Who Needs Parental Controls (Adam Thierer Pff)

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An examination of how many U.S. households actually need parental control technologies by Adam Thierer, a senior fellow at The Progress & Freedom Foundation in Washington, D.C. (www.PFF.org)

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Who Needs Parental Controls (Adam Thierer Pff)

  1. 1. Who Needs Parental Controls? A Look at How Many Homes Really Need Them February 2009 Adam Thierer athierer@pff.org Senior Fellow Progress & Freedom Foundation www.PFF.org
  2. 2. PFF paper “Who Needs Parental Controls: Assessing the Relevant Market for Parental Control Technologies” by Adam Thierer, Progress & Freedom Foundation, Progress on Point , No. 16.5, February 2009. 2 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  3. 3. PFF book Parental Controls & Online Child Protection: A Survey of Tools and Methods by Adam Thierer www.pff.org/parentalcontrols 3 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  4. 4. The Nature of the Problem  Many media and Internet critics say that government intervention (even censorship) may be necessary because parental control technologies are not widely utilized.  Q. But how many homes really need parental control technologies?  A: Fewer than you think!  The relevant universe of potential parental control users is actually quite limited. 4 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  5. 5. Consider an analogy: Baby locks for cabinets Would we measure the effectiveness of Does every child cabinet locks by household really asking whether all need these things? U.S. households used such safety measures on kitchen and bathroom cabinets? 5 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  6. 6. Most homes don’t need baby locks 1) have no children present in the home, 2) their children are of an age where such locks are not needed, or 3) they take other steps to protect their children from harmful products that might be in the home. Thus, any survey or study that evaluated the success of child safety cabinet locks by using all households as the relevant universe of analysis would produce highly skewed, inaccurate results. 6 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  7. 7. This is exactly what happens in the debate over parental controls today! Critics are lumping all households together and assuming that because some homes don’t use parental control tools, it means there is some sort of market failure that requires regulation. But not all homes need parental control tools! 7 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  8. 8. So, how do we determine how many homes might need parental controls? 8 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  9. 9. Census Bureau (Statistical Abstract) data 9 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  10. 10. Formula for Calculating the Percentage of Household without Children Nonfamily Households + Family Households without own Children ÷ Total Households = % of Households without Children 10 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  11. 11. Making the Calculation ÷ + 11 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  12. 12. Calculation for 2007 37,587 (Nonfamily Households) + 41,668 (Family Households without own Children) ÷ 116,011 (Total Households) = 68.3% of Households without Children 12 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  13. 13. Historical Data on Homes With & Without Kids 13 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  14. 14. Households WITHOUT Kids in Them 14 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  15. 15. Households WITH Kids in Them 15 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  16. 16. Bottom line: The percentage of homes that might need parental control technologies is certainly no greater than the 32% of U.S. households with children in them. but… 16 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  17. 17. The Actual Universe of Relevant Homes is Even Smaller… 1. Not all age groups require parental controls  Little need for controls under or over certain ages 2. Some parents rely on other methods to control media & communications access  Household media rules 17 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  18. 18. Taxonomy of Household Media Rules 1) “Where” Rules = assigning a place for media consumption 2) “When and How Much” Rules = creating a media allowance 3) “Under What Condition” Rules = carrot-and-stick incentives 4) “What” Rules = specifying what kids can and cannot consume
  19. 19. When are Parental Controls Needed? Ages 7 to 16 are Likely Years When Parental Controls are Employed in Most Homes 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 7 - 16 years of 0 - 7 years of age 16 - 18 years age of age Parental Less Need for Controls Less Need for Parental Potentially Parental Controls Needed Controls 19 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  20. 20. Other reasons families might not use parental control tools  they have an aversion to parental control technologies, perhaps fearing it creates distrust between them and their kids;  they don’t think parental control technologies work;  they believe their own household media rules and restrictions constitute a more sensible approach;  they feel comfortable making their own judgments after consulting ratings, program guides, and other information provided by media providers or third party media watchdog or rating organizations;  they just don’t allow many media or communications devices in the home;  or perhaps some of them are just lazy! 20 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  21. 21. Who Needs Parental Controls? Far Less than 32% of U.S. Households Likely Need to Parental Controls Households with Children All U.S. (32%) Households (?%) Households That Actually Utilize Parental Controls 21 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  22. 22. Summary & Policy Implications 22 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  23. 23. Summary  Parental controls are now:  ubiquitously available,  increasingly easy to use,  increasingly free-of-charge.  There has never been a time in our nation’s history when parents have had more tools and methods at their disposal to help them decide what constitutes acceptable media content in their homes and in the lives of their children. Read my book for proof!  BUT… merely because parents have been empowered, it does not mean they are all taking advantage of those tools. It is impossible to determine definitively why that may be the case. 23 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  24. 24. Policy Implications (1) Not all homes have children or need tools.  Regulation cannot be premised upon a lack of parental control uptake among all U.S. households.  Policymakers and the courts should be skeptical of calls for regulation premised upon faulty statistical analysis and an over- estimation of the relevant universe of parental control users. 24 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  25. 25. Policy Implications (cont.) (2) Education and ease of use is important. For those households in which children are present but which are not using parental control technologies, parents may need to be better informed about the existence of these tools and how to use them. 25 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  26. 26. Policy Implications (cont.) (3) Engaged parenting is the main solution for many parents.  Many parents (including me!) believe that education and parenting represent the first and best approach to dealing with concerns about objectionable content or troubling communications.  Parental controls can be helpful in a “training wheels” and “speed bumps” sense, but they are no substitute for parental oversight and mentoring. 26 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  27. 27. About PFF  www.PFF.org  Market-oriented think tank and educational non-profit with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status  We study the digital revolution and its implications for public policy  Founded in 1993  Based in Washington, D.C. 27 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?
  28. 28. Further Reading  Parental Controls and Online Child Protection: A Survey of Tools and Methods, by Adam Thierer, Fall 2008.  FCC v. Fox and the Future of the First Amendment in the Information Age, by Adam Thierer, 1/20/09.  Don't Scapegoat Media, by Adam Thierer, 12/9/08.  The Perils of Mandatory Parental Controls and Restrictive Defaults, by Adam Thierer, 4/11/08.  Congress, Content Regulation, and Child Protection: The Expanding Legislative Agenda, by Adam Thierer, 2/6/08.  Parental Control Perfection? The Impact of the DVR and VOD Boom on the Debate over TV Content Regulation, by Adam Thierer, PFF Progress on Point 14.20, October 2007.  Why Regulate Broadcasting: Toward a Consistent First Amendment Standard for the Information Age, by Adam Thierer, 7/10/07.  Images Kids See on the Screen, Testimony by Adam Thierer, 6/22/07. 28 Adam Thierer – Who Needs Parental Controls?

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