Business Week has an article posted on its website concerning children and the media. Specifically, it discusses updating the children's broadcast media regulations to cover all types of digital media - from the Internet to cell phones. Of particular concern to the author are lack of standards for educational media and the proliferation of "digital marketing."
Her suggestions to update the Children's Television Act to encompass digital media include:
â€¢ Reach out to industry.
â€¢ Create research-based universal standards for what constitutes educational content.
â€¢ Build new, ad-free business models for sites targeting children.
â€¢ Increase transparency and labeling of sponsored digital content.
It's hard to argue with the author's concerns about ensuring children are exposed to educational and appropriate content, but most of her suggestions raise a red flag. I'm not sure why the author assumes it's the government role to micromanage the content on barbie.com or, for that matter, online business models. This dangerous creep of government intervention could be used to justify further regulation of the Internet. The labeling of sponsored digital content would also be a logistical nightmare and impossible to enforce in light of the global nature of the Internet. Not to mention, this raises serious concerns about free speech.
As Adam Thierer thoroughly illustrates in his report, Parental Controls and Online Child Protection: A Survey of Tools & Methods, parents are not completely at the mercy of media companies or their children's whims. Parental controls are widely available for all types of media platforms. Video entertainment is hardly limited to over-the-air broadcasting. Many television stations geared at children are commercial free. DVDs and DVRs allow parents to create libraries of content they find suitable and educational for their children without government intervention. In short, parents can easily tailor their children's media consumption to suit their own tastes and values without government oversight.