Parental Controls & Online Child Protection: A Survey of Tools & Methods

253 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2008 Last revised: 5 Dec 2012

See all articles by Adam D. Thierer

Adam D. Thierer

George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Date Written: July 23, 2009


Debates continue to rage about how to shield kids from the potential negative effects of various types of media or communications technologies. Is government intervention and regulation really needed to quell concerns, or do parents have access to constructive tools to control what their child sees and hears?

Those issues and much more are covered in this latest edition of the PFF special report, and explores the market for parental control tools, rating schemes, education efforts, and initiatives aimed at promoting online child safety. Parental controls and content management tools cataloged in this special report represent a better, less restrictive alternative to government regulation. 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.

The current state of parental control tools and online child protection efforts also has a profound effect on the legal and regulatory status of many modern media providers or various types of speech and expression. The courts have largely foreclosed government censorship and placed responsibility over what enters the home squarely in the hands of parents. That is why parental control tools and methods are more important than ever before and need to be inventoried and evaluated as Thierer has done in his new book. Thierer is a Senior Fellow at PFF and Director of PFF's Center for Digital Media Freedom, and is also a member of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force, chaired by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School.

Included in the appendix is a compilation of relevant legislation proposed in the 110th Congress that seek to promote online child safety or propose to regulate content on the Internet.

Keywords: online child protection, NCTA, ESRB, free speech, video game violence, online safety, ESA, censorship, verification, internet regulation, parental controls, SAFER NET Act, internet safety, pervasiveness, adult websites, online predators, social networking, Bean Bill, FTC, CDT, PFF, cyber bullying

JEL Classification: I2, I20, I28, O38, O33, L82, L96, D18, L83, L5, L50, L59

Suggested Citation

Thierer, Adam D., Parental Controls & Online Child Protection: A Survey of Tools & Methods (July 23, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Adam D. Thierer (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

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Arlington, VA 22201-4433
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