Making Room for Protection
When I taught computer classes in a Catholic school, some years ago, my lunch hour reading habits periodically snagged me inexplicably in the system’s Internet filter. The most unexpectedly blocked site was that of a Catholic writer caught up, perhaps, by hostile Web sites that linked to him or comments that he didn’t delete quickly enough. Some filters keep lists. I’ve read about some that take into consideration the number of skin-tone pixels that a site presents to the screen.
Jonah Goldberg and Nick Schuz propose a child-safety system that would begin to change the way the Internet operates:
Right now, there are many “top-level domains” — .com, .org, .biz, .gov, .edu., etc. We propose the creation of a .kids domain that would be strictly reserved for material appropriate for minors 18 years and under. Most sites would probably be able to mirror themselves on a .kids domain with little to no extra effort. Most corporations, schools, and other organizations have perfectly harmless material that kids and teens can view without causing their parents to stay up at night. The sites of the Smithsonian, McDonald’s, Disney, PBS, and countless other institutions are already perfectly safe for minors. Other websites would need a little tweaking, but not much. Only a relative handful of them — porn, dating services, adult-themed chat rooms, R-rated movie sites, et al. — would be explicitly barred from the .kids domain. The others would simply have to tone down or pare down their offerings.
Top-level domains currently don’t serve much purpose but to confuse visitors to who don’t know which to type. The .gov domain makes some sense, in that visitors can at least trust that the site is government operated (for whatever that’s worth), but .com and .org don’t really tell one much about the site. Beginning to segment the Internet into communities does make sense and would require minimal additional effort on the part of administrators of small sites, unless they’ve got content that would have to be targeted to specific audiences.
Of course, from a parent’s point of view, I’ve found that the only real option is to hover around when the kids are on the Internet. It can be a hassle, but parents have a responsibility to keep track of the inputs forming their children. Tools toward that end can help, and knowing that a a .kids filter is in place in a daycare or school would be a comfort, but there’s no substitute for presence, on multiple levels.