Thursday, April 30, 2009

FCC and the "Fleeting Expletive" rule

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday, in a 5-4 decision, that the FCC could indeed fine networks for a "fleeting expletive" aired prior to 10 pm over the public airwaves. In the decision, they left open the possibility of re-hearing the case from the perspective of whether first ammendment rights are involved or not.

Given the fact that Obama is set to replace 3 of the 5 member FCC board, and that the "fleeting expletive" rule is a Bush administration policy, it is clear that this case is far from over.

Regardless, I am left to wonder how much this really matters in today's world anyway. Make no mistake about it - I am very pleased with the courts ruling yesterday, and fully support the fleeting expletive rule - but given that the FCC has no control over the Internet and cable television, it certainly reduces the impact of such a decision.

Unfortunately, our children see "fleeting expletives" all the time when they are playing online games with people they don't know. And, most of the time, the parents don't even know because they can't hear it from the next room - instead, it is piped into the headphones or typed on the screen. And the FCC has no control over it. Neither does anyone else.

In his written opinion on this case, Justice Scalia wrote "There are some propositions for which scant empirical evidence can be marshalled, and the hamful effect of broadcast profanity on children is one of them". Unfortunately, the harmful effect is not diminished when the broadcast mechanism is the Internet rather than TV or radio. Michael Coops, who is acting Chairman of the FCC until the new leadership is confirmed, tried to "reassure parents that their children can still be protected from indecent material on the nation's airwaves". Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the place where they spend most of their time - namely, in online and Internet-enabled console games.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Social Networking Reunites Family

I wanted to share this story today, because I worry that I spend so much time warning of the dangers of cyber space that sometimes I forget to share the positive aspects of technology. This story reported by KSL news is a great reminder that the Internet is a great tool for helping strengthen families and bring happiness to many people's lives. The fact that a mother who gave her child up for adoption can then find him 30 years later on a social networking site is a testimony of the great blessing that technology can be in our lives.

I am so glad to be living in a time when the world is getting smaller, and technology can be used for so much good and to bless the lives of so many people. Have a great Easter weekend!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Technology won't solve the problem

I was so glad to come across this article about a study from the University of New Hampshire. It is entitled "Technology alone can't protect minors from online sex predators". Amen. The number one problem with technology solutions is the false sense of security that parents have when that technology is deployed. The problem of online predators and other cyber dangers is not going to be solved by simply making use of more technology - it requires that we interact with our children, teach them of the dangers in the world, and help them understand how to recognize the warning signs, and inform them of what to do when the see those signs.

It would be easy to mis-interpret this report, however, to indicate that there is not a problem. UNH has released other reports in recent years that indicate that online predators are not as big of a problem as the media makes it out to be, like this study indicating that it is more often the case that teenagers get involved over the Internet fully aware of what they are doing - as opposed to being lured into a meeting unwittingly by a predator. There certainly may be some validity to that notion - but that doesn't change the fact that there are predators out there, and they do prey on our children.

The bottom line from both of these reports is spot-on, in my opinion: technology won't solve this problem. Whether the problem is predators, or whether it is youth knowingly getting involved online with some one who may do them harm - the answer is not more technology. This problem will only be solved when we teach our children how to deal with these issues, and what to do about them - whether they run into these dangers in the real world or the virtual one. Technology has its place, and should be employed to its fullest - but we cannot end there. Technology cannot be a replacement for communication between parents and children.