Today I released a new PFF study entited "Rep. Bean's 'SAFER Net Act': An Education-Based Approach to Online Child Safety." The short paper argues that education, not increased governmental regulation, is the most effective method of ensuring online child safety going forward. Luckily, there finally exists a piece of federal legislation that embodies that philosophy.
Rep. Melissa Bean (D-IL) recently introduced H.R. 1008, the "Safeguarding America's Families by Enhancing and Reorganizing New and Efficient Technologies (SAFER NET) Act of 2006." The bill would create an Office of Internet Safety and Public Awareness at the Federal Trade Commission, establish federal grants to promote Internet safety programs and create a national public awareness campaigns. While I'm not usually in favor of new government programs and spending (and I'm certain that my colleagues will give me hell for doing so in this case!), I think the government can play a constructive role here in terms of informing parents and kids about how to deal with objectionable material online or other cyber-threats.
More practically, I think it is essential that we have an education-based vehicle to counter all the regulation-based approaches coming out of Congress these days. Congress always wants to do something on this front, so it is certainly better that they do something that is both constitutional and likely to have lasting impact like safety education. Read my entire paper for the details.