Parental Guidance Issue Attracts Internet’s Big Guns

More than a year of saber-rattling by members of Congress, who hold the future of the currently unregulated Internet in their hands, has prompted major Internet companies to make yet another move to demonstrate their own voluntary responsibility for what goes on in cyberspace. Widely publicized efforts to protect online privacy was a start, but Thursday morning companies like America Online, Microsoft, Netscape and Yahoo! hope to score major political points with the launch of a new online safety resource for parents.

Other companies involved include AT&T, @Home Network, Bell Atlantic, Commercial Internet eXchange, Disney Online, Excite Inc., Lycos Inc., MCI WorldCom, MindSpring Enterprises, Network Solutions and Prodigy Communications.

Public and Private Sector Unity

The new Web site is being kept under wraps until Thursday morning’s official unveiling at Washington’s National Press Club, where members of Congress and the Clinton Administration are expected to applaud the effort. Though the URL will not be announced until then, some information on the overall initiative is available at the Internet Education Foundation’s site. The foundation, a non-profit organization founded in 1997, has been working with the companies to develop the new guidance tool.

The group told the Clinton Administration and Congress in a May letter outlining the plan that it supports the government’s efforts “to find meaningful solutions to the problem of violence in our society. As members of the Internet community, we stand ready and willing to devote significant energy and resources to doing our share along with government leaders, children’s advocates, community leaders, educators, and families.”

One-click Information

The effort has loosely been called “One-click” to describe the goal of making comprehensive Web safety information easy for parents to access. The collection of digital resources providing parents with information on how to guide their kids is designed to be accessible from virtually all entry points to the Net — primarily the Web’s most popular portal sites and search sites — with one click of the mouse. With that approach, the group hopes to make the information available to 95 percent of Internet users.

The tips, tools and information slated to be available include safety information for parents, teenagers and children, a comprehensive guide to consumer products that allow families to block, filter and monitor access to Internet content and information on reporting crime, with links to sites like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children CyberTipline. It will also provide a “Guide to Good Content,” featuring pointers and road maps to online content appropriate for children.

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