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PART III

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Prepublication copy - subject to further editorial correction 14-26 /

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14 Findings, Conclusions, and Future Needs 14.1 FRAMING THE ISSUE The Internet has enormous potential to contribute to public welfare and private well-being. One dimension of that potential involves the use of the Internet to enhance and transform education for the nation's youth, and many public policy decisions have been taken to provide Internet access for educational purposes. Easy access to the Internet (and related online services) has many advantages for children access to educational materials; collaborative projects, publications, online friendships, and pen pals; access to subject matter experts; recreation, hobby, and sports infor- mation; and so on. While such potential for contributing to the nation's welfare in gen- eral and to the education of its children in particular is recognized, the Internet also presents to the public a wide variety of concerns. This fact in itself should not be surprising few powerful and widely deployed tech- nologies have been used solely for socially beneficial purposes. But the Internet poses many challenges for which there are no precedents, and much of the controversy about inappropriate sexually explicit material on the Internet arises because of these differences. 14.1.1 Social Dimensions What is the issue to be addressed? Although the nominal title of the project was "Tools and Strategies to Protect Kids from Pornography on 357

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358 YOUTH, PORNOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERNET the Internet and Other Inappropriate Material," a key fact is that "pornog- raphy" is a term whose meaning is not well specified. People neverthe- less use the term as though it did have a well-specified meaning, and they often fail to recognize that what one may consider pornographic, another may not. For this reason, the committee chose the term "inappropriate sexually explicit material" when in common parlance it might have used the term "pornography." Using the former term keeps in the foreground the question of "inappropriate according to whose standards?" Internet exposure of children to sexually explicit material is only one dimension of exposure, albeit important, because sexually explicit mate- rial and other sexual content exist in a wide variety of other commonly accessible media such as video cassettes, magazines, and cable television. Further, concerns over obscenity may well be a proxy for the desire to suppress access to other sexually explicit or sexually oriented content that would not be judged legally obscene. Internet exposure of children to inappropriate sexually explicit mate- rial is also only one dimension of inappropriate or potentially dangerous activities in which youth may engage. The Internet is also a medium that can facilitate face-to-face meetings between people who do not know each other prior to their Internet contact, and when there is a great disparity of experience and age between these parties, the younger less-experienced person could be more subject to exploitation and physical danger. Other types of material may also be judged by various parties to be inappropri- ate for children. Some of the approaches to protection from sexually explicit material may be applicable to such other material. The views of people about "pornography" on the Internet and what to do about it reflect a broad range of values and moral commitments. What is pornographic to some people may be simply mainstream advertising to others; what is morally wrong to some may be entirely acceptable to others; what is legal to show to minors in one community may be regarded as wholly inappropriate by those in another community; and what counts as responsible choice according to one set of values may be irresponsible be- havior according to a different set of values. Approaches taken to protect children should be flexible enough to honor that diversity. 14.1.2 Developmental Dimensions Children from birth to the age of legal majority pass through a wide range of developmental stages as they mature into adults (and further- more the age of legal majority is not statutorily uniform). The impact of any given piece of sexually explicit material is likely to vary widely with age or, more importantly, level of maturity, and the approaches taken to

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FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND FUTURE NEEDS 359 protect children of a given maturity level should take into account the characteristics of their level of maturity. Moreover, the experiences of individuals can influence how sexual content affects them, especially con- sidering that increasing numbers of adolescents, who are still legally mi- nors, are sexually active. Finally, age usually affects the extent to which children can understand dangers and engage in safe behavior. The information needs of children that the Internet can and should meet also change with the developmental stage of the child in question. For example, juniors and seniors in high school have a much broader range of information needs (i.e., for doing research related to their educa- tion) than do those in the third grade or in junior high school. This, in turn, leads to the question of how to provide older children with access to a broader range of material while preventing younger ones from access- ing material that is not deemed appropriate given their developmental level. 14.1.3 Legal Dimensions As a matter of law, sexually explicit material that is "obscene with respect to minors" must be made available to adults without restriction, though it can be restricted for minors. Certain other sexually explicit materials (obscenity, child pornography) enjoy no First Amendment pro- tection at all. Material that is determined to be obscene or obscene with respect to minors must pass certain tests, including tests related to com- munity standards. For both classes of material, the community standards for making such determinations likely change over time, and in recent years, mores about sex and consumption of sexually explicit material may have changed in such a way as to reduce (but not to eliminate) the scope of both categories. Thus, there is in practice considerable ambiguity about what should fall into these categories, and the fact that community standards are inte- gral to the application of the law in this area means that material cannot be determined to be obscene or obscene with respect to minors solely on the basis of the material itself. Over the past decade, the number of federal obscenity prosecutions has been very small compared with those in previous years, thus complicating to a significant degree the concept of "community standards." The First Amendment is relevant regarding the extent to which and circumstances under which public institutions of various types can restrict access to particular types of information. Finally, in the public policy domain, U.S. regulation of sexually ex- plicit material is most likely to have an effect on commercial sources inside the United States, and far less effect on sources located abroad.

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360 YOUTH, PORNOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERNET 14.1.4 Technical Dimensions Making some material available to adults but not to children requires that providers have a reasonably reliable way of differentiating between them. In the physical world, such differentiation can often be accom- plished with reasonable ease (e.g., by checking a driver's license or other identification). But in the Internet context, rules based on age differentia- tion are highly problematic and technically difficult to enforce. Content providers must also have a clear understanding of the difference between material that is and is not inappropriate for children. Although many of the issues concerning Internet access to various types of material that may be regarded as inappropriate arise for other media as well, the Internet changes significantly the convenience and anonymity of access, thus reducing certain constraints that may be opera- tive in other media. For example, online chat rooms and instant messages (IMs) have few analogs in the physical world, and these are channels through which a great deal of communication between strangers can oc- cur. For this reason, special attention to the Internet dimensions of the issue may be warranted. The adult online industry notwithstanding, inappropriate sexually explicit material is available from many non-commercial online sources. Thus, approaches that focus primarily on access to inappropriate sexually explicit material provided by the adult online industry (widely seen as the crux of today's problem) are likely to have limited relevance to prob- lems arising from non-commercial sources. For a great deal of inappropriate sexually explicit material (specifi- cally, material accessible through Web sites), a reduction of the number of Web sites containing such material, in and of itself, is not likely to reduce the exposure of children to such material. The reason is that a primary method for obtaining access to such material is through search engines, and the likelihood that a search will find some inappropriate material for a given set of search parameters is essentially independent of the number of Web pages represented in that search. That said, if the number of such Web sites is small enough that no Web site operator can flout the rules of respon- sible behavior with impunity,] regulation of their behavior (through public tin this context, responsible behavior refers to actions taken to reduce the likelihood that children will obtain access to inappropriate sexually explicit material. To illustrate, one method of inducing Web site operators to act responsibly is to establish codes of behavior to which they must adhere under pain of government enforcement actions (whether civil or criminal). By definition, such an approach requires government action, and with a plethora of operators, the likelihood of being the target of government action is very small hence the number of operators must be reduced to a "sufficiently small" number. A second illustration of inducing Web site operators to act responsibly is to create disincentives for

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FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND FUTURE NEEDS 361 policy and/or self-regulatory approaches) becomes significantly easier, and enforceable codes of responsible behavior can have a significant im- pact on the extent to which operators of Web sites that contain adult- oriented, sexually explicit material make their products and services ac- cessible to children. 14.1.5 Economic Dimensions The adult online industry is one of the primary sources of sexually explicit images (e.g., on "teaser" home pages) that are accessible without any attempt to differentiate between adults and children. Such teaser pages allow potential customers to sample what would be available with payment, but children have easy access to the free content. The sexually explicit material provided by the adult online industry is available to children through a variety of routes, including mistyped Web site ad- dresses, links returned by search engines in response to search terms with sexual connotations, and spam containing links to adult Web sites. The revenue models of the adult online industry suggest that broad exposure is needed to attract potential customers, and so the industry engages in tactics that seek to generate the broadest possible audience. Moreover, these tactics to gain exposure cannot be used at low cost if they are to differentiate between adults and children. The result is that chil- dren can be "swept up" in the industry's reach for larger audiences of potentially paying customers. The adult online industry is only one component of supply. The low cost of creating and maintaining a Web site means that the production of sexually explicit material is now within the financial reach of almost any- one. For example, Web cameras can be purchased for under $100, en- abling anyone so inclined to produce a video stream of sexually explicit material. In the Internet environment, an astronomically large volume of mate- rial is available for free, including art, literature, science, advertising, and irresponsible behavior. In this method, the key is to associate disincentives with a large number of parties so that irresponsible Web site operators will feel the pressure of those disincentives, for example, by establishing causes of action allowing those affected by irre- sponsible behavior to take action against such operators. (One example in a different do- main is the establishment of liability (and an associated bounty) for junk faxes, an action that dramatically reduced the number of such faxes.) Whether or not these or other actions can in fact reduce the number of Web sites to a "sufficiently small" number is an open question, especially in a context in which U.S. actions are unlikely to affect Web sites oper- ated by foreigners. Note that these illustrations are just that illustrations and their inclu- sion in the report is not intended to signal endorsement or rejection by the committee.

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362 YOUTH, PORNOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERNET government information, as well as sexually explicit material of every vari- ety. Restricting what any individual may access (or protecting him or her from certain kinds of material) will inevitably impose additional costs on users. Such costs may include denial of access to useful information and loss of privacy for those wishing to access certain kinds of information. 14.2 ON THE IMPACT ON CHILDREN OF EXPOSURE TO SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIAL AND EXPERIENCES As described in Chapter 6, factors such as certain ethical and legal considerations, an increasing conservatism of university review boards that approve research studies involving human subjects (institutional re- view boards), and a lack of research funding have contributed to a pau- city of research regarding the impact on children of exposure to sexually explicit material. Furthermore, the extant scientific literature does not support a scientific consensus on a claim that exposure to sexually explicit material does or does not have a negative impact on children, and there is no adequate research base for understanding the impact of sexu- ally explicit material of various kinds and how different approaches to protection may vary in effectiveness and outcome. It is important to consider why many young people search for adult- oriented sexually explicit material in the first place. Adolescents go to these sites for many of the same reasons that adults do. Human beings are sexual. Sexuality is a part of identity, and a facet of identity that is a focus during adolescence when youth come of reproductive age. It is not surprising that many children especially preadolescents and older are curious about sex, and adolescents who are sexually mature are looking for information about sex and are making choices in this arena. In other earlier eras, they might well be married, but today in Western culture marriage among those in their early and mid-teens is frowned upon. To the extent that adults (parents and families, schools, libraries) provide accurate information and guidance about sexuality in its biological, psy- chological, emotional, and social dimensions and information and guid- ance that is responsive to the situations that their children are facing it can be argued that young people will be less drawn to searching for adult- oriented sexually explicit material. This is not to say that parents are wrong to be concerned about their children's exposure to sexually explicit material. There is no reason to suppose that all negative impacts from exposure are necessarily shown or manifested in science-based research studies. The moral and ethical val- ues of parents whether or not religious in orientation and a desire to be involved in providing context and guidance for a child exposed to such material are important and understandable drivers of such concerns.

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FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND FUTURE NEEDS 363 The committee believes that it would not be difficult to come to a consensus on the undesirability of some set of sexually explicit material involving depictions of extreme sexual behavior. That is, such a set could be developed by construction image after image could be shown to a group of individuals drawn from a broad cross section of the community. (In some ways, the committee consists of just such a group.) Under this procedure, the images that everyone on the committee deemed inappro- priate for children would constitute the set and the set would be sub- stantial in size. Such a consensus would not be based so much on scien- tific grounds (as the committee knows of no reliable scientific studies that address this point) as much on a sense that such exposure would offend its collective moral and ethical sensibilities. Furthermore, the committee believes that a significant fraction of this set would likely be deemed obscene if prosecuted. Yet, the fact that such a set could be defined by construction does not mean that it is possible to craft unambiguous rules that define this set without capturing material that would either be protected speech under existing First Amendment precedents or unobjectionable to some number of group members. And, in the absence of such rules, disagreement is inevitable over what else other than "similar" material should be cap- tured in any definition. The story is quite different for child pornography. In contrast to the diversity of views about what material must count as obscenity or ob- scene with respect to minors (and hence a diversity of views on what harm might result to children from being exposed to such material), there is a much broader social consensus that child pornography results in harm to the children depicted in such images and that child pornography is morally wrong as well.2 Over the past decade, the incidence of child pornography has risen as new communications channels such as the In- ternet have facilitated the exchange of child pornography. A similar argument applies to sexual predation. By design, the Inter- net facilitates contact between people who do not know each other. While much that is good and valuable and safe can come from interactions with strangers, parents rightly have some concern when their children talk to strangers in an unsupervised manner. These concerns arise in the physi- cal world, and they are magnified in the online environment where the range of personality types and intentions is both less known and less 2The social consensus is strongest when children are used to create sexual imagery. How- ever, the breadth of the legal definition of child pornography has also led to the attempted prosecution of works of art that involve children in various states of nudity (e.g., the works of Jock Sturges), and it is fair to say that there is less of a social consensus around such material.

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364 YOUTH, PORNOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERNET controllable. Further, the Internet has enabled potential predators to seek out a wider range of vulnerable children. The committee believes that the issue of face-to-face meetings be- tween children and their Internet acquaintances is very different from that of being exposed to inappropriate material on the Internet because the potential dangers that face-to-face meetings entail are much greater. Furthermore, while the majority of children report that they brush off aggressive solicitation encounters or treat them as a relatively minor an- noyance, a significant minority do report being upset or disturbed by them (see Section 5.4.3~. In addition, even when children were distressed by such encounters, a large fraction of them did not report the incident to parents or other authorities. Finally, the committee believes that there is a consensus regarding involuntary exposure to sexually explicit material. Regardless of one's views on the impact of voluntary exposure to sexually explicit material, the committee believes that there is a reasonably strong consensus in- deed, one reflected in its own deliberations that involuntary Internet exposure to sexually explicit material is inappropriate and undesirable and should not be occurring, and it is particularly inappropriate and undesirable in the context of minors being exposed to such material.3 14.3 ON APPROACHES TO PROTECTION Much of the debate about "pornography on the Internet" focuses on the advantages and disadvantages of technical and public policy solu- tions.4 Technology solutions seem to offer quick and inexpensive fixes that allow adult caregivers to believe that the problem has been addressed, and it is tempting to believe that the use of technology can drastically reduce or even eliminate the need for human supervision. Public policy approaches promise to eliminate sources of the problem. In the committee's view, this focus is misguided: neither technology nor public policy alone can provide a complete or even a nearly com- plete solution. As a rule, public policy aimed at eliminating sources of sexually explicit material can affect only indigenous domestic sources, 3Are there any circumstances under which involuntary exposure might be beneficial? Perhaps. Consider a situation in which discussions about sex made a child uncomfortable. It might still be a reasonable thing for a concerned parent to have a conversation about sex with his or her child. Needless to say, this kind of situation does not occur frequently in the context of Internet media. 4The discussion in this section "section 14.3' is complementary to the findings and gen- eral observations in Chapters 8 through 13, but does not repeat them systematically. Read- ers are urged to consult those chapters for more specific findings especially about technol- ogy-based tools such as filters and monitoring programs.

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FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND FUTURE NEEDS 365 and a substantial fraction of such material originates overseas. Nor is technology a substitute for education, responsible adult supervision, and ethical Internet use. For these reasons, the most important finding of the committee is that developing in children and youth an ethic of responsible choice and skills for appropriate behavior is foundational for all efforts to protect them- with respect to inappropriate sexually explicit material on the Internet as well as many other dangers on the Internet and in the physical world. Social and educational strategies are central to such development, but technology and public policy are important as well and the three can act together to reinforce each other's value. Social and educational strategies are a primary focus of the committee because most children are likely to be confronted, on occasion, with mate- rial that they or their parents regard as inappropriate, or find them- selves in online situations that are potentially dangerous. Parents must balance their concerns about exposure to harmful things on the Internet against the benefits gained from exposure to positive things on the Inter- net, and the question of how children can learn to handle and defend themselves becomes the primary issue. Social and educational strategies that promote and teach responsible decision making are at the core of such defense. Social and educational strategies are also important for teaching chil- dren how to recognize and avoid situations that might expose them to inappropriate material or experiences. Though technology has a role to play here as well, developing "street smarts" about how to avoid trouble is likely to be a far more reliable and robust approach to protection. In short, a child who responsibly chooses appropriate materials to access and appropriate things to do on the Internet and who knows what do to about inappropriate materials and experiences should he or she come across them is much safer than a child whose parents and school teachers rely primarily on technology and public policy to solve the prob- lem for them. Moreover, social and educational strategies to promote and teach responsible choice have applicability far beyond the limited ques- tion of "protecting kids from porn on the Internet," because they are relevant to teaching children to think critically about media messages, to conduct effective Internet searches for information and to navigate with confidence, and to evaluate the credibility of the information they receive. Social and educational strategies are not quick or inexpensive, and they require tending and implementation. Adults must be trained to teach children how to make good choices on the Internet. They must be willing to engage in sometimes-difficult conversations. And, because social and educational strategies place control in the hands of the youth targeted, children may make mistakes as they learn to internalize the

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378 YOUTH, PORNOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERNET contain requests from strangers for passwords, credit card numbers, or other personal information. Finally, the committee believes that a parental lack of knowledge about Internet culture and the diversity of possible Internet experiences has been and continues to be a source of both complacency (because some do not know what on the Internet may be of concern to them and their children) and excessive fear (because they do not know enough to be able to place these dangers in proper perspective). For this reason, paren- tal education about the Internet continues to be an important part of a comprehensive program of Internet safety education for children. 14.5.2 Teachers and Librarians Teachers have a responsibility for educating students and for provid- ing a safe environment in which learning can occur. Libraries have a responsibility for providing the communities they serve with a broad range of useful materials appropriate for their needs. Box 14.3 and Box 14.4 describe possible "best practices" scenarios for schools and libraries, respectively. In addition, teachers, school administrators, and libraries might wish to keep the following points in mind. The educational and informational needs of young people at vari- ous ages from kindergarten to the seniors in high school vary enor- mously, and the Internet content that is made available to students at

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FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND FUTURE NEEDS 379 these various stages of development must be matched to their needs, skills, and maturity. Furthermore, teachers and librarians have an impor- tant role in educating parents about the Internet its benefits and its dan- gers and they are sources of advice about how to cope with the dangers that the Internet may pose. Transparency is a virtue, both for adult supervisors and child In- ternet users. Transparency can include an understanding of why a given site is or is not regarded as inappropriate, access to detailed information about what is deemed inappropriate, knowledge of instances when ac- tions are being monitored or influenced, and the ability for on-site adult supervisors to override non-local decisions about inappropriateness. The total cost of technology solutions, rather than just the initial deployment costs, must be evaluated. Specifically, technology generally entails continuing costs of maintenance and upgrade, as well as human staff members to ensure that the technology is being used appropriately and is serving its intended functions. For example, staff may be needed to process requests for filtering overrides (if filtering is in place) or to pro- cess parental complaints (if filtering is not in place). Efforts to provide educational outreach to parents must account for busy family schedules as well as, perhaps, a certain resistance among some to deal with technology-based issues with which they are unfamiliar. For example, outreach activities requiring parents to go far out of their way

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380 YOUTH, PORNOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERNET tend to be poorly attended; conversely, parents would be more inclined to attend programs that are conveniently located and scheduled consistently with the community's work hours. One program described to the commit- tee during the first workshop involved taking computers to venues that had little to do with technology such as a gardening class or music festival. By demonstrating how the technology could have useful applications even in such venues, a context arises naturally in which it is possible to raise issues related to young people, the Internet, and parenting. Also, coordina- tion with volunteer organizations outside schools and libraries may make more resources available for these outreach efforts. PTA organizations, for example, are well suited to provide such outreach efforts. 14.5.3 Industry Various components of industry can make a major contribution to the Internet safety of children. The segments of industry relevant to the issue include ISPs and online service providers, makers of access devices such as personal computers, software vendors, content providers, and the adult online industry. ISPs and online service providers could: Provide easily understood and implemented parental controls. As noted in Chapter 11, flexibility is often not used because presenting a range of options is confusing to the parent trying to configure a system. On the other hand, a single "one-size-fits-all" approach does not take into account the needs of individual children. One approach to simplifying parental controls, implemented by some service providers, is to set de- fault measures depending on the age of a child, while giving the parent the ability to adjust these defaults appropriately. Design and provide educational and child-friendly areas. Chapter 10 discusses a number of means to concentrate child-friendly and compel- ling content that would attract children's online attention. To achieve critical mass, such content would be designed to be broadly appealing over a wide variety of topics, including information on relationships, sexual health, and other topics of interest to adolescents. Provide a uniform channel for user complaints about child por- nography and/or obscene material. Such a channel (which could be as simple as a link to the CyberTipline) could easily be placed on the com- plaints or customer service page of the service provider. Refrain from carrying material that they believe to be illegal, such as suspected child pornography. (As discussed in Chapter 4, the "Good Samaritan" provisions of the Communications Decency Act remain in force and largely immunize providers exercising such control over con-

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FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND FUTURE NEEDS 381 tent from liability for failures in such control.) For example, on their own authority, ISPs could refrain from carrying Usenet newsgroups known to carry large amounts of child pornography. Makers of access devices such as personal computers could: Provide in-the-box Internet safety tips and best practices. Many such brochures published by reputable organizations are available for free, and "out-of-the-box" information relevant to Internet safety could be a valuable route to greater publicity for such efforts. Provide configuration options for children in a household. At greater cost, the initial machine-setup configuration process could be modified to ask the device owner or administrator if children are ex- pected to use the device. If so, the process could guide the owner or administrator through a setup process for specifying parental controls for the use of the device. (For example, the setup process might specify certain limits on Internet access if a child logs into the device.) Software vendors could: Develop software to prevent mouse/rapping. Recall that mouse- trapping (discussed in Chapter 3) refers to the phenomenon in which a user who tries to leave a sexually explicit site is automatically forwarded to another such site. Some programs are available today to block "pop- up" advertisements, and these work to prevent mousetrapping as well. However, these programs must be invoked before the pop-up ad or mousetrapping occurs, and they also disable some useful features of Web sites. A "panic button" could be installed that is always available on the user's screen, and if a user is mousetrapped, clicking on the "panic but- ton" should close all current browser windows. Develop software to help configure computers to be child-friendly. Such software would operate in lieu of the child-oriented setup routines described above. Integrate label-based filtering options into Web browsers (see below). Include in software regularly used by adults tips for their children's Internet safety. For example, upon initial installation of a software prod- uct, the software setup program could ask if the user wanted to view a screen of Internet safety tips for children, and if so, could display such tips or direct him or her to an appropriate Web site. Provide content creation tools that have been adapted to speed the process of content developers creating labels that can be used by PICS- based filtering schemes. Content providers could: Participate in labeling schemes. As discussed in Chapter 12, the

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382 YOUTH, PORNOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERNET success of a labeling scheme depends primarily on its widespread adop- tion. In October 2001, AOL Time Warner, Yahoo, and Microsoft Network announced their adoption of the content labeling system of the Internet Content Rating Association. Integrate educational and entertainment value into content devel- oped for children. If children are to use content voluntarily, such integra- tion is likely to enhance its appeal for both children and parents. Add links to age-appropriate sexual and emotional health content to Web sites visited by older youth. As noted in Section 14.2, many older youth are interested in information that relates to their sexuality. Given this fact, it makes some sense to provide reliable and appropriate infor- mation to meet this need, rather than leaving them on their own to find unveiled information that may be of questionable value or to seek out adult-oriented, sexually explicit content that depicts sexual behavior in ways that are demeaning or disturbing. The adult online industry could: Take more effective steps to keep children from accessing their products. For example, operators of adult Web sites could set up their home pages without sexually explicit material (i.e., the cyber-equivalent of a brown paper wrapper around an adult magazine), and use the robot.txt protocol (described in Chapter 2, Box 2.3) to prevent indexing of pages (even free teaser pages) that contain such material. Thus, children searching the Web would never find the sexually explicit material directly (though they might be directed to an adult site's home page). Stop the practice of involuntary mouse/rapping. For example, it would be simple to offer a user seeking to leave a Web site a choice about whether or not to be redirected. Such a simple step could do much to reduce the perception of irresponsible behavior on the part of the adult online industry. Use contracts to require more responsible behavior among affili- ates that use content provided by commercial sources of adult-oriented, sexually explicit imagery. For example, a contract between a content provider and an affiliate might require that the affiliate would have to put its content behind plain brown wrappers and so on, and the firms that supply content would be in a position to penalize them if they did not (by cutting off a content source). Finally, the information technology industry should not be discour- aged from undertaking serious technology-based efforts to help parents and other responsible adults to improve and enhance the safety of their children's Internet experiences and to reduce the amount of inappropri- ate material to which they may be exposed. Indeed, as a primary benefi-

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FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND FUTURE NEEDS 383 ciary of the Internet age (as well as being instrumental in creating it), the information technology industry arguably has a special responsibility to help safeguard children on the Internet. Developing more discriminating filters, enabling parental controls, supporting research of the type de- scribed in Section 14.6, and adopting and promoting labeling schemes are a few of the ways that the IT industry has sought to discharge its respon- sibilities in this area, and a further enhancement and strengthening of these types of effort can only expand the range of options that parents and other responsible adults can exercise. 14.5.4 Makers of Public Policy Public policy at the local, state, and federal levels helps to shape the environment in which Internet access occurs. But because the scope of public policy actions are by definition pervasive throughout the com- munity to which those actions are relevant, public policy makers must proceed judiciously. Public policy actions are most effective when they are based on reli- able science rather than anecdote, and when they reflect a strong social, ethical, and moral consensus. For example, the sentiment that child por- nography and sexual molestation of children are wrong is shared by people among a very broad spectrum of political views. Thus, it is rea- sonable to say that these are serious national problems, and addressing them continues to be an important task for the nation. Furthermore, the scale of these problems already large is increasing, and in any event outstrips the resources available to deal with them. By contrast, public policy makers should tread lightly when it comes to other areas in which a consensus is not so apparent. For example, the committee heard from parents who did not trust the federal government to take actions to reduce children's Internet exposure to inappropriate materials. The striking aspect of this sentiment was that it was expressed by both conservative and liberal parents. Public policy makers should also be wary of cheap, easy, or quick solu- tions. As the discussion in Chapter 12 on filtering demonstrates, such "solu- tions" may not fix the problem that they seek to solve at least not to the extent that they would enable resources and attention to be turned else- where. It is true that the cost of social and educational strategies tends at first blush to be considerably larger than the costs of protective technologies but the benefits that accrue are also correspondingly higher. Students will be more able to avoid problematic experiences and material of their own voli- tion, and will be better able to cope with them when they occur. Finally, it is necessary to underscore the fact that public policy can go far beyond the creation of statutory punishment for violating some ap-

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384 YOUTH, PORNOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERNET proved canon of behavior. Certainly, legal sanctions are one possible pub- lic policy option, and such sanctions act both to punish those who behave in a way contrary to law and to deter others from conducting themselves in a similar way. Options such as more vigorous prosecution of existing obscenity laws are discussed at length in Chapter 9. But public policy can be used much more broadly and can shape the Internet environment in many ways. For example, public policy can be used to: Reduce uncertainty in the regulatory environment. Uncertainty in the regulatory environment is often inhibiting to business plans. For example, prior to the enactment of the "Good Samaritan" section of the Communications Decency Act (discussed in Section 4.2.3), at least one court case (Stratton Oakmont v. Prodigy) had suggested that an ISP exercis- ing editorial control over messages posted on its bulletin boards in accor- dance with its acceptable use policy was subject to liability as a publisher for content available through the ISP that was inconsistent with its accept- able use policy. This precedent gave ISPs incentives to refrain from exer- cising editorial control, and the Good Samaritan provisions of the Com- munications Decency Act never overturned in the courts eliminate such liability. Promote media literacy and Internet safety education. Promotion can include: Funding the development of model curricula for media literacy and Internet safety. There are political sensitivities related to the federal government's role in education, which is a local responsibility, but devel- oping models and giving grants are both well-accepted federal practices in the area of education. Encouraging and supporting professional development for teach- ers on Internet safety and media literacy. Professional development for teachers seeking to use the Internet for pedagogical purposes is sparse compared with the need,7 but Internet safety and media literacy do not account for more than a very small fraction of the sparse support that is available. Supporting outreach to educate parents, teachers, librarians, and other responsible adults about Internet safety education issues. Grants could also be made available to non-profit and community organizations to run Internet safety programs. In addition, given the gap in knowledge between adults and their children, a media-based educational outreach campaign has some potential for reducing this gap. For example, public 7u.s. Department of Education. 2001. Teachers' Toolsfor the 21st Century: A Report on Teachers' Use of Technology. Available online at .

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FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND FUTURE NEEDS 385 service announcement campaigns could help to inform parents of online issues related to their children (TV ads, enclosures in phone and/or Internet bills). Another part of media outreach might be the creation of a national "children's safety day" a day in which the media would high- light all that can be done to improve children's safety and well-being, and adults would take concrete steps to review safety issues with children. Internet safety education could well be one aspect of such a day. Support the development of and access to high-quality Internet material that is educational and attractive to children in an age-appropri- ate manner. Public support for the development of PBS programming has a long tradition of providing such material in the TV medium, and with the dearth of comparable material for children on the Internet, such support could have a substantial impact. In addition, educational portals that organize existing safe and educationally appropriate content (see comments under Section 14.5.3) would improve the accessibility of that content to diverse audiences. Support self-regulatory efforts by private parties. For example, public policy can provide financial or legal incentives for ISPs and content providers to behave in responsible ways. It can also coordinate and facili- tate private efforts to self-police the Internet environment (analogous to the rating efforts of the music and game industry). Such self-policing relies on the public at large to report possibly illegal material or behavior, ISPs to take actions consistent with their terms-of-service provisions, and information exchange mechanisms to ensure that all parties have the in- formation needed to take appropriate action. Support research in areas that are relevant to the issue of Internet safety. Some of the relevant areas are the impact of exposure to sexually explicit material on children at various ages; the Internet use patterns of children; and the in-practice effectiveness of various social and educa- tional strategies, technology-based tools, and public policy at federal, state, and local levels at increasing the safety of children's Internet experi- ences. Of special interest is the possibility of research and development into technologies specifically designed to accurately identify sexually ex- plicit material and thereby enhance and improve the effectiveness of tools that can help to reduce the exposure of children to inappropriate Internet materials and experiences.8 As discussed in Chapter 2, the general infor- mation-retrieval problem is a very difficult one to solve. However, re- search intended to focus on the identification of sexually explicit material may progress more rapidly than work on the more general problem. The ~Non-industrial support for such research may be justified on the grounds that, as dis- cussed in Chapter 12, there is little market incentive for more accurate methods for identify- ing sexually explicit materials (and hence for more accurate filtering).

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386 YOUTH, PORNOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERNET reason is that in seeking to identify sexually explicit material (rather than arbitrarily selected material), one might be able to make use of heuristic methods and clues signaling the presence of sexually explicit content that are not available for use in the general case.9 Support efforts to enable families and other private parties to exer- cise greater latitude of choice in the Internet experiences of the children for whom they are responsible. For example, parents and others lack a good evaluative guide to technology-based tools and must assess the claims of vendors on their own. This report helps to provide a framework for understanding how to think about such tools but does not provide specific product guidance. Publicly available assessments of specific tools rated multidimensionally according to common criteria could help par- ents and others select tools that are appropriate for their own situations. Finally, makers of public policy must keep in mind the international dimensions of the Internet. This does not mean that U.S. actions should not be undertaken, or that they will be wholly ineffective, but expecta- tions for the impact of such actions must necessarily be moderated com- pared to the case in which the United States is the only significant actor. 14.6 RESEARCH NEEDS As the length of this report suggests, the problem of protecting chil- dren from inappropriate material and experiences on the Internet is com- plex. Reliable information in a number of areas is needed. Indeed, throughout its work, the committee was concerned about the lack of reli- able and valid science-based information for many dimensions of the problem it was addressing. Such information would have helped to strengthen committee deliberations. The effectiveness of technology-based tools and social and educa- tional strategies in practice should be examined and characterized. Chap- ter 12 discusses one aspect of evaluating the performance of filters, based on a "head-to-head" comparison of how filters performed in blocking inappropriate materials. But protection of children is a holistic enterprise that must account for the totality of their Internet experience which sug- gests the need for an examination of all of the tools in all of the venues in which children use the Internet. The same is true for understanding how social and educational strategies affect the behavior of children "on the ground." 9Note that more effective technology in this area could be used for the benefit of those who want to block such material and of those who want to search more precisely for it.

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FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND FUTURE NEEDS 387 Given the inadequate scientific basis for understanding how media exposure to sexually explicit material affects children, more research in this area is needed. Systematic research on U.S. children may not be possible, for all of the reasons described in Chapter 6, but cross-national longitudinal studies in countries similar to the United States may shed some light on these issues. In addition, it may be possible to conduct research to study exposure to such material that occurs in the course of children's use of the Internet (which is likely to include both accidental and deliberate exposure). A further dimension of media research is the impact of media exposure on the development of personal character in youth. It seems reasonable that providing high-quality, age-appropriate information about sex and sexual health addressing the physical, emo- tional, social, and psychological issues on the minds of children would have a dampening effect on the urge of many adolescents to search for inappropriate sexually explicit materials. To test this proposition, longi- tudinal studies of children and adolescents who receive such information would be helpful. There is a need for research and development directed toward a comprehensive curriculum that provides in detail what parents need to know in order to handle the issue of Internet safety with their children. Such a curriculum would provide specifics on what a parent might do operationally. A better understanding of the population of online sexual preda- tors might help government efforts to prevent sexual predation. If, for example, a large percentage of online sexual predators were already- convicted child molesters, that fact might argue for longer prison terms for such felons, closer supervision of their activities after release, and/or prohibitions on their use of online resources. 14.7 CONCLUSION The Internet offers enormous potential to enhance the intellectual, educational, social, and personal development of children. Those who take actions to address the concerns described above must bear in mind the potential benefits that the Internet offers. Thus, any "appropriate" mix of actions should be seen as balancing competing goals and values rather than endorsing the absolute supremacy of any one goal or value. Furthermore, evolution with respect to technology and the e-business environment, as well as possible changes in community standards gov- erning obscenity, means that there are no foreseeable technological "sil- ver bullets" or single permanent solutions to be crafted. Rather, any approach adopted to protect children must adapt to changing circum-

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388 YOUTH, PORNOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERNET stances. While technology and public policy have important roles to play, social and educational strategies that impart to children the character and values to exercise responsible choices about Internet use and the knowl- edge about how to cope with inappropriate material and experiences is central to promoting children's safe Internet use.