Wednesday, March 9, 2005 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Hillary Clinton Wants a V-Chip in Your I-Pod

Monitoring children is difficult business. I should know; I have two little critters who aren't even 4 years old yet whose eyes and ears I'm already trying to protect from certain material. Millions of other parents share this difficult task with me.

But, thankfully, Hillary Clinton is coming to our rescue.

In remarks today before the Kaiser Family Foundation, Senator Clinton said she would be introducing the "Children and Media Research Advancement Act," which will (according to this press release on her website), "create a program to study the impact of electronic media on children's cognitive, social and physical development, focusing in particular on very young children and infants. The program will also examine the links between media consumption and childhood obesity."

But Hillary, along with co-sponsors Sam Brownback and Joe Lieberman, have a little more in mind than just a few new government studies or spending programs. Here's the key excerpt from the press release that tips her hand regarding where she's really going with all this:

Press Release: "Senator Clinton noted that almost a decade ago, she and former President Clinton hosted the Children's Television Summit at the White House and worked for passage of the Children's Television Act. That law led to the implementation of the V-Chip in every new television over 13 inches, and mandated that broadcasters show at least three hours of educational and informational programming per week. While this bill provided an important new tool for parents to guide their children's exposure to media, Senator Clinton emphasized that the explosion of new technology and the new phenomenon of media multi-tasking create the need for a new generation of technology for parents."

... and then there are these direct quotes from Hillary:

Hillary: "Just a decade ago, we made great strides to keep children away from inappropriate material. But we face a complex new world. All across our country, kids today are playing increasingly violent video games while sending instant messages to friends and strangers on-line and listening to music they've downloaded on their I-Pods. How does a parent today who wants to protect their child from violent or explicit content have a chance? Parental responsibility is crucial, but we need to make sure that parents have the tools they need to keep up with this multi-dimensional environment. All of us need to rise to this challenge."

OK, wait a minute. Am I the only person who gets a little bit nervous when Ms. Clinton talks about "All of us" rising to a challenge? We know what she really means here: She thinks the government needs to do more here. Namely, she thinks the V-Chip model should somehow be extended to cover new media technologies. We need V-Chips for our Playstations and X-Boxes, V-Chips for our cell phones, V-Chips for our laptops, and V-Chips for our i-Pods.

And I'm sure that Ms. Clinton has a few other things up her sleeve. Let's not forget that in a previous session of Congress, Ms. Clinton was a co-sponsor of the "Media Marketing Accountability Act" that would have imposed a federally-mandated ratings scheme on video games.

Hey, it's all "for the children," so who could be against it? Well, those of us who still believe in parental reponsibility instead of government nannyism are against it, but I fear that we're a fairly small minority these days. And I won't bother making any First Amendment arguments here since freedom of speech and expression doesn't have much of constituency in Congress anymore.

So, we'll get some sort of goofy V-Chip scheme for new media soon but, the funny thing is, it really won't make any difference. When Hillary was speaking before the Kaiser Family Foundation today proposing this nonsense, she should have asked them how many parents actally take the time to use their old V-Chips. Answer: not many. In fact, a 2001 Kaiser survey revealed that only 7 percent of all parents use the V-Chip to screen programming.

So, this could all end up being just another case of "What if the government threw a party and no one showed up." But consumers should still be wary of such schemes since such silly new V-Chip mandates would just impose higher costs on all their media devices. So keep your hands off our i-Pods Congress!

Oh, and by the way Hillary, I can raise my kids without your help.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 11:18 PM | Free Speech , Mass Media