Safety, kids and the net

/ 26 March 2007

One of the real joys of having my mother-in-law join us in Vienna for a couple of weeks (she arrived last weekend), is that she’s a WONDERFUL dialogue partner. Or, to be more blunt, she’s great at arguing. This morning we had quite the discussion/argument over breakfast (semmels from the local bakery and fresh butter with apricot jam) about how to best protect kids from pornography on the Net. You can probably guess that I’m not a huge proponent of the “net nanny” type of software (believing that it too often filters out legitimate stuff, and that, anyway, parents should be accessing the net alongside of their children). Dagmar, on the other hand, was adamant there should be government controls and that “free speech” issues are overrated. Needless to say, we didn’t come to any agreement.

Like a breath of the Spirit, however, this afternoon I was reading through some of the blogs I haven't had a chance to access in a while, and came across a wonderful short piece (17 minutes) that Lawrence Lessig has up at his blog. It's a very eloquent argument for a form of government regulation that would introduce a short tag into the html code of webpages displaying content harmful to minors. Requiring such a tag, he argues, would then generate the possibility -- which would be seized on by the market -- of technology solutions (that is, software innovation) that could assist parents in blocking their kids' access to such sites, without unduly burdening adults. I thought it was an elegant solution, and I recommend the whole video to you. It's definitely worth taking the 17 minutes to watch it -- indeed, I think it might be a great little piece to use at the beginning of an adult forum on these issues.