Child Safe Viewing Act: Examination of Parental Control Technologies
Electronic media has assumed an increasingly integral role in the lives of children. As a result of a number of technological innovations and the growing convergence of media, children today can access the same content sources from a variety of media platforms, many of which are portable. This increasingly complex media environment carries both risks and opportunities for our children. Among other things, children are able to use the various platforms to discover new opportunities for education that will help prepare them to become full participants in our economy and democracy. At the same time, however, they can be and often are exposed to harmful material that is inappropriate and unsuitable for minors.
As directed by the Child Safe Viewing Act of 2007, the FCC conducted an in depth assessment of the current state of the marketplace for technologies that empower parents to affect media consumed by children.
In the Commission's report, we categorize and analyze the available technology options within each medium. We describe the comments the Commission received regarding the kinds of advanced blocking technologies and other parental control tools that exist and are available with respect to over-the-air television; cable and satellite television; audio-only programming; wireless services; non-networked devices such as videocassette recorders (“VCRs”) and DVD players; and the Internet. We discuss commenters’ views regarding a variety of technologies and ratings systems and whether any of these technologies or ratings systems could be used across multiple media platforms. Finally, we address the existence, availability, and use of parental control tools and initiatives already in the market, and discuss efforts to address online safety issues.
The report concludes that no single parental control technology available today works across all media platforms. Moreover, even within each media platform, these technologies vary greatly with respect to cost to consumers, adoption rate, number of parental controls available, and other criteria reviewed in the report.
In addition, a common theme that runs throughout the comments is the need for greater education and media literacy for parents and more effective diffusion of information about the tools available to them. Many commenters urge the government to play a more substantial role in meeting this need.