September Event Focused on Child Safety for Wireless, Gaming Technologies
WASHINGTON D.C. - New digital technologies have raised concerns with parents and policymakers about the availability of objectionable content or unwanted communications. There is also increasing concern about the accessibility of such content on newer digital devices, including mobile phones and video game platforms. Luckily, a diverse array of new tools and methods are being developed and deployed to address these concerns. These tools and methods were discussed September 25th by panelists at "Next Generation Parental Controls & Child Safety Efforts," a Congressional seminar hosted by The Progress & Freedom Foundation. PFF is releasing a transcript of the event.
PFF President Adam Thierer, who acted as moderator of the event, presented an overview of topics to be discussed, including concerns about online child safety and the tools and methods available to address these concerns. "More specifically," he explained, "we want to focus on the mobile and gaming marketplace, to some extent, and to figure out what needs to be in the toolbox there to address concerns that parents and policy makers have."
Steve Crown, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Microsoft Corporation's Entertainment & Devices Division, outlined four principles that guided its creation of the Xbox platform, including respecting freedom of creators, using an independent ratings system, implementing parental controls, and online allowing rated games to be played on the Xbox. "We remain committed to leading the industry in living up to these principles," Crown stated, "but, the fact is that all of these things require deep collaboration and cooperation from all concerned; it's really about protecting our children, and there is no "us" versus "them" in that effort."
Dane Snowden, Vice President of External & State Affairs at CTIA - The Wireless Association, reviewed some of the ongoing child safety efforts in the wireless industry. "We want to make sure parents, children and all consumers have choice and control over the content that is accessed when they are at the box," Snowden said. He also addressed why the wireless industry decided to use already established content rating systems. "We decided that if parents are already used to buying games, used to going on iTunes, et cetera, we don't want to change that and create something new for the mobile environment."
Stephen Balkam, Chief Executive Officer of the Family Online Safety Institute, reviewed legislative and government responses to child safety issues over the past decade and addressed the importance of educational efforts to supplement technical tools. "The good news is that where we are now in 2009 is we're seeing a great shift from a sort of fear-based approach to this issue to more fact-based," Balkam stated. "And, I think there is a greater understanding that there needs to be a merging of media literacy, digital literacy, and an explanation and understanding of the new technology tools that exist."
The complete discussion and questions from attendees can be found in the event transcript. Audio of the event can also be found on the PFF website.
Adam Thierer, moderator of the event, recently released the Fourth Edition of his book, Parental Controls and Online Protection: A Survey of Tools and Methods, which offers parents and policymakers a comprehensive inventory of the many excellent tools and strategies that can be used to protect kids online. The book is available on the PFF website.
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.