Sunnyvale, CA

Who Needs Parental Controls? Roundtable discussion

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September 21, 2011
 - 
Yahoo! Headquarters


Overview

September 21, 2011
 - 
Yahoo! Headquarters

The discussion was conducted in accordance with the Chatham House Rule, and so comments made during the roundtable are not for attribution. However, we have created a brief summary of the most relevant points.

The following three statements were put forward to start the debate:

1. While parental controls will continue to play an important role, it may be the case that many parents will not need parental controls technologies to the extent that they once did.

2. Kids are more resilient than we think.

3. The most interesting and important public policy debate going forward continues to be where to set to defaults and who sets them.

Throughout the 3 hour conversation, discussants expressed concern about governmental regulation in the area of parental controls, as well as reticence about companies setting the defaults rather than parents. It was agreed that parental control uptake is higher where they can set the levels and controls in accordance with their family norms, and that parents don’t want companies or governments deciding what content is blocked or allowed in their home. There was lively debate about the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and the recently released FTC report on the subject.

There were five main points that came out of the roundtable. Notably, all those in attendance agreed that one standard for all children, for all websites, for all games and for all apps is not effective.

1. Many tools and many solutions are needed for many different problems.

2. ‘Parental controls’ is too narrow a term and encompasses much more than just tools.

3. The trade-off remains between ‘sophistication’ and ‘usability.’ The more sophisticated the tool, the less easy it is for parents to use.

4. There are shifting parental concerns. Parents used to be focused on their children coming across adult material, now they are worried about user-generated content and behaviors such as cyberbullying and sexting.

5. It is a reality that kids are going online earlier and earlier. This issue needs to be dealt with by parents, schools and regulators alike.

And as longs are there are kids, there is room for improvement in the development and usage of parental controls.

A summary of, our guest speaker, Adam Thierer’s discussion points can be found here.

For more information or questions please contact fosi@fosi.org.

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