Thursday, December 04, 2008

COPA: while we wait: will the DOJ appeal? Schools need to do more

While we wait to see what the government and Department of Justice does about the latest round of COPA (the appeals court ruling in July), I still wonder this: was the battle over the Child Online Protection Act in practice a cultural battle between those who have kids and those who don’t? Is it somehow a de facto cultural battle between singles and married? Between gays and straights?

The reaction that I have sometimes heard from a few people something like is, “how dare you engage in something that would endanger my child. You don’t know what “responsibility” is. You have no right to be heard from.”

But it seems that the “burden” of protecting children on parents seems more a matter of economic class and education than simply having children or not. By and large, parents in reasonable-income homes (that’s getting harder during the economic crisis) know how to use filters, and by and large, their kids do know how to use the computer responsibly. I disagree that the “family computer” always needs to be in a public area of the house; older teens who understand the responsibilities and risks and who have earned trust of their parents should be able to have access to the Internet on their own; they may need it for school work.

Learning to use the Internet responsibly is like learning to drive a car. Public school systems should be doing much more to provide instruction on responsible use of the Internet, but often they don’t have the expertise themselves within their teaching and administrative ranks. In harder economic times, it is up to the software industry to reach out and help them.

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