Who Needs Parental Controls? Assessing the Relevant Market for Parental Control Technologies

10 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2009 Last revised: 26 Oct 2009

See all articles by Adam D. Thierer

Adam D. Thierer

George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Date Written: February 27, 2009


Policy concerning parental control technologies should not be based upon usage rates of all U.S. households. The relevant number of households who potentially need parental control technologies is no greater than 32% of households with children. Moreover, the relevant universe of potential parental control users is likely much less than that because households with very young children or older teens often have little need for parental control technologies. Also, many households could use other methods of controlling access to media content, such as household rules.

Three policy ramifications:

- Regulation cannot be premised upon a lack of parental control uptake among all U.S. households. Policymakers and the courts should be skeptical of calls for regulation premised upon faulty statistical analysis and an over-estimation of the relevant universe of parental control users.

- For those households in which children are present but which are not using parental control technologies, parents may need to be better informed about the existence of these tools and how to use them. Education and awareness-building efforts might help increase uptake of some of these parental control tools.

- Even with efforts to promote more wide-spread usage of parental control tools, we should not be surprised if the increase in use is not substantial. Many parents believe that education and parenting represent the first and best approach to dealing with concerns about objectionable content or troubling communications.

Indeed, at some point in these ongoing debates, parental responsibility has to come into the picture. Public officials should not act in loco parentis when parents have the power to make content and communications decisions on their own.

Keywords: parents, kids, media, Internet, TV, Ratings, data, paper, censorship, regulation, u.s., homes, content, Watch, Families, FCC, pff, video games, Free Speech, first amendment, Adam Thierer, parental controls, census bureau, statistical abstract, online safety, media regulation, free speech, V-Chip

JEL Classification: I2, I20, I28, O38, O33, L82, L96, D18, L82, L83, L5, L50, L59, L98

Suggested Citation

Thierer, Adam D., Who Needs Parental Controls? Assessing the Relevant Market for Parental Control Technologies (February 27, 2009). Progress & Freedom Foundation Progress on Point Paper, Vol. 16, No. 5, February 2009, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1350541

Adam D. Thierer (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

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