PFF Updates 'Parental Controls & Online Child Protection' Report

Stephen Yagielowicz
WASHINGTON — The Progress & Freedom Foundation has released version 3.0 of Adam Thierer's special report, "Parental Controls and Online Child Protection: A Survey of Tools & Methods."

The 200-page report is intended to assist policymakers and parents seeking to protect children from exposure to potentially harmful material via communications technologies and includes a legislative appendix plus expanded information on social networking sites.

The report attempts to answer the basic question of child protection: "Is government intervention and regulation really needed to quell concerns, or do parents have access to constructive tools to control what their child sees and hears?"

Among the tools listed in the report is the adult-industry backed Restricted To Adults (RTA) labeling system, which was developed and is currently sponsored by ASACP, the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection.

The updated report follows the formation of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force, which unites more than 20 organizations including AOL, AT&T, Comcast, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, MySpace, NCMEC, Symantec, Verizon and Yahoo under a program chaired by Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

The Task Force "will evaluate a broad range of existing and state-of-the-art online safety technologies, including a review of identity authentication tools to help sites enforce minimum age requirements" — issues covered in the latest edition of the PFF report.

Adam Thierer, the report's author, is a Task Force member as well as PFF Senior Fellow and Director of its Center for Digital Media Freedom, which according to a staement "explores the market for parental control tools, rating schemes, education efforts and initiatives aimed at promoting online child safety."

Thierer believes that currently available parental controls and content management tools represent a better, less restrictive alternative to government regulation.

"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 children," Thierer said.