Sex and the Internet
A safe "green light" place for kids
Do kids need a safe place to surf:
On 2002-SEP-12, NeuStar, Inc. a private technology and registry company, testified before the Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation about the need for a domain where kids can safely surf.
A NeuStar representative testified:
"The question of how we, as a society, can protect children on the
Internet has long been a perplexing question for individuals, industry and
government. Numerous efforts, including browser filters, legislative
mandates, educational campaigns, and rating systems have all met with
varying levels of success. By no means, however, has the problem been
solved. As with any important matter, if the solution were easy, someone
would have fixed the problem long ago."
"In recent years, the concept of a 'kid’s space on the Internet' has
developed and gained some acceptance. The idea was focused, in the first
instance, on the establishment of a new .kids top-level Internet domain.
With the reintroduction and expansion of .us, however, efforts shifted to
the development of a kids.us space, rather than the creation of a generic
As noted by the National Academy of Science (NAS) in its recent report 'Youth, Pornography, and the Internet,'
there is no single approach that will, on its own, protect children from
online dangers. 1 Thus, a place for children can only be
effective if it is accompanied by the many components identified by the NAS,
including parental involvement, adult supervision, social and educational
support, and publicly available, user-friendly, and cost-effective
technology-based tools. 2
Establishing a safe place for kids to surf:
Ever since the Internet became generally available, Congress has tried to
keep children insulated from pornography, hate speech, and other "adult" content
on the Internet. They have not been notably successful. Both the Child On line Protection Act (COPA) and the Children's
Internet Protection Act (CIPA) clearly violated the First Amendment of the
U.S. Constitution and were declared unconstitutional by the courts.
The Internet Corporation for Assigning Names and Numbers (ICANN) has as
one of its responsibilities the regulation of Universal Resource
Locaters (URLs). These are the equivalent to a postal address for Internet
sites. For example, this essay's URL is http://www.religioustolerance.org/kids_us.htm During the fall of 2000, several companies that manage URLs asked ICANN to
create a new top domain called KIDS, as an alternative to the more commonly used
.COM, .ORG, .INFO, etc. It would be a safe place on the Internet for
children to surf, limited to web sites that are free of sexual content,
violence, etc. The idea was rejected because of the difficulty of establishing
rules that would apply worldwide. "A House bill forcing ICANN to establish
such a domain was debated in 2001, but it proved unworkable." 3 Getting the entire world to agree
on what is suitable material for children is an insurmountable problem.
The bill was called HR-2417, the "Dot Kids Domain
Name Act of 2001" and was aimed at persons under the age of 17. 4
On 2002-MAR, the House Telecommunications Subcommittee approved House
Resolution HR-3833 to create "KIDS.US" -- a second level domain (a.k.a. country code
top-level domain or ccTLD). 5 Apparently, in order to increase the likelihood of having the bill passed, the
age range was changed from 16 and under to 12 and under. They were able to do
this without involving ICANN because the proposed domain would be a variation of
the existing "US" top level domain. Representative Fred Upton (R-MI), a
co-sponsor of the bill, said: that KIDS.US would be analogous to "a safe
playground with fences around it." 6 The text of the bill likens it to "a children's section within a library."
Parents could use Internet censorship software on their home computers to
restrict their children's Internet access so that they could only surf web sites
with a KIDS.US URL.
The bill obtained near unanimous support in both the House and Senate.
President Bush signed the "Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act of 2002"
into law on 2002-DEC-04. This act
requires that NeuStar®, "as the
administrator of the .US country code top-level domain (ccTLD), establish a
kids.us domain to serve as a haven for material that promotes positive
experiences for children and families using the Internet, provides a safe online
environment for children, and helps to prevent children from being exposed to
harmful material on the Internet." 6,7
NeuStar created an independent committee to
set criteria to be met by webmasters who wished to include their sites in the
domain. A "sunrise" interval was provided to allow companies to register URLs
containing their own trademarks. When that concludeed, the sub-domain was made
available for general use.
Sites are limited in many ways. Excluded are:
Material that is harmful to minors. This includes information, coding or
The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would
find, taking the material as a whole and with respect to minors, that it
is designed to appeal to, or is designed to pander to, the prurient
The material depicts, describes, or represents, in a manner patently
offensive with respect to minors, an actual or simulated sexual act or
sexual contact, an actual or simulated normal or perverted sexual act,
or a lewd exhibition of the genitals or post-pubescent female breast;
Taken as a whole,...lacks serious, literary, artistic,
political, or scientific value for minors.
Is not suitable for minors. Suitable information includes
Is not psychologically or intellectually inappropriate for minors;
Serves: the educational, informational, intellectual, or cognitive
needs of minors; or the social, emotional, or entertainment needs of
Specific topics, including mature content, pornography, inappropriate
language, violence, hate speech, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, weapons,
and criminal activity.
Hyperlinks to other web sites that are outside the KIDS.US domain.
Provides File Transfer Protocol, telnet, E-mail, gopher and other
Asks for personal information from children under 13 years of age
without parental consent.
"Two way and multi-user interactive services" such as bulletin
Another matter of concern to webmasters involves costs of maintaining a
KIDS.US web site:
The wholesale price of the domain is $65.00 in U.S. funds per year. This
is in excess of ten times the cost of a COM domain.
NeuStar charges $250.00 content review fee per year.
If a site is ordered off line because of content violations, it costs
$400 to get back online.
Melinda Clem, Director of Business Development for
NeuStar, expected that there would be thousands of registrations. On that basis,
she said that the company would be working with "thin, basically nonexistent
NeuStar arranged with Cyveillance® to
routinely scan KINDS.US web sites using automated spidering technology.
Cyveillance informs NeuStar of any questionable material. NeuStar will normally
allow the offending webmaster to remove the improper material. In serious cases,
NeuStar will shut down the site. For example: NeuStar's regulations call for
terminating an offending web site's connection to the Internet if it is found to
contain mature content or inappropriate language. Web sites containing hate
speech are apparently considered less serious. They allowed to continue
spreading hatred online for four hours while the webmaster is allowed to change the content.
Shutting down a site is not absolute. Associated with a web site URL is an IP
address of the form nnn.nnn.nnn.nnn where nnn is a number between 0 and 255. If
the IP address is substituted for the name of the web site, then access could
obtained to a KIDS.US web site even if its name were taken offline.
Reactions to KIDS.US:
NeuStar was not enamored of the law. On 2002-SEP, a
representative suggested to a Senate committee that the bill:
takes "...the unprecedented step of
requiring a government contractor potentially to sustain a significant
financial loss on a government contract, without taking into account the
effect of that loss on the kids.us space or the .us domain itself...."
"...forces a timeline on the development
process that likely will not allow the development of a successful
solution that implements the kids.us vision in a safe and sustainable
manner. Thus, the bill is unlikely to achieve its policy objectives." 2
Rob Courtney, a policy analyst at the Center for
Democracy and Technology, expressed some concerns: He said: "Closed
space and heavy restriction on the Internet will create a false sense of
security. Monitoring thousands of Web pages would be expensive and
time-consuming." He was not convinced that many companies would open KIDS.US
web sites. Subsequent developments show that he was right.
Lisa Melsted, an analyst at Yankee Group, an Internet research and consulting company questioned whether parents will be
satisfied with NeuStar's standards of what is appropriate for their
Representative Fred Upton (R-MI), a co-sponsor of the
bill explained KIDS.US "...will help parents establish a firewall, so
that kids will learn to use the Internet in a safe way, and will be prepared
to use it in a responsible fashion as they mature." 9
Rep. Edward J. Markey, (D-MA), another co-sponsor
explained that the bill was "crafted to help organize content suitable
for kids in a safe and secure cyber zone where the risk of young children
clicking outside of that zone to suitable contents or being preyed upon or
exploited online by adults posing as kids is vastly diminished. Organizing
kid-friendly contents in this manner will enhance the effectiveness of
filtering software and enable parents to set their children's browsers so
their kids only surf within the .kids domain." 10
The International Society for Technology in
Education suggested that some "...educators expressed concern that
the dot-kids domain would soon be overcrowded by commercial rather than
educational content. Further, some educators are afraid that the dot-kids
domain would be unworkable in a school setting where children constantly use
resources in other domains such as dot-com, dot-edu, dot-net, and dot-org." 11
Eric W. Anderson posted the
following to the GigaLaw.com discussion list: "I don't understand why people
believe that it's necessary - or acceptable - to impose stronger restrictions on
web content than printed. To the best of my knowledge, if an eight year old
walks into a public library and asks for the Kama Sutra, they get it. If a .kids.us
site is prohibited from linking to a (potentially) questionable site, that seems
comparable to saying that children's literature may not legally mention the
existence of anything which isn't also a children's book. That strikes me as a
profound imposition on the right to free speech as I understand it." 12
Ian Betteridge commented in a forum on the MacUser.co.uk web site:
"The lack of features like chat rooms and instant messaging services mean
that sites in this domain space will be unattractive to exactly the audience
that it is trying to draw. Children, even more than adults, love the chatting
and social aspects of using the Internet, so any service that doesn't provide
these is unlikely to be of interest to them. The plan, despite its good
intentions, is typical of the kind of half-baked measure intended to protect
children that in fact does nothing of the sort. Unless you manage to prevent
children accessing every other part of the Internet, it won't work. You might be
able to limit Web access on a single machine, but kids will always find another
computer to use, unfettered. Rather than control every technology, the answer
lies in education. The best way to prevent children from falling into the hands
of [abusive] pedophiles is to teach them what is and is not acceptable behavior
from adults, to help them understand that the world can be a dangerous place and
to show them how to explore it without exposing themselves to dire risk. Have
we, as a society, become so addicted to the notion of innocent children not
being exposed to any risk that we will fail to arm them with the knowledge they
need to survive?" 13
More recent activities:
The sunrise period for registration of trademarked names in the KIDS.US
domain ended on 2003-AUG-15. General registration was activated by Neustar on
Representatives Fred Upton (R-MI) reported that over 1,700 web sites had been registered on KIDS.US by 2004-MAY-6, some nine months after registration
started. 14 However, essentially all of them appear to be parked domains: registered URLs with no actual web site
attached. Most were probably purchased on speculation, with the assumption that KIDS.US would be wildly successful.
On 2004-APR-01, the ABC Television Network announced that it will be the first broadcast network to contribute to the KIDS.US domain. Alex Wallau, president of ABC said: "Young people linking to www.ABCKids.kids.us will now have additional access to top-quality Internet fare that represents an extension of ABC’s popular Saturday morning kids’ lineup." 16
As of 2005-JUN-18, there were only 23 live web sites in the KIDS.US ccTLD -- an average of one addition per month. This compares with over 30,000
domains on COM, NET and ORG that contain the word "kids." 15 All are linked to a menu at http://www.kids.us
NeuStar has published a PDF brochure titled: `The Web`s first and only Child Friendly domain, at: http://www.cms.kids.us/
The KIDS.US experiment appears to have largely failed to reach its potential.
Internet links to sites dealing with cyberbullying and child safety:
- "A parent's guide to internet safety," Federal Bureau of Investigation, at: http://www.fbi.gov/
- Take action against cyber bullying with Safetyweb.com's tools for the Internet safety of kids.
- The Canadian Center for Child Protection has a website for parents, teachers and others concerning http://www.thedoorthatsnotlocked.ca/ It "... raises awareness about all the things kids are doing online, the risks associated, as well as tips and safety strategies to keep them safe."
- The Cyberbullying Research Center is dedicated to providing up-to-date information about the nature, extent, causes, and consequences of cyberbullying among adolescents. See: http://www.cyberbullying.us/
- Sameer Hinduja and Justin W. Patchin, "Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying," Corwin Press, (2008). Read
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
- R.A. Kowalski, et al., "Cyber Bullying: Bullying in the Digital Age,"
Wiley-Blackwell, (2007). Read
reviews or order this book
- Nancy E. Willard, "Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens: Helping Young People Learn To Use the Internet Safely and Responsibly," Jossey-Bass, (2007). Read
reviews or order this book
- Gregory S. Smith, "How to Protect Your Children on the Internet: A Road Map for Parents and Teachers," Praeger, (2007). Read
reviews or order this book
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Dick Thornburgh & Herbert S. Lin, Ed. "Youth, Pornography, and the
Internet," Committee to Study Tools and Strategies for Protecting Kids
from Pornography and Their Applicability to Other Inappropriate Internet
Content, Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research
Council (May 2002).
- "Statement of NeuStar, Inc.," 2003-SEP-12, at: http://commerce.senate.gov/ **
- Walter Minkell, " 'kids.us' Domain Looks Good To Go," Library Journal, 2002-APR-15, at: http://www.libraryjournal.com
- "Dot Kids Domain Name Act of 2001," 107th Congress HR 2417, at: http://thomas.loc.gov/
- "Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act of 2002," 107th Congress, HR 3833, at: http://thomas.loc.gov/
- "Amendment of solicitation/modification of contract," U.S. Department of Commerce, 2003-FEB-13, at: http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ **
- "Kids.us Content Policies," NeuStar, at: http://www.kids.us/
- "Safety Patrol readied for Dot-Kids," BizReport, 2003-MAY-28, at: http://www.bizreport.com
- Anne Ju, "Domain for Kids Nears Approval. House passes bill creating .kids domain, supporters await measure in Senate," PC World,
2002-MAY-22, at: http://www.pcworld.com/
- "Domain would shield kids from evils of 'Net," Honolulu Star Bulletin, 2002-MAY-27, at: http://starbulletin.com/
- "ISTE Update," 2002-DEC, at: http://www.aztea.org/
- Eric Anderson, "Dot-Kids Act," 2002-DEC-06, at: http://www.gigalaw.com/
- Ian Betteridge, "Editorial: Safety Catch," MacUser.co,uk, undated, at: http://www.macuser.co.uk/
- "News from May 6-10,2004," Newsbriefs, Tech Law Journal, at: http://www.techlawjournal.com/
- "FAQ," BulkRegister®, at: http://www2.bulkregister.com/
- `The ABC television networkbecomes first broadcast network to partner with KIDS.US, 2004-APR-01, at: http://www.cms.kids.us/ **
** These are PDF files. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from:
Copyright © 2005 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2005-JUN-18
Latest update: 2010-MAY-28
Author: B.A. Robinson