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Senate Votes To Empower Parents As Censors 418

unlametheweak recommends an Ars Technica report that the US Senate has unanimously passed a bill requiring the FCC to explore what "advanced blocking technologies" are available to parents to help filter out "indecent or objectionable programming." "...the law does focus on empowering parents to take control of new media technologies to deal with undesired content, rather than handing the job over to the government. It asks the FCC to focus the inquiry on blocking systems for a 'wide variety of distribution platforms,' including wireless and Internet, and an array of devices, including DVD players, set top boxes, and wireless applications."
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Senate Votes To Empower Parents As Censors

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  • by RMH101 ( 636144 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @08:07AM (#25271631)'ll make sure that broadcasts are tagged up with useful metadata about the contents, if nothing else; which I'm sure will be good for everyone, and it'll add some granularity of control between different devices - which sounds ripe for adding cool new features.
  • Re:Positive Changes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @08:25AM (#25271753)
    A really positive move would be to ban all advertisements targeted at kids. It traps parents into a neverending spending cycle many can barely afford in the first place. Why should marketing experts be allowed direct their expertise in manipulation at the most vulnerable members of society.
  • Re:Positive Changes (Score:1, Interesting)

    by ArcherB ( 796902 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @08:26AM (#25271761) Journal

    Must be nice to not have to work and be able to spend 24 hrs a day with your kids, watching their every move. Unfortunately, many of us don't have that much free time. We work, sometimes two jobs to help make ends meet, and have to rely on baby-sitters and family to help out with our parental duties. This is a tool to help us.

    You say, "If you don't like whats on TV, DON'T WATCH IT." How's this, If you don't like these censoring tools, DON'T USE THEM!

    This is probably not news to most people here, but far too many Americans are quick to call for government censorship of TV/radio/internet/videogames/etc, rather than simply investing their OWN TIME into raising their kids.

    First, this is not government censoring TV. This is a tool that allows PARENTS to sensor TV. Each household can make the decision, not government. If anything, this allows for MORE objectionable content on TV. Say, if a network wants to show "CSI: Strip Club", or "Dancing with the Whores", they now can. Any parents that object can be told to get bent because they have the power to block such shows.

  • Re:Positive Changes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @08:34AM (#25271807) Homepage Journal
    "A really positive move would be to ban all advertisements targeted at kids. It traps parents into a neverending spending cycle many can barely afford in the first place."

    I parents had a VERY effective manner in dealing with this 'neverending spending cycle' you mention. It was the simple word, "no".

    While I'd agree we have too much advertisement in general...just because it is advertised doesn't mean you have to buy it for yourself or your kid. That simple word "no", was quite effective when dealing with all sorts of issues during my upbringing.

  • Re:Positive Changes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Splab ( 574204 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @08:34AM (#25271811)


    Also just put the shows on at times where its expected to have children put properly to bed. For instance here in Copenhagen a local TV station is showing hardcore porno between 0 and 4:30 am; of course this has lead to some share of people shouting think of the children, but they got told to get bend, children are not supposed to be up at that time.

    But then again we are pretty liberal with what we accept; only TV censoring I can think of is airing children oriented commercials during children shows (yes you are not allowed to show commercials for toys during programming targeted for children) and any commercials for gambling.

  • by DragonTHC ( 208439 ) <Dragon@gamersMEN ... com minus author> on Monday October 06, 2008 @08:35AM (#25271823) Homepage Journal

    not that it matters to congress, but doesn't the V-Chip already block everything?

    Isn't every TV, game console, and DVD player already shipping with a V-Chip?

  • by igb ( 28052 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @08:36AM (#25271829)
    My parents didn't, and don't, have a television. In 1970 it could be argued that excluded my brother and I from a shared culture, there being only at the time three channels. That's not true today: there's very little TV which is a genuine part of the shared experience, simply because it's far more fragmented. But I didn't have access to a TV on a regular basis until I bought one myself in my early

    I'm not inclined to not have a television --- I like F1, and watch Doctor Who --- but there's a single TV which is sat in the corner of one room, which is turned on to watch specified programmes and turned off when they finish. The kids know my parents don't have a television, that I'd be perfectly capable of simply disposing of the one we have, and therefore that they shouldn't push their luck. Televisions in bedrooms, kitchens and other rooms in the house? How common.


  • by blindd0t ( 855876 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @08:43AM (#25271891)
    Hearing a beep or a brief moment of silence in place of an expletive is plain obnoxious. Can we not come up with something that makes that sort of censorship optional? I'd want it if I had kids, but I don't, so give me the F bombs!
  • Re:Positive Changes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gfxguy ( 98788 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @08:54AM (#25271981)

    After getting Tivo, my kids didn't even know what to ask for last Christmas. It was great, because they asked for things they really wanted (and were good things for kids, IMO), as opposed to asking for what the TV told them to ask for.

  • Re:Positive Changes (Score:1, Interesting)

    by redxxx ( 1194349 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:09AM (#25272119)

    I'm not really about to get apoplectic because the parents will have more tools to protect their kids from content they find offensive. I don't think most parents are smart enough to actually use the V-chip, despite it's simplicity and a couple awareness campaigns--but that's not exactly relevant.

    The wording does seem to imply that this could effect more than just TV, it specifically mentions internet distribution and streaming media. My only real concern is that it may lead to the expansion of the FCC's bailiwick, and could lead to requirements for ratings be required with material distributed online.

    Between the panoply of distribution methods and the countless sources of content(particularly with the growth of user created content), I worry that things like this could lead to widespread mandates for ratings internet distribution. While the intentions behind such laws may be pure(stupid, but pure) the results could seriously hamper innovation(particularly for small projects) and could serve to add another arrow to the *IAA's quiver(attack p2p for distributing unrated material).

    It is generally worrying to see the FCC's role as content cop to continuing expanding into the internet. Because they tend to act at the behest of america's most panicky and ideological idiots, I don't trust their objectivity or judgment.

    This is just meetings looking into the subject, but when they respond that there is little in the way of standardized ratings on internet content, it does not seem unlikely that they would seek to 'remedy' the problem.

  • Re:Positive Changes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FredFredrickson ( 1177871 ) * on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:12AM (#25272141) Homepage Journal
    When I was a child, we just plainly didn't have video games or TV to waste time on, and in turn I made things to do. I seriously recommend it. A big part of development is creativity, and without it, I'd be worried how average I would've turned out.
  • Re:Positive Changes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:21AM (#25272247) Journal

    I'd agree with pretty much everything you've written, but I'd add one caveat regarding a situation that it doesn't appear you've considered: advertising.

    I'll give you two examples, a sexual one (for the sex-averse prudish Americans) and a violent one (for the pantywaist Euros).
    - A man is dragged from a car, protesting and in terror. He's made to kneel on the pavement, begging the unseen assailant "Don't, please, don't...please..." The muzzle of a pistol barrel is put to his temple and the screen crashes to black with the sound of a gunshot.
    - A beautiful young woman and a studly young man are kissing passionately in an evening office setting. She pushes off his jacket, and starts unbuttoning his shirt while they discuss some plot point. The camera view moves to his right quarter from behind, so you can see her face as she sinks to her knees and starts unbuckling his belt.

    BOTH of these scenes have come up in ads for TV programs that came on WHILE WE WERE WATCHING CHILDRENS' PROGRAMMING. Normal TV, not cable.

    Perhaps I'm both prudish and a pantywaist, but I don't believe EITHER of those scenes are appropriate for pre-teen children. No, neither scene actually showed what was being categorically implied/displayed, but to suggest therefore that it was "ok" is ludicrous.

    I entirely agree with you about parents bearing the complete responsibility for vetting programming their children shall watch - but how is a parent supposed to intercept or review this? There's no practical way I can think of. Your kid could be watching some entirely educational or child-appropriate show, but five or six times an hour it's intercepted with this?

    Personally, I've pretty much given up on broadcast TV. But I can see how parents would be incensed at their inability to control viewed content ... even when they are conscientiously working to make sure it's age-appropriate.

  • Re:Positive Changes (Score:1, Interesting)

    by florescent_beige ( 608235 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:30AM (#25272331) Journal

    If you don't want your child watching it, DON'T RELY ON TV AS A BABYSITTER.

    I reject your assertion that only bad parents let their children watch TV.

    Have you ever tried to monitor your kids 24/7? Do you even have kids? Do you even like kids?

    Or do you come from the class of people that analogize having kids with crime and parenting is the sentence? Because as far as I can tell that's a particularly odious "libertarian" attitude. ("Libertarian" being shorthand for "I want that money I see deducted in taxes on my payslip.")

    Parents should be pushing their kids to spend this time doing *constructive* activities, such as those that inspire aspirations of becoming engineers, scientists, artists, etc...

    Amen brother.

    NOT activities that make 'stupid spoiled whore' seem like a desirable occupation

    You might want to rethink your decision to call children "whores".

    Rather, they (parents -- NOT GOVERNMENT) should be taking the whitelist approach, which, given an infinite content set, is far more realistic to successfully maintain.

    Agree with your key assertion there, however, you realize that government is fundamentally an expression of collective will and exists to more efficiently do things that could be done individually? And if there was no government people would spontaneously organize to create one?

    And that certain parties have an interest in weakening the collective power of people in order to divide and conquer which is manifest by a long-term trend to de-legitimize government workers. Beginning with Regan's firing of the air traffic controllers and continuing up to this day resulting in the inability of authorities to find a fucking tent for people to live in when their city goes underwater.

    I believe certain parties have concluded it is too hard to actually shrink government so that best strategy is to make it incompetent.

    That means not sitting your kid in front of the TV while you go persue your own hobbies or work (imagine that: sacrificing for the sake of your family).

    Question: do people often threaten to stick a fork in your eye? Because you can't go around calling people greedy just because parenting is hard and you want that money you see deducted in taxes on your payslip.

    I guess most parents sacrifice plenty.

    a kid needs a good parent more than the latest clothing, a big TV, or yearly vacations.

    Well, yeah. A vacation every five years might be nice. Or a car that will actaully get you where you are going. I don't have either. Am I sacrificing enough by your old-cootish standards, or should I cash in my pension and work till I'm 80 too?

    investing their OWN TIME into raising their kids.

    You use caps too much.

    Now, of course, we should, as always, still remain vigilant and make sure that this newfangled "parent-empowered" censorship isn't simply a masquerade for actual forced censorship (read: government censorship)...

    I'd rather be vigilant that 800 billion a year isn't being transfered from the poor to the super-rich because the collective power of the people has been neutered by decades of the boobification of government so that wealth redistribution fades in importance to Janet Jackson's nipple.

  • Re:Positive Changes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pmbasehore ( 1198857 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:41AM (#25272489)
    My parents had a similar answer, "Save your money." They didn't care what I purchased (so long as it was safe, legal, etc) as long as I saved my own money to get it. Really taught me fiscal responsibility at a pretty early age.
  • Re:Positive Changes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:42AM (#25272499)

    Only if that local station was broad cast over the airwaves.

    If the channel was a local cable channel, the FCC would have no say.

  • by TheModelEskimo ( 968202 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:43AM (#25272507)
    Even if corporations give parents power to control this stuff, public schools in the U.S. are still forcing all sorts of stuff down kids' throats, regardless of how parents feel. Everything from politically motivated "scientific" teachings regarding creationism to the definition of marriage, over which a Mass. man was arrested because he refused to leave a meeting until the school reached a compromise about teaching his child (a practicing Mormon) to accept gay marriage. The school didn't compromise.

    Things like the gay marriage debate put church and state on a collision course, setting up the state with its own particular belief system even to the persecution of those who want to worship their own way. Far from being able to exercise religious freedoms, those with differing opinions are being labeled hate criminals.
  • Re:Positive Changes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jlarocco ( 851450 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @10:03AM (#25272719) Homepage

    I'm not asking you to do anything except to stay out of my way and stop trying to take tools away from me that make my life better.

    No, you're asking me to help you pay for it. Nobody is stopping you from buying a TV that blocks programming, but I shouldn't have to help you pay for it. IMO a Rolls Royce would make my life better, but if I want one I'm going to have to pay for it myself, without forcing you to help me.

    The government exists to protect your rights, not make your life better.

    If you don't like it, may I suggest you move to a country that has no children.

    Wow, nice attitude. "If you don't want to give me free money to raise my kids, you can GTFO." Maybe it's a good thing you're having other people raise your kids.

    As for tax-payer money and personal responsibility, there are many examples I could use. I don't like speed limits. I'm perfectly capable of safely driving at a speed that exceeds the limits that government has set. Yet, because some people can't handle it, I have to drive at posted speeds! Also, by law, my car has to have child seat restraints placed in them. I drove for years before I had children. Why did I have to pay for such restraints when I didn't have kids? For that matter, no one ever rides in my back seats. Why must I have to pay for seatbelts to be installed back there? I never watch CBS. Why should I have to pay for the government to set aside a broadcast range for CBS to use? Why can't I use that broadcast range myself? I don't care about global warming or smog. Why should I have to spend money on fuel blends that reduce pollution? I think the homeless should get a job. Why does my tax payer money have to go towards homeless shelters?

    I agree, the government shouldn't be involved in any of those things. If you think I'm being facetious, check my posting history.

    There are many more examples of our tax dollars going to things that not everyone benefits from. Deal with it. Don't like it? Move.

    You're the one who's life sucks bad enough that you want to take other people's money to help make it better. Maybe *you* should move?

  • Re:Positive Changes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kabocox ( 199019 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @10:08AM (#25272773)

    If you don't like whats on TV, DON'T WATCH IT.
    If you don't want your child watching it, DON'T RELY ON TV AS A BABYSITTER.

    Here's better advice from some one that does sometimes use tv, computers, and video games a babysitter while I'm even at the house doing my own thing. Don't have cable or over the air TV. Just buy season DVDs of the stuff you remember watching when you grew up or that you vaguely think that is legit for your family to watch. The same applies to video games and computer crap. Now the only resource that I really have to keep an eye on is the damn computer. Why? Because it's internet connected and they'll play any "free online" game that they've got an ad to click on.

    We've got a stack of adult R stuff in our room that we sometimes watch, but we don't have to worry about the kids watching our Red vs Blue. Heck, by the time they turn 15 most of what we've got locked way, would be fine for them to watch. On the infinity+ tv channels... there is the easy solution to that as well if you even do get that... block out everything except the 5-20 cartoon only channels. Even then you can find objectionable stuff in cartoons, but generally that should be fairly safe.

  • by Carlosos ( 1342945 ) <> on Monday October 06, 2008 @10:08AM (#25272777)

    Wouldn't that mean that the FCC can start to reduce censorship on TV since every parent could do the censorship if they wanted to do it (but only 12% use it)?

  • by cptdondo ( 59460 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @10:20AM (#25272877) Journal

    Yabbut.... Any such system will be 'voluntary' - meaning each station/studio/whatever will be able to describe the latest murder-sex-mayhem sitcom as "wholesome family entertainment".

    I'm with all the posters who just turn the TV off. Better yet, cut off the cable and spend time with your kids.

    And yes, I have kids, and no, we don't use TV as a babysitter. Kids will find things to do if you provide them the opportunity to do so.

    I cringe at the social messages in the commercials, even for kids' shows. The ads for the girls' toys on the 'tween shows are pretty shocking for me.... 11 year old girls, in tight clothing, miniskirts, full makeup and hair, dressed like they're ready to go man-shopping, playing at being 'executives'....

    Mythtv is great. Next raise I get I'm cutting off live TV altogether and banishing commercials entirely.

    All this is a long way to say that parents already are empowered to control what their kids watch. Get rid of cable, turn the TV off, and give them books, toys, blocks, crayons, whatever.

  • Re:Positive Changes (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06, 2008 @10:39AM (#25273097)

    My parents were quite open with me about their finances and why I couldn't have much. I would go shopping with my mother and can not remember one instance of throwing a fit over a toy. I pouted a bit over how much they'd spend on cigarettes and beer, but that just kept me off the stuff. I earn the least of anyone I know, but am probably the only one that pays off their credit card in full any time there's a balance, has a savings account, and, hell, can even pay their bills on time every month. Parents are really doing their kids a disservice by giving them anything they want, despite the costs.

    Posted anonymously so my friends don't know I think they're 30 yo spoiled brats. :)

  • Re:Positive Changes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @11:33AM (#25273733) Homepage Journal

    We did this with our kids, and some friends didn't. It made extra work early on, because young kids really aren't that competent yet, but it pays off as they become so. Fast forward a number of years... Our kids have been getting their own breakfast and lunch for years, with no help from us past the early times. Theirs still count on Mom and Dad to do it for them. Our kids do their own chores around the house, and divvy up on family chores, though occasionally some prodding is needed. Theirs were just starting on the "chore thing." Etc, etc, etc...

  • Re:Positive Changes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sandbags ( 964742 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @01:28PM (#25275103) Journal

    Unfortunately, that approach only works once children understand the value of money, which does not typically happen until they're 5-8 years old. The TV ads in cartoons are often targeting much younger children. Generally, the simple answer is no, especially in a store.

    We were taught by our parents that the surest way to be told "no" was to ask for something. "Can I have that?" got a sharp reply of no, and continual asking or compaining got a smack on the ass. The response was even quicker if we tried to ask for something while in a store or if we tried to play the sympathy or public embarresment angle. We had to be especially good just to even go TO the toy section in a store, and Mom always used the candy free isle in the grocery store. We never got something by asking for it. Never.

    We were TOLD when we had been good enough to get candy or a toy. Asking before that point delayed how long we'd have to wait to reach that goal. Something like "you've been good today, so after we're done shopping I'll buy you a treat." It worked.

    My wife, a 3rd grade teacher, has a better method she uses in her classrooms that we started using with our kids: She gives her students little sticks with their names on them to keep at all times. Each time they do something wrong, or break a rule, they have to turn over one of their sticks. Each time they do something especially good, or just as a reward for effort, they can get one back. They start the day with 3 sticks, and if they end the day with the same number, they get a little card punched with a hole, plus an extra hole for each stick beyond 3 they ended up with. Their puched cards get traded in for a piece of candy (if they have enough holes at the end of the week) or can be stored up for bigger rewards. Less than 3 sticks, certain punishments happen consistent with school rules.

    At home, we adapted this system slightly. The kids have the same 3 sticks rule, and get punches for the thrid and each additional stick they end the day with. We let them build up as many sticks as they can doing good things all day. We take a number of sticks away for doing various things bad. A lie saccrifies all sticks, as does agressive play with others (bullying or fighting). Arguing is 1 stick, but they keep loosing more as they continue to argue. Asking for something that is not deserved ("Can I have a ...") looses a stick. Something big, like getting in trouble at school to a point that gets a note home, and they can loose not only sticks, but all their built up punches too... Telling the truth, especially when it's not good and might result in punishment, always earns them a stick (sometimes more).

    Anything that happens at school can just as easily result in a loss of sticks. We make sure all the parents that may watch our kids for any reason, as well as family members, also know the same rules, and enforce them just the same. Failing to hand in homework, talking back to a teacher, etc, anything we hear about in a note home or in their weekly report goes towards their stick count. We ensure family and friends hold them to the same rules.

    The kids have quickly adapted to 1: keeping their mouthes closed in stores and staying close to us while shopping. 2: they do not lie. 3: they do not start fights. Our older girl has been in one; she's in 2nd grade and kicked a 4th grader bully in the nuts hard enough to need medical attention, and after we heard why (he took her juice box from her, and when she first got a teacher involved and then confronted him, he pushed her, then she kicked him) she earned a stick for that plus another for having told the truth about it, and a 3rd for trying to get help first) 4: they understand the rewards for continual good behavior are better than that for incremental behavior. 5: they suffer dissapointment, sometimes big dissapointment, when they're bad and understand the efforts necessary to recoup a loss if that happens. 6: they don't talk back to us. (though the 2 year old loves t

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