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A Tech-Econ Mashup with a Libertarian Flavor

Protecting “The Children” ain’t easy.

Technology alone can’t protect “The Children” from online threats. So says a report released yesterday by the Internet Safety Technical Task Force. Some highlights:

  • Most minors who are exposed to pr0n have actively sought it out. Also, much “problematic” content is actually created by or shared among youths themselves (who else would have popularized “2 Girls 1 Cup?” Your mother?)
  • Social networking sites are “used primarily to reinforce preexisting social relations.” Writing “WHORE!” on a myspace page is similar to how you used to make obscene phone calls to your archnemesis. (You remember, the girl with perfect hair, great clothes, who eats whatever she wants and stays skinny, who stole your boyfriend in 8th grade, and who beat you out for the lead in “Alice in Wonderland.” Whore.)
  • Minors are not equally at risk. A child’s psychology and family dynamic is a much better indicator of their likelihood to chat with 40-year-old creepers than the type of chat protocol they use.

This is undoubtedly disappointing news to those who put their faith in technological safety-measures, such as robust and impossible-to-bypass age -verification systems or filtering software. Conversely, this is great news for the web companies who’ve been shouldering much of the blame for all of the internet’s evils.

It’s also good news to the reasonable among us who think that parents are responsible for, you know, being parents. The fact that children who are already at-risk are more likely than their peers to be exposed to threats on the internet is a pretty good indication that this is a problem that should be tackled by parents, not regulators.

Further reading: Ars Technica says the biggest online threat to kids is… other kids. /feigned shock.

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