Tools, Not Legislation, Should Protect Children from Offensive Content
WASHINGTON D.C. – Tools and techniques used to monitor media exposure are widely available to parents, negating the need for increased governmental regulation of content, explains Adam Thierer in "Parents Have Many Tools to Combat Objectionable Media Content," In the new Progress on Point released today by The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Thierer documents these tools and explains the roles that industry-led educational efforts and advocacy groups can play in protecting children from exposure to content that is not age appropriate.
In his paper, Thierer, PFF Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Digital Media Freedom, presents a comprehensive overview of technologies that allow parents to block potentially objectionable media content. These technologies include the "V-Chip," set-top box and password protection options offered by cable and satellite providers, and internet content filters offered by service providers and industry groups. The author also identifies technologies, such as VCRs, DVD players and personal video recorders, which allow parents to collect large libraries of programming they deem to be educational and age appropriate.
Thierer summarizes efforts across the entertainment industry to produce educational resources for parents and impose self-rating systems for content. Industry led ratings schemes include those imposed by the motion picture industry, music industry, television industry and internet content industry. Thierer has also written extensively on the electronic gaming industry rating system, which he describes as one of the most descriptive and comprehensive ratings scheme for media content. Many of these ratings systems, including internet filtering systems, work collectively with content control technology, allowing parents to block access to content rated above a determined age level. Industry coalitions and other organizations have also established websites and advertising campaigns to educate parents and alert them to information and tools available for blocking content that could be deemed offensive.
Thierer also identifies a constructive role for family groups concerned about children's exposure to objectionable content. He suggests parents and these interest groups directly target advertisers, programming executives and station or network operators in order to influence the content marketplace. Interest groups can also serve an important role in educating parents about ratings systems, content controls and other information, helping parents take a pro-active approach to monitoring the types of media their children are exposed to. Thierer explains that these efforts are preferable to putting pressure on legislative or political bodies to impose widespread censorship of content.
Thierer concludes that there is a wealth of tools and information provided by the content industry. "Critics can always argue that media and communications companies should 'do more' to address the concerns parents have," he explains, "but it's important to realize that they are already doing quite bit. Whether or not parents are taking advantage of those tools and options is another matter entirely."
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.