systems on the market today.658 The Act requires that the FCC issue a report to
Congress about these technologies no later than August 29, 2009.659

656 th
Child Safe Viewing Act of 2007, P.L. 110-452, 110 Congress. Also see Adam Thierer, The Progress &
Freedom Foundation, “Child Safe Viewing Act” (S. 602) Signed by President Bush, PFF Blog, Dec. 2,
2008, http://blog.pff.org/archives/2008/12/child_safe_view.html
657
Federal Communications Commission, Notice of Inquiry In the Matter of Implementation of the Child
Safe Viewing Act; Examination of Parental Control Technologies for Video or Audio Programming, FCC
09-14, MB Docket No. 09-26, March 2, 2009 (hereinafter FCC, Child Safe Viewing Act Notice).
658
See Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Major Filings in FCC's ‘Child Safe Viewing Act’
Notice of Inquiry, PFF Blog, Apr. 20, 2009,
http://blog.pff.org/archives/2009/04/major_filings_in_fccs_child_safe_viewing_act_notic.html.
659
For more discussion of the possible implications of this proceeding, see Adam Thierer, The Progress &
Freedom Foundation, Dawn of Convergence-Era Content Regulation at the FCC? ‘Child Safe Viewing
Act’ NOI Launched, PFF Blog, March 3, 2009,
http://blog.pff.org/archives/2009/03/dawn_of_convergence-era_content_regulation_at_the.html.

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As these agencies, future task forces, academics, and others continue to study
these issues, they should keep the findings of past online safety task forces in mind.
What follows is an expanded chronological discussion of the major findings of each of
the five major online safety task forces that have been convened since 2000.

2000 – Commission on Online Child Protection (“COPA Commission”)
The COPA Commission was formed pursuant to the
federal Child Online Protection Act, which Congress passed
in October 1998.660 The Act mandated all website operators
to restrict access to material deemed “harmful to minors”
under the age of 17. Thus, in order to identify minors, the
law required some form of age verification of all users who
attempt to access such content. After a decade-long court
battle over the constitutionality of COPA, however, the U.S.
Supreme Court in January 2009 rejected the government’s
latest request to revive the law, meaning it is likely dead.661

The COPA Commission, however, was unaffected by
this judicial battle and its report remains the most important
legacy of the law. Congress asked the COPA Commission to
study methods to help reduce access by minors to certain sexually explicit material
online. Congress directed the Commission to evaluate the accessibility, cost, and
effectiveness of protective technologies and methods, as well as their possible effects
on privacy, First Amendment values and law enforcement. The Commission was chaired
by Donald Telage, then Executive Advisor for Global Internet Strategy for Network
Solutions Inc., and it had 18 members from academia, government, and industry. After
hearing from a diverse array of parties and considering a wide range of possible
solutions,662 the COPA Commission concluded that:

no single technology or method will effectively protect children from
harmful material online. Rather, the Commission determined that a
combination of public education, consumer empowerment technologies

660
COPA Commission, Report to Congress, October 20, 2000, www.copacommission.org.
661
See Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Closing the Book on COPA, PFF Blog, Jan. 21,
2009, http://blog.pff.org/archives/2009/01/closing_the_boo.html.
662
The Commission evaluated: filtering and blocking services; labeling and rating systems; age verification
efforts; the possibility of a new top-level domain for harmful to minors material; “green” spaces
containing only child-appropriate materials; Internet monitoring and time-limiting technologies;
acceptable use policies and family contracts; online resources providing access to protective
technologies and methods; and options for increased prosecution against illegal online material. Id. at
14.

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and methods, increased enforcement of existing laws, and industry
action are needed to address this concern.663
The COPA Commission also made specific recommendations concerning
education, law enforcement and industry action, which are listed in Exhibit 1.664 The
clear conclusion of the COPA Commission was that a layered, multi-faceted approach to
online safety was essential. Education, empowerment, and targeted law enforcement
strategies were the key. Finally, the COPA Commission helped highlight for policymakers
“the unique characteristics of the Internet and its impact on the ability to protect
children”:

The Internet’s technical architecture creates new challenges as well as
opportunities for children and families. Material published on the
Internet may originate anywhere, presenting challenges to the
application of the law of any single jurisdiction. Methods for protecting
children in the U.S. must take into account this global nature of the
Internet. In addition, thousands of access providers and millions of
potential publishers provide content online. Methods to protect children
from content harmful to minors must be effective in this diverse and
decentralized environment, including the full range of Internet activity
such as the Web, email, chat, instant messaging, and newsgroups. The
Internet is also rapidly changing and converging with other, more
traditional media. Effective protections for children must accommodate
the Internet’s convergence with other media and extend to new
technologies and services offered on the Internet, *since+ … unlike one-
way broadcast media, the Internet is inherently multi-directional and
interactive.665

663
Id. at 9.
664
Id. at 9-10.
665
Id. at 13.

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Exhibit 67: COPA Commission Recommendations
Public Education:
 Government and the private sector should undertake a major education campaign to promote
public awareness of technologies and methods available to protect children online.
 Government and industry should effectively promote acceptable use policies.
Consumer Empowerment Efforts:
 Resources should be allocated for the independent evaluation of child protection technologies
and to provide reports to the public about the capabilities of these technologies.
 Industry should take steps to improve child protection mechanisms, and make them more
accessible online.
 A broad, national, private sector conversation should be encouraged on the development of
next-generation systems for labeling, rating, and identifying content reflecting the convergence
of old and new media.
 Government should encourage the use of technology in efforts to make children’s experience of
the Internet safe and useful.
Law Enforcement:
 Government at all levels should fund, with significant new money, aggressive programs to
investigate, prosecute, and report violations of federal and state obscenity laws, including efforts
that emphasize the protection of children from accessing materials illegal under current state
and federal obscenity law.
 State and federal law enforcement should make available a list, without images, of Usenet
newsgroups, IP addresses, World Wide Web sites or other Internet sources that have been found
to contain child pornography or where convictions have been obtained involving obscene
material.
 Federal agencies, pursuant to further Congressional rulemaking authority as needed, should
consider greater enforcement and possibly rulemaking to discourage deceptive or unfair
practices that entice children to view obscene materials, including the practices of
“mousetrapping” and deceptive metatagging.
 Government should provide new money to address international aspects of Internet crime,
including both obscenity and child pornography.
Industry Action:
 The ISP industry should voluntarily undertake “best practices” to protect minors.
 The online commercial adult industry should voluntarily take steps to restrict minors’ ready
access to adult content.

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2002 – Youth, Pornography, and the Internet (“Thornburgh Commission”)
In 2001, a blue-ribbon panel of experts was convened by the National Research
Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences to study
how best to protect children from objectionable online
material, namely, pornography. Congress had passed
legislation in November 1998 requiring that the NRC “conduct
a study of computer-based technologies and other approaches
to the problem of the availability of pornographic material to
children on the Internet.”666

Under the leadership of former U.S. Attorney General
Richard Thornburgh, in 2002, the group produced a massive,
450-page report (Youth, Pornography, and the Internet) that
discussed a comprehensive collection of strategies for dealing
with potentially objectionable media content or online
dangers.667 The Thornburgh Commission used a compelling
metaphor to explain why education was the most essential
strategy for addressing these concerns:

Technology—in the form of fences around pools, pool alarms, and
locks—can help protect children from drowning in swimming pools.
However, teaching a child to swim—and when to avoid pools—is a far
safer approach than relying on locks, fences, and alarms to prevent him
or her from drowning. Does this mean that parents should not buy
fences, alarms, or locks? Of course not—because they do provide some
benefit. But parents cannot rely exclusively on those devices to keep their
children safe from drowning, and most parents recognize that a child
who knows how to swim is less likely to be harmed than one who does
not. Furthermore, teaching a child to swim and to exercise good
judgment about bodies of water to avoid has applicability and relevance
far beyond swimming pools—as any parent who takes a child to the
beach can testify.668
The report also included a lengthy chapter on “Social and Educational Strategies
to Develop Personal and Community Responsibility,” which pointed out how
“exclusive—or even primary—reliance on technological measures for protection would
be an abdication of parental and community responsibility and is likely to be ineffective
as well.”669 Education was the preferred approach because “technology often does not
666
Title IX, Sec. 901 of The Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, Pub. Law 105-314.
667
Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council, Youth, Pornography
and the Internet (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2002),
www.nap.edu/html/youth_internet/
668
Id. at 224.
669
Id. at 221.

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live up to its promises,” and “because technology changes rapidly for everyone,
technology tools developed to solves problems exposed by other technological
developments may quickly be rendered obsolete.”670

The Thornburgh Commission also found that “Technology-based tools, such as filters,
provide parents and other responsible adults with additional choices as to how best
fulfill their responsibilities.”671 In other words, technological tools and approaches could
supplement educational strategies.672 However, the report also concluded, however,
“there is no single or simple answer to controlling the access of minors to inappropriate
material on the Web.”673 Thus, the Thornburgh Commission advocated a layered
approach to the issue:

Though some might wish to think otherwise, no single approach—
technical, legal, economic, or education—will be sufficient. Rather, an
effective framework for protecting our children from inappropriate
materials and experiences on the Internet will require a balanced
composite of all these elements, and real progress will require forward
movement on all these fronts.674

2008 – Safer Children in a Digital World (“Byron Review”)
In September 2007, the British government asked Dr.
Tanya Byron, a prominent British psychologist, to conduct an
independent review of the risks to children from exposure to
potentially harmful or inappropriate material on the Internet
and in video games.

Dr. Byron delivered her report to the Prime Minister in
March 2008: Safer Children in a Digital World: The Report of the
Byron Review.675 It reflected many of the same themes, and
reached many of the same conclusions, as the U.S.-based reports
mention herein. Again, there was a realization that there are no
easy answers to these complicated issues:

670
Id. at 222.
671
Id. at 12.
672
“While technology and public policy have important roles to play, social and educational strategies
that impart to children the character and values to exercise responsible choices about Internet use and
the knowledge about how to cope with inappropriate material and experiences is central to promoting
children’s safe Internet use.” Id. at 388.
673
Id. at 12.
674
Id. at 13.
675
Safer Children in a Digital World: The Report of the Byron Review, March 27, 2008,
www.dcsf.gov.uk/byronreview. The complete final report can be found at:
www.dcsf.gov.uk/byronreview/pdfs/Final%20Report%20Bookmarked.pdf.

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There is no ‘silver bullet’. Neither Government nor industry can make the
internet completely safe. The nature of the internet means that there will
always be risks, and children and parents need to understand how to
manage the risks of the internet.
As such, policies that claim to make the internet completely safe are
undesirable because they discourage children and parents from taking an
informed approach to managing the risks. At worst they can be
dangerous – lulling parents into a false sense of security and leaving
children exposed to a greater level of risk than they would otherwise
be.676
The Byron Review also emphasized the importance of education and building resiliency:

Just like in the offline world, no amount of effort to reduce potential risks
to children will eliminate those risks completely. We cannot make the
internet completely safe. Because of this, we must also build children’s
resilience to the material to which they may be exposed so that they have
the confidence and skills to navigate these new media waters more
safely.677
[And ] crucial and central to this issue is a strong commitment to
changing behavior through a sustained information and education
strategy. This should focus on raising the knowledge, skills and
understanding around e-safety of children, parents and other responsible
adults.678
The Byron Review recommended a comprehensive information and education
strategy through a partnership of government, schools, child safety experts, and
industry. It also recommended that government policy be more tightly coordinated by a
new UK Council for Child Internet Safety, which would report to the Prime Minister.
Finally, the Byron Review outlined a variety of industry best practices that could help
parents and children achieve greater online safety.

676
Id. at 81.
677
Id. at 5.
678
Id. at 7.

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2009 – Internet Safety Technical Task Force (ISTTF)
On January 14th, 2008, social networking website
operator MySpace.com announced a joint effort with 49
state Attorneys General (AGs) aimed at better protecting
children online. As part their “Joint Statement on Key
Principles of Social Networking Safety,” MySpace promised
the AGs it would create new online safety tools, improve
education efforts, and expand its cooperation with law
enforcement.679 They also agreed to create an industry-wide
Internet Safety Technical Task Force (ISTTF) to study online
safety tools, including a review of online identity
authentication technology.680 The ISTTF, which was chaired
by Harvard University law professor John Palfrey, the Co-
Director of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society,
included representatives from many child safety groups,
non-profit organizations, and Internet companies.

The ISTTF convened a Research Advisory Board (RAB), which brought together
leading academic researchers in the field of child safety and child development and a
Technical Advisory Board (TAB), which included some of America’s leading digital
technologists and computer scientists, who reviewed child safety technologies
submitted to the ISTTF. The RAB’s literature review681 and TAB’s assessment of
technologies682 were the most detailed assessments of these issues to date. They both
represent amazing achievements in their respective arenas.

On December 31, 2008, the ISTTF issued its final report, Enhancing Child Safety &
Online Technologies.683 Consistent with previous task force reports, the ISTTF found
that “there is no one technological solution or specific combination of technological
solutions to the problem of online safety for minors.”684 And, while the ISTTF was,
“optimistic about the development of technologies to enhance protections for minors

679
MySpace and Attorneys General Announce Joint Effort to Promote Industry-Wide Internet Safety
Principles, News Corp., Press Release, January 14, 2008, www.newscorp.com/news/news_363.html
680
Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, The MySpace-AG Agreement: A Model Code of
Conduct for Social Networking? Progress on Point 15.1, Jan. 2008, www.pff.org/issues-
pubs/pops/pop15.1myspaceAGagreement.pdf
681
http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/sites/cyber.law.harvard.edu/files/ISTTF_Final_Report-
APPENDIX_C_Lit_Review_121808.pdf
682
http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/sites/cyber.law.harvard.edu/files/ISTTF_Final_Report-
APPENDIX_D_TAB_and_EXHIBITS.pdf
683
Internet Safety Technical Task Force, Enhancing Child Safety & Online Technologies: Final Report of the
Internet Safety Technical Task Force to the Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking of State
Attorneys General of the United States, Dec. 31, 2008, at 10,
http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/pubrelease/isttf
684
Id. at 6

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online and to support institutions and individuals involved in protecting minors,” it
ultimately “caution[ed] against overreliance on technology in isolation or on a single
technological approach”:685

Instead, a combination of technologies, in concert with parental
oversight, education, social services, law enforcement, and sound policies
by social network sites and service providers may assist in addressing
specific problems that minors face online. All stakeholders must continue
to work in a cooperative and collaborative manner, sharing information
and ideas to achieve the common goal of making the Internet as safe as
possible for minors.686
Finally, the ISTTF recognized the importance of providing adequate resources to
law enforcement, schools, and social service organizations so they can better deal with
child safety concerns:

To complement the use of technology, greater resources should be
allocated: to schools, libraries, and other community organizations to
assist them in adopting risk management policies and in providing
education about online safety issues; to law enforcement for training and
developing technology tools, and to enhance community policing efforts
around youth online safety; and to social services and mental health
professionals who focus on minors and their families, so that they can
extend their expertise to online spaces and work with law enforcement
and the Internet community to develop a unified approach for identifying
at-risk youth and intervening before risky behavior results in danger.687

685
Id.
686
Id.
687
Supra note 683 at 6.

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2009 – “Point Smart. Click Safe.” Blue Ribbon Working Group
In June 2007, the National Cable &
Telecommunications Association (NCTA), the principal trade
association of the cable industry in the United States,
announced “Cable Puts You in Control: PointSmart.
ClickSafe.”688 a new campaign by its members to offer parents
assistance in keeping their children safe online.689
As part of the initiative the NCTA hosted a major online child
safety summit and also announced the formation of the “Point
Smart. Click Safe.” Blue Ribbon Working Group in partnership
with the Internet KeepSafe Coalition (iKeepSafe) and Common
Sense Media. These three organizations, along with the cable
industry’s “Cable in the Classroom” program, agreed to bring
together a collection of online safety experts from many
disciplines to study these issues and develop a set of “best practice” recommendations
that could be implemented across the Internet industry.

In July 2009, the working group produced its final report.690 In line with what
previous task forces found, the “Point Smart. Click Safe.” Blue Ribbon Working Group
concluded that:

Ensuring children’s online safety is a difficult and complex task that calls
for input from and action by a wide variety of stakeholders. There is no
“silver bullet”—no single technology or approach that has proved
effective. Rather, what is required is:

 A combination of different technologies,
 Continuing digital literacy education for parents, educators, and
children, and
 Active participation by all concerned companies, groups and
individuals.
Similarly, a singular focus on safety is insufficient. Children must learn to
minimize risks but also learn appropriate and ethical behaviors in this
digital world. In addition, they need an understanding of media literacy,
in order to be able to think critically about the content they consume and
increasingly create. Therefore, best practices must be part of a larger
effort to provide an entertaining, educational, and safe experience for
children.

688
www.pointsmartclicksafe.org
689
Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Cable’s Commitment to Online Safety, Progress
Snapshot 3.7 June 2007, www.pff.org/issues-pubs/ps/2007/ps3.7cablecodeconduct.pdf.
690
www.PointSmartReport.org

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Again, the major contribution of this task force was its focus on detailed industry
best practices that various online providers could adopt to help parents, policymakers,
and law enforcement better keep kids safe online. As the working group’s final report
noted:

It should be easy for parents and others to find clear and simple
explanations of what information and safety elements exist, how they
function, and what a user can do in various circumstances. Therefore,
best operating practices should:

 Use clear and common language,
 Be consistent and transparent, and
 Provide information and tools that can vary by age and stage of the
user.
These best operating practices should be crafted so that they can be:

 Modified for a specific service or application (e.g. ISP, blog, chat,
social network),
 Scaled based on the number of intended or actual users,
 Designed and created as part of the product development cycle, and
 Continuously updated to reflect growth and change in the
application or service.

The task force then outlined several tools and strategies that industries could use to
accomplish these goals. These “Recommendations for Best Practices” are summarized
in the adjoining exhibit.

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Exhibit 68: “Point Smart. Click Safe.” Recommendations for Best Practice

Before Children Go Online

1. Education and information
Basic information and education about the digital landscape must be in place and available to all children,
parents, educators, and caregivers so they can understand the various risks, what constitutes appropriate
behavior in different online spaces, and what options they have in services and terms of use. In addition,
children need to learn how to use the technology efficiently, effectively and ethically so that they can
participate fully in social, economic and civic life in the digital age. Best Practices should also encourage and
empower parents, educators, and caregivers to understand the technology so they can make informed initial
and ongoing choices for their children’s safety and security.

We recommend the following:
1.1 Provide access to information that will educate parents, educators, and children about media literacy
and ethical digital citizenship, and help them think critically about the content consumed and created
on the Internet.
1.2 Make safety information for users, parents, and caregivers prominent, easily accessible, and clear.
1.3 Provide information that is easy to find and access from the home page, available during registration,
and that can also be found in other appropriate places within the Web site or service.
1.4 Include specific information or FAQs about the services offered by the provider, especially safety tools
and how to use them (e.g., conducting a safe search, setting filtering options, defining and setting
appropriate privacy levels).
1.5 Provide links to additional resources that offer relevant safety and security information.
1.6 To make messages about online safety clear and easily recognizable to a variety of users, consider
using consistent themes, and common words and phrases. Provide messages in multiple languages as
appropriate.
1.7 Consider display of an icon on Web sites or services that denotes meaningful participation in Best
Practice efforts for children's online safety.

2. Registration/creation of user profiles
We recommend the following:
2.1 Provide a clear explanation of how information collected at registration and set up will be used, what
is public vs. private on the site, and a user’s ability to modify, hide, and prevent access to user
information.
2.2 Make safety information available during the registration process, prominent from the homepage and
in appropriate places within the service (e.g. welcome email/message, point of sale information).
2.3 Provide information in the terms and conditions and elsewhere that defines acceptable behavior,
states that users are not anonymous and can be traced, and details the consequences of violating the
standards of behavior.
2.4 Provide notice that violating terms or conditions will result in specific consequences, including legal
ones if required.

3. Identity authentication and age verification
The task force acknowledges that the issues of identity authentication and age verification remain substantial
challenges for the Internet community due to a variety of concerns including privacy, accuracy, and the need
for better technology in these areas. *…+ Therefore we recommend the following:

3.1 Continue to explore age-verification and identity-authentication technologies and work to develop
better safety and security solutions and technologies.
(cont.)

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(cont.)

During a Child’s Online Activities
Best Practices in this area should recommend how technologies can be used to define and control a child’s
digital activities and help parents establish the technology structure that they determine best meets their
family values and needs as children grow and become more self-sufficient.
We recommend the following:

4. Content screening
4.1 Initially set defaults at a moderate level as a minimum, but instruct users in how to customize settings
for their own needs.
4.2 Information should be provided about company policy on filtering, including the default settings,
explanations of the meanings of different safety, security and filtering options (e.g., what is blocked by
certain levels of filtering), how to make adjustments, and when settings might need to be reapplied
(e.g., a new version).
4.3 Consider carefully the placement and highlighting of sites belonging to and designed by children and
youth (e.g., a child’s profile page could become a “safe zone,” don’t locate children’s content near ads
for adult-targeted materials).
4.4 Consider a “walled garden” approach when relevant with products aimed at children eight years of
age and younger.

5. Safe searching
5.1 Include specific information about how to conduct a safe search, how to set filtering options, and an
explanation of privacy settings.

When Problems Arise
6. To provide the best response to problems, we recommend:
6.1 Have in place a robust procedure, backed by appropriate systems and resources, to handle
complaints. Ideally, each company should have an Internet-safety staff position or cross-functional
team charged with supervising the procedures and resources and given the authority and resources to
be effective.
6.2 Provide a reporting mechanism visible from all relevant pages or sections of a site or service.
6.3 Consider providing a designated page with relevant information and instructions about how to submit
a report or complaint including:
 How users can determine the appropriate individual or agency to contact when reporting a
problem (e.g., customer service, law enforcement, or safety hotline) and links to these services.
 What types of content and behaviors should be reported, the reporting procedure, and what
supporting information might need to be included.
 How to remove unwanted content or information from a user’s page or profile.
 How to cancel an account.
6.4 Cooperate with law enforcement, where applicable, and follow all relevant statutes.

We Should Heed the Collective Wisdom of the Past
While more study of online child safety issues is always welcome—including
additional task forces or working groups if policymakers deem them necessary—thanks
to the work of these past task forces, we now have better vision of what is needed to
address online safety concerns. Education, empowerment, and targeted law

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enforcement efforts are the crucial ingredients to improving the safety of children
online. And sensible industry self-regulation and best practices can help facilitate all
those objectives.

Of these various strategies, however, education is the one with the most lasting
impact. Education teaches lessons and builds resiliency, providing skills and strength
that can last a lifetime. Specifically, education can help teach kids how to behave in—or
respond to—a wide variety of situations.691 The focus should be on encouraging “digital
citizenship”692 and “social media literacy.”693

If policymaker convene additional task forces or working groups in coming years,
it would be wise to have them focus on devising and refining online safety educational
methods and digital literacy efforts. In particular, focusing on how to integrate such
education and literacy programs into existing K-12 education (including curriculum and
professional development) would be a worthwhile undertaking. Of course, many groups
are already busy studying how to do this, but if lawmakers feel compelled to bring
together experts once more to study these issues, this sort of targeted focus on
education and media literacy implementation would be welcome.

Importantly, it is worth noting that such education and media literacy-based
approaches have the added benefit of remaining within the boundaries of the
Constitution and the First Amendment. By adopting education and awareness-building
approaches, government would not be seeking to restrict speech, but simply to better
inform and empower parents regarding the parental control tools and techniques
already at their disposal.694 The courts have shown themselves to be amenable to such
educational efforts, and not just in the case of online safety.695 Thus, moving forward,

691
See Nancy Willard, A Web 2.0 Approach to Internet Safety, Education Week, Aug. 21, 2007,
www.education-world.com/a_tech/columnists/willard/willard008.shtml
692
See Common Sense Media, Digital Literacy and Citizenship in the 21st Century: Educating,
Empowering, and Protecting America's Kids, June 2009,
www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/CSM_digital_policy.pdf; Nancy Willard, Center for
Safe and Responsible Internet Use, Comprehensive Layered Approach to Address Digital Citizenship
and Youth Risk Online, Nov. 2008, www.cyberbully.org/PDFs/yrocomprehensiveapproach.pdf
693
See Anne Collier, Net Family News, Social Media Literacy: The New Online Safety, Feb. 27, 2009,
www.netfamilynews.org/labels/new%20media%20literacy.html
694
“Although government’s ability to regulate content may be weak, its ability to promote positive
programming and media research is not. Government at all levels should fund the creation and
evaluation of positive media initiatives such as public service campaigns to reduce risky behaviors and
studies about educational programs that explore innovative uses of media.” Jeanne Brooks-Gunn and
Elisabeth Hirschhorn Donahue, “Introducing the Issue,” in Children and Electronic Media, The Future of
Children, Vol. 18, No. 1, Spring 2008, p. 8.
695
In the video game context, courts have noted the education typically provides the more sensible, and
constitution, method of dealing with concerns about access to objectionable content.

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lawmakers would be wise to focus on education-based strategies and initiatives, not
regulatory ones.696

If lawmakers instead enact more regulations aimed at banning certain types of
online content,697 or mandating unworkable solutions like mandatory online age
verification,698 those efforts will be bogged down in the courts for years to come. For
example, the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) was passed by Congress in 1998 in an
effort to restrict minors’ access to adult-oriented websites. After a decade-long series of
court battles about the constitutionality of the measure, in January 2009, the U.S.
Supreme Court rejected the government’s latest request to revive COPA, meaning it is
likely dead.699 If all the money and resources that were spent litigating COPA had
instead been used for digital media literacy and online safety campaigns, it could have
produced concrete, lasting results.

In sum, education, not regulation, represents the best approach to addressing
content concerns about online child safety. But user empowerment, industry self-
regulation, and increased resources for targeted law enforcement efforts are also
essential.

696
See Berin Szoka & Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Cyberbullying Legislation: Why
Education is Preferable to Regulation, , Progress on Point 16.2, June 19, 2009, www.pff.org/issues-
pubs/pops/2009/pop16.12-cyberbullying-education-better-than-regulation.pdf; Adam Thierer, The
Progress & Freedom Foundation, Two Sensible, Education-Based Approaches to Online Child Safety,
Progress Snapshot 3.10, Sept. 2007, www.pff.org/issues-pubs/ps/2007/ps3.10safetyeducationbills.pdf.
697
See Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Congress, Content Regulation, and Child
Protection: The Expanding Legislative Agenda, Progress Snapshot 4.4, Feb. 6, 2008,
www.pff.org/issues-pubs/ps/2008/ps4.4childprotection.html; Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom
Foundation, Is MySpace the Government’s Space?, Progress Snapshot 2.16, June 2006,
www.pff.org/issues-pubs/ps/2006/ps_2.16_myspace.pdf
698
See Berin Szoka & Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, COPPA 2.0: The New Battle
over Privacy, Age Verification, Online Safety & Free Speech, Progress on Point 16.11, May 2009,
http://pff.org/issues-pubs/pops/2009/pop16.11-COPPA-and-age-verification.pdf; Adam Thierer, The
Progress & Freedom Foundation, Social Networking and Age Verification: Many Hard Questions; No
Easy Solutions, Progress on Point No. 14.5, Mar. 2007, www.pff.org/issues-
pubs/pops/pop14.8ageverificationtranscript.pdf; Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation,
Statement Regarding the Internet Safety Technical Task Force’s Final Report to the Attorneys General,
Jan. 14, 2008, www.pff.org/issues-pubs/other/090114ISTTFthiererclosingstatement.pdf; Nancy
Willard, Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, Why Age and Identity Verification Will Not
Work—And is a Really Bad Idea, Jan. 26, 2009, www.csriu.org/PDFs/digitalidnot.pdf; Jeff Schmidt,
Online Child Safety: A Security Professional’s Take, The Guardian, Spring 2007,
www.jschmidt.org/AgeVerification/Gardian_JSchmidt.pdf.
699
See Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Closing the Book on COPA, PFF Blog, Jan. 21,
2009, http://blog.pff.org/archives/2009/01/closing_the_boo.html

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XII. Appendix:
Glossary of Key Terms, Laws & Cases

Age Verification – Refers to any process that would require Internet users to provide
proof of age or identity before gaining access to specific sites or types of content. Age
verification mandates have been the subject of heated political and legal disputes in
the past and present. For example, age verification has been at the center of the
debate over the Child Online Protection Act of 1998 and courts have consistently held
that the current age verification software fails to reliably establish or verify the age of
Internet users. (See “COPA.”) Most recently, age verification has been proposed as a
method of keeping children safe from predatory adults who might be on social
networking sites. Some state Attorneys General or legislatures have pushed age
verification mandates, but none have passed thus far. (See “Social networking.”)

Blacklists – A list of websites that is blocked by an individual, organization, or an
Internet filter. Once a site has been blacklisted, users cannot access that site without
first gaining permission from whoever blocked it. Blacklists are an essential part of
filtering. (See “Filters,” and compare with “Whitelists.”)

Browser history file – All Internet browsers (ex: Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox) have a
file that retains recently visited websites. These “histories” can allow parents to keep
tabs on their child’s online activities. Although it is easy for users to erase such history
files, parents who notice their child’s history file is empty can talk to them about why
they are erasing it so frequently. The need for parents to use such history files is
dissipating as more sophisticated monitoring tools are made available, which allow
them to more closely monitor their child’s online activities. (See “Monitoring tools.”)

CDA – The Communications Decency Act of 1996, which was part of the
Telecommunications Act of 1996, was the first attempt by the U.S. Congress to
regulate objectionable material on the Internet.700 The law sought to ban the
transmission over the Internet of speech or materials that were “obscene or
indecent.” The Act was immediately blocked by a lower court and a year later the
Supreme Court struck down the indecency provisions of the CDA in the historical
cyberlaw case of Reno v. ACLU (1997). The Supreme Court held that a law that places a
“burden on adult speech is unacceptable if less restrictive alternatives would be at
least as effective in achieving” the same goal.701 (See “Less restrictive means test.”)

“Client-side” filtering – Refers to stand-alone or “boxed” filtering solutions purchased at
retail stores or downloaded from websites and then installed on a user’s personal

700
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communications_Decency_Act
701
Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844 (1997).

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computer. While these client-side solutions are still very popular, many families now
rely on “server-side” solutions provided by their Internet service provider, usually at
little to no cost. (See “Server-side” filtering.)

COPA – The Child Online Protection Act (COPA) of 1998 was an effort by the U.S.
Congress to modify the CDA in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Reno v.
ACLU. The law sought to protect minors from harmful sexual material on the Internet
by making it a crime for someone to “knowingly” place materials online that were
“harmful to minors.”702 The law provided an affirmative defense from prosecution,
however, to those parties who made a “good faith” effort to “restrict* + access by
minors to material that is harmful to minors” using credit cards or age verification
schemes. (See “Age verification.”) The law was immediately challenged and blocked
by lower courts, and it then became the subject of an epic legal battle that finally
came to a close in January 2008 when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to revisit the
law.703

The U.S. Supreme Court reviewed the rule twice and in the second decision in June
2004, the Court held in Ashcroft v. ACLU that the law was likely unconstitutional in
light of the less restrictive methods that were available to block objectionable content.
But the case was again referred back to a lower court for further review. In the most
recent COPA decision, Judge Lowell Reed Jr., senior judge of the U.S. District Court for
the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, ruled that COPA remains an unconstitutional
burden because it is “impermissibly vague and overbroad” and does not represent
“the least restrictive, most effective alternative in achieving the compelling interest”
the government has in this matter.704 Judge Reed also held that the market for private
filtering tools had continued to flourish since COPA was passed and that those filters
blocked an estimated 95 percent of sexually explicit material. He also found “that
there is no evidence of age verification services or products available on the market to
owners of Web sites that actually reliably establish or verify the age of Internet users.
Nor is there evidence of such services or products that can effectively prevent access
to Web pages by a minor.”705 In July 2008, the full Third Circuit Court of Appeals
upheld Judge Reed’s ruling striking down COPA,706 meaning the permanent injunction
against the enforcement of COPA remained in effect until the Supreme Court decided
in January 2009 not to review the law for a historic third time.707

702
www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode47/usc_sec_47_00000231----000-.html
703
“Supreme Court Won’t Revive Online Content Law,” Associated Press, Jan. 21, 2008,
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090121/ap_on_go_su_co/scotus_internet_blocking
704
www.techliberation.com/COPA
705
www.techliberation.com/COPA
706
www.cdt.org/speech/20080722COPA3rdCircuit.pdf
707
Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Closing the Book on COPA, PFF Blog, Jan. 21, 2009,
http://blog.pff.org/archives/2009/01/closing_the_boo.html

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COPPA – The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, which went into effect in
April 2000, requires websites that marketed to children under the age of 13 to get
“verifiable parental consent” before allowing children access to their sites. 708 The
Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is responsible for enforcing COPPA, adopted a
sliding scale approach to obtaining parental consent.709 The sliding scale approach
allows website operators to use a mix of methods to comply with the law, including
print-and-fax forms, follow-up phone calls and e-mails, and credit card authorizations.
The FTC also authorized four “safe harbor” programs operated by private companies
that help website operators comply with COPPA.710 In a recent report to Congress, the
FTC said that no changes to COPPA were necessary at this time because it had “been
effective in helping to protect the privacy and safety of young children online.” 711 In
discussing the effectiveness of the parental consent methods, however, the agency
also said that “none of these mechanisms is foolproof” and that “age verification
technologies have not kept pace with other developments, and are not currently
available as a substitute for other screening mechanisms.”712 This seems to imply that
the FTC does not regard COPPA’s parental consent methods as the equivalent of
perfect age verification. (See “Age verification.”)

CIPA – The Children's Internet Protection Act of 2000 was another attempt by Congress
to enact limitations on objectionable online materials in the wake of court challenges
to the CDA and COPA. CIPA was far narrower in scope than those previous regulatory
efforts since it only applies to schools or libraries receiving federal funding on the “E-
rate” system, a program that subsidizes communications and computing technology
for schools and libraries. Under CIPA, if schools and libraries wish to continue receiving
E-Rate assistance, they must certify that they have an Internet safety policy and
technology protection measures in place to block or filter Internet access to pictures
considered obscene or harmful to minors.713 Unlike the CDA and COPA, CIPA was
upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court as constitutional in June 2003.714

708
www.coppa.org/coppa.htm
709
See Federal Trade Commission, How to Comply with The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule, Nov.
1999, www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/buspubs/coppa.htm
710
The four safe harbor programs are administered by the Children’s Advertising Review Unit of the
Council of Better Business Bureaus (“CARU”); the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB);
TRUSTe; and Privo.
711
Federal Trade Commission, Implementing the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act: A Report to
Congress, Feb. 2007, at 1, www.ftc.gov/reports/coppa/07COPPA_Report_to_Congress.pdf
712
Id., at 12-13.
713
www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/cipa.html
714
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children/%%27_Internet_Protection_Act

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Cyberbullying – Refers to the use of the Internet or communications technology to
harass or threaten others.

DVR – Digital video recorders, which are also referred to as personal video recorders, let
consumers instantly pause, rewind, and fast-forward programming and, more
importantly, record and archive programming for viewing at a later time. The most
popular DVR is sold by TiVo, but consumers are increasingly leasing DVRs from cable,
telco, and satellite operators. DVRs give parents the ability to accumulate libraries of
preferred programming for their children and determine exactly when it will be
viewed. This can help parents tailor programming to their specific needs and values.
(Also see “VOD.”)

ESRB – The Entertainment Software Rating Board (www.esrb.org) is a self-regulatory
rating and labeling body that was established by the video game industry in 1994. The
ESRB applies seven different rating symbols and over 30 different content
“descriptors” to the games it rates. Once rated, the ESRB ratings and labels are
embedded in games as metadata such that game consoles and personal computers
can block them if parents wish. (See “Metadata.”) Virtually every title produced by
major game developers for retail sale today carries an ESRB rating and content
descriptors. According to the ESRB, it rates over 1,000 games per year.

Filters – Internet filtering software is used to block access to certain types of
objectionable websites or online content. Filters usually rely on human-maintained
blacklists (See “Blacklists”), but automated computer programs can also flag
inappropriate content based on pre-selected criteria. Image-recognition technology
can also be used by filters to screen and block content. Filters can also use whitelists
(See “Whitelists”) to grant access to sites that have been pre-screened or deemed
appropriate. Many filters are now being bundled with monitoring tools to give parents
a better understanding of their child’s online behavior and interactions. (See
“Monitoring tools.”)

ICRA – The Internet Content Rating Association (www.fosi.org/icra), which was created
in 1994, offers website operators the ability to voluntarily label their websites with
metadata tags. (See “Metadata.”) ICRA offers a wide variety of content descriptors
that website operators can use to self-label their sites. ICRA does not rate Internet
websites or the content itself. It leaves it to the content providers to do that using the
ICRA labeling system. Once these metadata labels have been embedded within
websites, parents can freely download the “ICRAplus” filter from ICRA’s website and
customize it to their specific needs / tastes. Or they can use unaffiliated filters or
computer operating system controls to screen content by ICRA labels. ICRA is now part
of the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI).

IPTV – Refers to a broad class of services that utilize Internet protocols to transmit
digital video signals to the public. Many new video services and technologies, such as

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VOD, are built on IPTV platforms. IPTV offers the potential for much greater capacity,
configurability, and interactivity than traditional television distribution and storage
methods. (Also see “VOD.’)

Keystroke logger – A digital monitoring tool that can be installed on any personal
computer and used to monitor all user communications, keystroke-by-keystroke.

“Less restrictive means” test – In recent court cases striking down government
attempts to regulate online content, the courts have argued—echoing the Supreme
Court’s holding in the historic 1998 case Reno v. ACLU—that any law that places a
“burden on adult speech is unacceptable if less restrictive alternatives would be at
least as effective in achieving” the same goal.715 (See “Reno v. ACLU,” “CDA,” and
“COPA.”) Several lower courts have rejected regulation of video game content on
similar grounds.716 The net effect of the less restrictive means test is that policymakers
must either prove that alternatives to regulation do not exist or are not effective in
blocking underage access to objectionable materials.

Metadata – Generally speaking, metadata is data that describes other data. More
specifically, metadata refers to machine-readable digital data that describes
audiovisual media content. Many of the parental control tools rely on metadata
tagging. For example, MPAA movie ratings and ESRB video game ratings are digitally
embedded within DVDs and video games so that parental control tools in playback
devices (i.e., DVD players, computers, video game consoles, etc.) can then be used to
screen out unwanted content. Metadata tags can also be used to label websites, as
the ICRA system does. (See “ICRA.”)

Monitoring tools – Refers to a broad array of software or tools that enable parents to
supervise their children’s online activities. Most monitoring tools let parents see each
website their children visit, view every e-mail or instant message that they send and
receive, or even record every word that they type into their word processors. Parents
can also receive a periodic report summarizing their child’s Internet usage and
communications. More robust software programs even allow parents to capture
screen shots of sites their kids have visited. Finally, these tools allow parents to do all
this in a surreptitious fashion since, once the software is installed on a child’s
computer, it is entirely invisible to the user. Some monitoring software also lets
parents impose time management constraints on their children’s computer and
Internet usage. Monitoring software is increasingly being bundled with Internet
filtering software. (Also see “Filters.”)

715
Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844 (1997).
716
See Adam Thierer, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Fact and Fiction in the Debate over Video
Game Regulation, Progress Snapshot 13.7, March 2006, www.pff.org/issues-
pubs/pops/pop13.7videogames.pdf

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MPAA – The Motion Picture Association of America (www.mpaa.org) represents the
interests of leading movie studios. The MPAA’s rating system, which was established
in 1968, is the longest-running and most widely recognized rating system in America.
Once a title is rated, the MPAA ratings are embedded in DVDs as metadata such that
DVD players, game consoles and personal computers can block them if parents wish.
(See “Metadata.”)

NCMEC – The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
(www.missingkids.com) was established in 1984 as a private, non-profit 501(c)(3)
organization to provide services nationwide for families and professionals in the
prevention of abducted, endangered, and sexually exploited children. NCMEC helps
coordinate law enforcement efforts and serves as clearinghouse of information
relating to missing children or victims of sexual exploitation. NCMEC also operates the
CyberTipline, a reporting mechanism for cases of child sexual exploitation. Congress
provides funding to NCMEC and frequently grants new law enforcement powers to the
organization to carry out its mission.

Pacifica decision – In the late 1970s, the “scarcity” rationale for regulation of broadcast
radio and television content gave way to the “pervasiveness rationale” as articulated
in the landmark Supreme Court case FCC v. Pacifica Foundation (1978).717 In Pacifica, a
slim majority of the Court held that:

Of all forms of communication, broadcasting has the most limited First
Amendment protection. Among the reasons for specially treating
indecent broadcasting is the uniquely pervasive presence that medium of
expression occupies in the lives of our people. Broadcasts extend into the
privacy of the home and it is impossible completely to avoid those that
are patently offensive. Broadcasting, moreover, is uniquely accessible to
children.718
FCC oversight and regulatory penalties (i.e., fines or license revocation) were
thought to be a way of preventing “uninvited” programming from acting as an
“intruder” into the home.719 By a slim 5-4 margin, that logic became the law of the
land for broadcasting and remains so today.

Parental controls – Any tool or method that parents, guardians, or schools might use to
restrict or tailor the media content that children consume.

“Pervasiveness” rationale – See “Pacifica decision.”

717
FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S. 726, 727-8 (1978).
718
Id. [emphasis added].
719
Id, at 727-8.

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Playboy decision – See “United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group”

PVR – See “DVR.”

Reno v. ACLU – The historic 1998 Supreme Court decision which struck down the
Communications Decency Act of 1996, a law that sought to ban the transmission over
the Internet of speech or materials that were “obscene or indecent.” (See “CDA.”) The
Supreme Court held that a law that places a “burden on adult speech is unacceptable
if less restrictive alternatives would be at least as effective in achieving” the same
goal.720 (Also see “Less restrictive means test.”)

RIAA – The Recording Industry Association of America (www.riaa.com) represents the
interests of America’s major record labels. RIAA created a voluntary labeling effort on
behalf of record companies and producers who, working with their artists, decide
which of their songs and products receive an explicit label. The black-and-white
“Parental Advisory – Explicit Content” label is affixed prominently to the outside of the
permanent packaging and embedded in the digitally delivered files. Artists and
producers also have an option to release a “non-explicit” version of the same song or
product with the appropriate modifications. Some retail stores refuse to carry albums
with the parental advisory.

RTA – The “Restricted to Adults” (RTA) website metadata labeling initiative was created
by the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP), a nonprofit
organization founded in 1996 by the adult entertainment industry to eliminate child
pornography from the Internet. (www.asacp.org) The RTA label is a metadata
descriptor that all adult entertainment website operators are encouraged to use to
help parents who wish to block access to adult content. (See “Metadata.”)
Incidentally, websites using the RTA metadata tag can use it in conjunction with more
descriptive ICRA metadata labels. (See “ICRA.”)

Safe search filters – Major search engines (ex: Google, Yahoo, Microsoft) offer built-in
filters that can block a great deal of the potentially objectionable content that users
might inadvertently stumble upon when using search engines. These safe search filters
usually have three levels of restrictiveness (strict, moderate, and unfiltered). These
filters block both objectionable text and images.

“Server-side” filtering – Refers to filtering services offered by Internet service providers
as part of their online offerings to consumers. Filters are installed on the ISPs servers
and attempts to block objectionable content before it reaches the consumer. These
services are often offered free of charge, or for a small additional fee, when

720
Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844 (1997).

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subscribers sign up for monthly Internet service. ISPs typically offer automatic updates
for these services such that consumers need not manually download upgrades to stay
current. (Also see “Client-side” filtering.)

Social networking – Although the term is evolving, it generally refers to a website or
online service that allows users to create profile pages and provide information about
themselves while networking with others in a variety of ways (e-mail, IM, chat, etc).

United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group (2000).721 In the Playboy case, the
Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Communications Decency Act (see
“CDA”) that required cable companies to “fully scramble” video signals transmitted
over their networks if those signals included any sexually explicit content. Echoing its
earlier holding in Reno v. ACLU, the Court found that less restrictive means were
available to parents looking to block those signals in the home. Specifically, the Court
argued that:

[T]argeted blocking [by parents] enables the government to support
parental authority without affecting the First Amendment interests of
speakers and willing listeners—listeners for whom, if the speech is
unpopular or indecent, the privacy of their own homes may be the
optimal place of receipt. Simply put, targeted blocking is less restrictive
than banning, and the Government cannot ban speech if targeted
blocking is a feasible and effective means of furthering its compelling
interests.722
More importantly, the Court held that:

It is no response that voluntary blocking requires a consumer to take
action, or may be inconvenient, or may not go perfectly every time. A
court should not assume a plausible, less restrictive alternative would be
ineffective; and a court should not presume parents, given full
information, will fail to act.723
V-Chip – Refers to the technologies that, according to FCC regulations, must be
embedded in all televisions 13 inches and larger to give households the ability to
screen televised content by ratings that are affixed to almost all programs. The V-Chip
can be accessed through the setup menus on televisions. Households can then use
password-protected blocking to filter programs by rating. The rating system, which
was established by television and motion picture industry, offers seven age-based

721
United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group, 529 U.S. 803 (2000).
722
Id. at 815.
723
Id. at 824.

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designations and several content descriptors to better inform parents and all viewers
of the nature of the content they will be experiencing.724

VOD – Video on demand services allow consumers to call up video programming at their
leisure. Consumers are usually given the ability the pause, fast-forward, rewind, and
sometimes even archive their programming. (Also see “DVR.”)

Walled garden – Generally refers to any Internet service or website that tightly restricts
access or functionality. Some walled garden tools or Internet portals use a
combination of blacklists and whitelists to drive children only to sites that have been
screened and pre-approved. (See “Blacklists” and “Whitelists.”)

Whitelists – A list of websites that is approved by an individual or an Internet filter.
Whitelists are usually created in conjunction with Internet filters. (See “Filters.”)
Parents can use filters to block child access to objectionable content but then whitelist
websites which they find acceptable. Some walled garden tools or Internet portals use
whitelists to drive children only to sites that have been screened and pre-approved.
(See “Walled gardens” and “Blacklists.”)

724
Available at: www.tvguidelines.org/ratings

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XIV. Related Progress & Freedom Foundation Publications

 Parents, Kids & Policymakers in the Digital Age: Safeguarding Against ‘Techno-Panics,’ by Adam
Thierer, Inside ALEC, July 2009, at 16-17.
 Five Online Safety Task Forces Agree: Education, Empowerment & Self-Regulation Are the Answer,
by Adam Thierer, Progress on Point 16.13, July 8, 2009.
 Cyberbullying Legislation: Why Education is Preferable to Regulation, by Berin Szoka & Adam
Thierer, Progress on Point 16.2, June 19, 2009.
 COPPA 2.0: The New Battle over Privacy, Age Verification, Online Safety & Free Speech,” by Berin
Szoka & Adam Thierer, Progress on Point 16.11, May 2009.
 Implementation of the ‘Child Safe Viewing Act of 2007,’ by Adam Thierer, Comments to the Federal
Communications Commission, MB Docket No. 09-26, April 15, 2009.
 Who Needs Parental Controls? Assessing the Relevant Market for Parental Control Technologies, by
Adam Thierer, Progress on Point 16.5, February 27, 2009
 FCC v. Fox and the Future of the First Amendment in the Information Age, by Adam Thierer, Engage,
February 20, 2009.
 Statement Regarding the Internet Safety Technical Task Force’s Final Report to the Attorneys General,
by Adam Thierer, January 14, 2008.
 Don’t Scapegoat Media: Negative Impact Must Be Balanced Against Technology’s Many Benefits, by
Adam Thierer, Progress Snapshot 14.24, December 9, 2008.
 Joint Amicus Brief of The Center for Democracy & Technology and The Progress & Freedom Foundation,
U.S. Supreme Court in the matter of FCC v. Fox Television Stations, by Adam Thierer, John B. Morris, Jr.,
and Sophia Cope, August 8, 2008.
 Dear Gov. Patterson…Regarding that Video Game Bill You Are About to Sign, by Adam Thierer, Progress
Snapshot 4.15, July 17, 2008.
 The Perils of Mandatory Parental Controls and Restrictive Defaults, by Adam Thierer, Progress on Point
15.4, April 11, 2008.
 Video Games & Public Policy, by Adam Thierer, slide show presentation at Penn State University
conference, “Playing to Win: The Business and Social Frontiers of Videogames,” April 4, 2008.
 Congress, Content Regulation, and Child Protection: The Expanding Legislative Agenda, by Adam
Thierer, Progress Snapshot 4.4, February 6, 2008.
 The MySpace-AG Agreement: A Model Code of Conduct for Social Networking? by Adam Thierer,
Progress on Point 15.1, January 2008.
 Cyber Safety in a Web 2.0 World: What Parents and Policymakers Need to Know, by Adam Thierer, The
Honorable Melissa L. Bean, Sharon Miller Cindrich, Larry Magid, Nancy E. Willard, Progress on Point
14.25, December 27, 2007.
 Parental Control Perfection? The Impact of the DVR and VOD Boom on the Debate over TV Content
Regulation, by Adam Thierer, Progress on Point 14.20, October 2007.
 Two Sensible, Education-Based Legislative Approaches to Online Child Safety, by Adam Thierer,
Progress Snapshot 3.10 September 2007.

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 Freedom of Speech and Press in the 21st Century: New Technology Meets Old Constitutionalism, by
Laurence H. Tribe, Progress on Point 14.19, September 2007.
 Who Killed TV ’s ‘Family Hour’? by Adam Thierer, City Journal, Fall 2007.
 Convergence-Era Content Regulation: S. 602, 'The Child Safe Viewing Act of 2007’, by Adam Thierer,
Progress on Point 14.17, August 1, 2007.
 Why Regulate Broadcasting: Toward a Consistent First Amendment, by Adam Thierer, 15 School
CommLaw Conspectus 2, at 431-482, July 10, 2007.
 Images Kids See on the Screen, Testimony by Adam Thierer, before the Subcommittee on
Telecommunications and the Internet, House Committee on Energy and Commerce, June 22, 2007.
 Cable's Commitment to Online Safety, by Adam Thierer, Progress Snapshot 3.7 June 2007.

 The Right Way to Regulate Violent TV, by Adam Thierer, Progress on Point 14.10, May 14, 2007.
 Age Verification for Social Networking Sites: Is it Possible? Is it Desirable?" [event transcript], Progress
on Point 14.8, May 11, 2007.
 Social Networking and Age Verification: Many Hard Questions; No Easy Solutions, by Adam Thierer,
Progress on Point 14.5, March 21, 2007.
 Rep. Bean’s ‘SAFER Net: An Education, by Adam Thierer, Progress on Point 14.3, February 22, 2007.
 Joint Amicus Brief of The Center for Democracy & Technology and The Progress & Freedom Foundation
in the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in the matter of Fox Television Stations v. FCC, by Adam Thierer,
John B. Morris, Jr., and Sophia Cope, November 30, 2006
 Saving Online Free Speech: A Voluntary Code of Conduct for Internet, by Adam Thierer, Progress
Snapshot, 2.19
 Social Networking Websites & Child Protection: Toward a Rational Dialogue, by Adam Thierer, Progress
Snapshot 2.17, June 2006.
 Is MySpace the Government's Space?, by Adam Thierer, Progress Snapshot 2.16, June 2006.
 Fact and Fiction in the Debate Over Video Game Regulation, by Adam Thierer, Progress on Point 13.7,
March 2006.
 Examining the FCC's Complaint-Driven Broadcast Indecency Enforcement Process, by Adam Thierer,
Progress on Point 12.22, November 2005.
 Content Regulation Without Frontiers: Why the EU is Indeed Regulating the Internet, by Patrick Ross,
Progress Snapshot 1.24, December 2005.
 New Worlds to Censor, by Adam Thierer, Washington Post, June 7, 2005.
 Can Broadcast Indecency Regulations Be Extended to Cable Television and Satellite Radio? by Robert
Corn-Revere, Progress on Point 12.8, May 2005.
 ’Kid-Friendly’ Tiering Mandates: More Government Nannyism for Cable TV, by Adam Thierer, Progress
Snapshot 1.2, May 2005.
 Thinking Seriously about Cable & Satellite Censorship: An Informal Analysis of S-616, The Rockefeller-
Hutchison Bill, by Adam Thierer, Progress on Point 12.6, April 2005.

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