A Tech-Econ Mashup with a Libertarian Flavor

Children on the Internet

Techdirt reported today that, in response to politicians fanning the flames of public outrage concerning the (overstated) presence of child predators online, many social networking sites have begun to adopt age verification systems. But wait, there’s a catch: these systems are known to collect and build databases loaded with information on children. The result: once-anonymous children are now data points in a whole new info bank for marketers (and whomever else can get their hands on this data). Captured information includes age, gender, school, even addresses. The concern, of course, is that kids will be targeted with ads for sugary sodas and junk food. I, however, remain skeptical that ads for Cheetos and Mountain Dew are worse for a ten-year-old than advertisements for “meeting local singles” or “[edgy, smart-ass] Hilarious t-shirts!”

I’ll repeat it until I’m blue in the face: Children and the internet just don’t mix. Parents cannot monitor their children’s internet use very well, and apparently, if it’s not one of Chris Hanson’s celebrities endangering kids, it’s the Frito-lay company. Also, in my experience, there’s no better way to infect your computer with dozens of hard-to-remove viruses and spywares than to let an eleven-year-old surf the internet for an afternoon.

My general suggestion is that parents prohibit their kids from using the internet for anything other than visiting the Discovery Channel. No email, no AIM, no youtube, no webcams. I feel like there’s an opportunity to both address the issue of kids on the net, and make some serious money with a revival of the “walled garden approach” to the internet, but I’ve talked about that before.


Filed under: Internet, Tech Biz, , ,

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Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect.
-Mark Twain

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