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CONTACT: Amy Smorodin
February 27, 2009
(202) 289-8928
Media Parental Control Need Over-Estimated
Policy Decisions Should Not Be Made on Uptake Rates of All Households

WASHINGTON D.C. - Policy concerning parental control technologies should not be based upon usage rates of all U.S. households, explains Adam Thierer in "Who Needs Parental Controls?  Assessing the Relevant Market for Parental Control Technologies." In the Progress on Point released today by The Progress & Freedom Foundation, the author identifies a very small percentage of households who potentially need technologies to control access to media content.

In his paper, Thierer, PFF Senior Fellow, argues that the relevant number of households who potentially need parental control technologies is no greater than 32% of households with children.  "Moreover," he states, "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."  Also, many households could use other methods of controlling access to media content, such as household rules.

Thierer identifies three policy ramifications:

  • Regulation cannot be premised upon a lack of parental control uptake among all U.S. households. Policymakers and the courts should be skeptical of calls for regulation premised upon faulty statistical analysis and an over-estimation of the relevant universe of parental control users.
  • For those households in which children are present but which are not using parental control technologies, parents may need to be better informed about the existence of these tools and how to use them. Education and awareness-building efforts might help increase uptake of some of these parental control tools.
  • Even with efforts to promote more wide-spread usage of parental control tools, we should not be surprised if the increase in use is not substantial. Many parents believe that education and parenting represent the first and best approach to dealing with concerns about objectionable content or troubling communications.

"Indeed, at some point in these ongoing debates, parental responsibility has to come into the picture," Thierer concludes.  "Public officials should not act in loco parentis when parents have the power to make content and communications decisions on their own."

"Who Needs Parental Controls?  Assessing the Relevant Market for Parental Control Technologies," is available on the PFF website.  A video presentation is also available. Thierer is the author of many papers and studies on online child protection, including the book, "Parental Controls and Online Protection: A Survey of Tools and Methods."  Thierer was recently awarded the Family Online Safety Institute Award for Outstanding Achievement for his work on online safety.

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.



The Progress & Freedom Foundation