.Commentary: Blame it on the internet

.Commentary: Blame it on the internet

By Mike Lotz

Blame it on the Internet

By Mike Lotz

ATTENTION, PARENTS: COPPA is here to try to protect your kids from the EVIL Internet! and at the same time shutting down legitimate websites. You can thank big government for another law that makes you feel better about not being involved in your child’s online time.

COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) was passed by Congress in October 1998, with a requirement that the FTC issue and enforce rules concerning children’s online privacy. The primary goal of the act is to place parents in control of what information is collected by their children online.

The cost of complying with COPPA is forcing children’s websites to shut down. Zeeks.com, one of the higher-profile children’s websites, will be removing all of its interactive elements, from e-mail to chat rooms. CEO Steven G. Bryan said the $200,000 per year to employ chat-room supervisors, monitor phone lines to answer parents’ questions and to process the COPPA permission forms was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

This is just a sign of things to come in the crowded child website industry, as more companies hurting for cash will look to cut expenses. With a possible shrinkage of child-safe space on the web, the end result may be the direct opposite of what COPPA was designed to do. Instead of providing a safe area for children on the Internet, COPPA will be driving kids to the very sites from which it was trying to protect them.

Kids themselves violate COPPA daily. Check out a kid’s topic on Geocities, like Powerdpuff Girls. You will find web pages constructed by kids, with chat rooms, free e-mail, message boards, the works. Nowhere will you find any reference to parental permission.

Too many adults have completely forgotten what childhood was like. As kids, we were not the wimps that today’s parents portray. For the most part, kids today need no more legislative protection than we, ourselves, needed. Today’s kids are quite capable of fending for themselves, just as we did. They know the dangers of the Internet, just as we knew the dangers of the inner city or a pasture protected by a mean old bull.

As for the kids who just happen to be particularly “vulnerable,” their problems are much deeper than what can be fixed by laws like COPPA. For them, and especially for their parents(!), I would suggest a child psychologist ASAP.

Please send me any questions or comments to questions@iwebwerks.com.

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