In an editorial in CableFax earlier this week, Senator Ted Stevens, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, argued that: “Our government should not be in the business of choosing which programs are appropriate for our nation’s children. By showing the public how to use available blocking mechanisms, we ensure those in the best position to make viewing decisions–parents–are able to do so.”
Senator Stevens is absolutely correct. And, luckily, there are more blocking and filtering tools available to parents than ever before to achieve this goal. In my new Progress & Freedom Foundation study, “Parents Have Many Tools to Combat Objectionable Media Content,” I document the many tools or techniques that parents can use to restrict or curtail objectionable content in their homes before they call upon government to do this job for them. Perhaps the most troubling thing about calls for media regulation to protect children–especially when those calls are coming from conservative lawmakers or groups that otherwise stress individual responsibility over government intervention–is that it ignores the fact that parents have many better and more constructive alternatives to government regulation at their disposal. This study lays out these options–for ALL media sectors and technologies–in great detail. Also, the appendix to the paper also includes a “handy tip sheet” for parents searching for ways to combat objectionable media content in the home or keep kids safe online.
In striking down the Communications Decency Act in Reno v. ACLU, the Supreme Court declared that a law that places a “burden on adult speech is unacceptable if less restrictive alternatives would be at least as effective in achieving” the same goal. This paper proves that many such “less restrictive alternatives” are available to parents today to help them shield their children’s eyes and ears from content they might find objectionable. Thus, we need not turn to Uncle Sam to play the role of surrogate parent.
The paper is attached above as a PDF file or can be found online here: http://www.pff.org/issues-pubs/pops/pop13.9contenttools.pdf
If you’re interested in more on this subject, here’s a list of related PFF research:
“Examining the FCC’s Complaint-Driven Broadcast Indecency Enforcement Process,” by Adam Thierer, PFF Progress on Point 12.22, November 2005.
“The FCC’s Indecency Bomb: Why it Might Be the Beginning of the End of All Broadcast Content Regulation,” by Adam Thierer, PFF Blog, March 16, 2006
“New Worlds to Censor,” by Adam Thierer, Washington Post editorial, June 7, 2005.
“Can Broadcast Indecency Regulations Be Extended to Cable Television and Satellite Radio?” by Robert Corn-Revere, PFF Progress on Point 12.8, May 2005.
“‘Kid-Friendly’ Tiering Mandates: More Government Nannyism for Cable TV,” by Adam D. Thierer, PFF Progress Snapshot 1.2, May 2005.
“Thinking Seriously about Cable & Satellite Censorship: An Informal Analysis of S-616, The Rockefeller-Hutchison Bill,” by Adam D. Thierer, PFF Progress on Point 12.6, April 2005.
“Fact and Fiction in the Debate Over Video Game Regulation,” by Adam Thierer, PFF Progress on Point 13.7, March 2006