[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 225 (Tuesday, November 24, 2009)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 61308-61316]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-27664]


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FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

47 CFR Part 73

[MB Docket No. 09-194; FCC 09-94]


Empowering Parents and Protecting Children in an Evolving Media 
Landscape

AGENCY: Federal Communications Commission.

ACTION: Notice of inquiry.

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SUMMARY: This document seeks comment on how to empower parents to help 
their children take advantage of the opportunities offered by evolving 
electronic media technologies while at the same time protecting 
children from the risks inherent in use of these technologies. It asks 
for comment about the extent to which children are using electronic 
media today, the benefits and risks this presents, and the ways in 
which parents, teachers, and children can help reap the benefits while 
minimizing the risks of using these technologies. It also asks about 
the effectiveness of media literacy efforts and about how the 
Commission can assist with efforts being made by other Federal agencies 
that are addressing similar issues.

DATES: Comments are due January 25, 2010; reply comments are due 
February 22, 2010.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For additional information on this 
proceeding, contact David Konczal, Media Bureau, Policy Division at 
(202) 418-2228 or at David.Konczal@fcc.gov, Kim Matthews, Media Bureau, 
Policy Division at (202) 418-2154 or at Kim.Matthews@fcc.gov, or Holly 
Saurer, Media Bureau, Policy Division at (202) 418-7283 or at 
Holly.Saurer@fcc.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This is a summary of the Commission's Notice 
of Inquiry (NOI), FCC 09-94, adopted on October 22, 2009, and released 
on October 23, 2009. The full text of this document is available for 
public inspection and copying during regular business hours in the FCC 
Reference Center, Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street, 
SW., CY-A257, Washington, DC 20554. This document will also be 
available via ECFS (http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/ecfs/). (Documents will be 
available electronically in ASCII, Word 97, and/or Adobe Acrobat.) The 
complete text may be purchased from the Commission's copy contractor, 
445 12th Street, SW., Room CY-B402, Washington, DC 20554. To request 
this document in accessible formats (computer diskettes, large print, 
audio recording, and Braille), send an e-mail to fcc504@fcc.gov or call 
the Commission's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau at (202) 418-
0530 (voice), (202) 418-0432 (TTY).

Summary of the Notice of Inquiry

Introduction

    The evolving electronic media landscape presents parents with both 
tremendous opportunities and critical challenges. On the one hand, 
electronic media technologies present many benefits for children, such 
as offering an almost unlimited potential for educational avenues and 
providing the technological literacy needed to compete in a global 
economy. On the other hand, the technological developments that produce 
these benefits also present risks for children. With this Notice of 
Inquiry (``NOI''), we seek to develop a record that will help us answer 
the question of how to empower parents to help their children take 
advantage of these opportunities, while at the same time protecting 
children from the risks inherent in use of these platforms.
    From television to mobile devices to the Internet, electronic media 
offer children today avenues for education that their parents could 
never have envisioned. Using a television, a mobile device, a computer, 
or other media platform, children potentially can access educational 
information on every topic imaginable. The new media landscape is also 
participatory in nature. In addition to passively viewing or listening 
to educational content, children are using new technologies, such as 
social networking sites, to interact with and learn from relatives, 
friends, and others located across the globe.
    As children are exposed to new media platforms, however, they may 
also be exposed to content that is inappropriate

[[Page 61309]]

or subjected to contact with individuals who may want to cause them 
harm. The same television, mobile device, computer, or other media 
platform that provides educational information may also expose children 
to exploitative advertisements, offensive language, sexually explicit 
material, violent content, bullying, scams, or even child predators. 
Media convergence also presents new challenges for parents in 
monitoring their children's media consumption. The same content that is 
blocked when a child attempts to view it on a television may be 
available for viewing on the Internet. Moreover, two decades ago, 
children's media consumption was limited to the home environment; 
today, children can access the Internet and its unlimited content 
options on their mobile devices outside the home where a parent is not 
present. While indecency regulations apply to radio and television 
broadcasting, subscription services have generally received different 
regulatory treatment, requiring parents to take additional actions to 
protect children when using these services. In addition, children are 
now creators of content in a participatory media environment, posting 
their thoughts on blogs and sharing pictures or videos on Web sites or 
using mobile phones. Thus, children today are at risk of sharing 
private information that may be embarrassing or may even expose them to 
harm.
    Some parents are aware of the wide range of electronic media 
technologies available today but are confused about how to ensure that 
their children benefit from these technologies while avoiding the 
inherent risks. Other parents may be unaware of the benefits and risks 
of electronic media technologies, leaving their children in danger of 
being left behind in the digital revolution or left unsupervised as 
they navigate this challenging media landscape.
    Through this NOI, we seek information on the extent to which 
children are using electronic media today, the benefits and risks these 
technologies bring for children, and the ways in which parents, 
teachers, and children can help reap the benefits while minimizing the 
risks. We start by reviewing the current children's media landscape, 
including the extent to which children use various kinds of electronic 
media and the potential impact on children from media use. We 
acknowledge that a wealth of academic research and studies exists on 
these issues. As discussed below, we ask commenters to identify 
additional data and important studies, whether concluded or ongoing, 
beyond those discussed here. Commenters are also invited to ask and 
answer any other questions that this NOI fails to raise which they 
believe would help inform our inquiry.
    We then explore the many positive impacts on children that media 
use may have. As discussed below, the benefits of electronic media for 
children include (i) accessing educational content; (ii) acquiring 
technological literacy needed to compete in a global economy; (iii) 
developing new skills in the use of technology and the creation of 
content; (iv) facilitating new forms of communication with family and 
peers; (v) improving health through telemedicine; and (vi) removing 
barriers for children with disabilities. We seek comment on these 
benefits, whether parents, teachers, and children are aware of these 
benefits, and the extent to which educational content is offered over 
the various electronic media platforms.
    While we recognize that electronic media technologies offer these 
potential benefits to children, we also explore the risks of harm that 
media use presents. As discussed below, these risks include (i) 
exposure to exploitative advertising; (ii) exposure to inappropriate 
content (such as offensive language, sexual content, violence, or hate 
speech); (iii) impact on health (for example, childhood obesity, 
tobacco use, sexual behavior, or drug and alcohol use); (iv) impact on 
behavior (in particular, exposure to violence leading to aggressive 
behavior); (v) harassment and bullying; (vi) sexual predation; (vii) 
fraud and scams; (viii) failure to distinguish between who can and who 
cannot be trusted when sharing information; and (ix) compromised 
privacy. We seek comment on these risks, whether parents, teachers, and 
children are aware of them, and what can be done to protect children 
from them.
    Some experts believe that greater media literacy for parents, 
teachers, and children is critical to enabling children to enjoy the 
benefits of electronic media while minimizing the potential harms. We 
are particularly interested in learning more about the effectiveness of 
media literacy and what can be done to increase media literacy among 
parents, teachers, and children. We explore those issues below.
    In conducting this inquiry, we recognize that other Federal 
agencies are addressing some of the same issues, at least with respect 
to online safety. We seek comment on what the Commission can do to 
assist these efforts. We also invite commenters to suggest new actions 
that the Commission or industry can take to address the issues posed 
here. In doing so, we ask commenters to discuss whether the Commission 
has the statutory authority to take any proposed actions and whether 
those actions would be consistent with the First Amendment. In 
addressing the issues raised here, we urge commenters to consider the 
full range of electronic media platforms, including broadcast 
television and radio, multichannel video programming distributors 
(``MVPDs''), audio devices, video games, wireless devices, nonnetworked 
devices, and the Internet.
    Our goal with this NOI is to gather data and recommendations from 
experts, industry, and parents that will enable us to identify actions 
that all stakeholders can take to enable parents and children to 
navigate this promising electronic media landscape safely and 
successfully. In this regard, we solicit information on how other 
nations have dealt with and are dealing with these issues. Commenters 
should provide data on broadcast services, subscription video and other 
electronic media platforms. We also note that we recently issued a 
Report to Congress (the ``CSVA Report'') pursuant to the Child Safe 
Viewing Act of 2007 that contains relevant data and information for 
this NOI. See Implementation of the Child Safe Viewing Act: Examination 
of Parental Control Technologies for Video or Audio Programming, MB 
Docket No. 09-26, Report, FCC 09-69 (rel. Aug. 31, 2009). (``CSVA 
Report''). In the CSVA Report, we assessed the current state of the 
marketplace with respect to the existence and availability of advanced 
blocking technologies, methods of encouraging the development, 
deployment, and use of such technologies, and the existence, 
availability, and use of parental empowerment tools and initiatives 
already in the market. This NOI picks up where the CSVA Report left 
off, and we urge commenters to read the CSVA Report before filing 
comments in this proceeding. In addition, we will incorporate the 
comments filed in the CSVA proceeding by reference into the record on 
this NOI.

Issues for Comment

Children's Media Use

    Children today live in a media environment that is dramatically 
different from the one in which their parents and grandparents grew up 
decades ago. The advent of cable and satellite television, accompanied 
by the transition to digital technology, has dramatically increased the 
number of television channels available in most homes. Studies 
examining the media

[[Page 61310]]

habits of American children demonstrate that children have access to a 
wide array of electronic media technologies. For instance, a study 
using 2004 data indicates that almost all households with children ages 
8 to 18 had a television set, video player, radio, and audio player. In 
fact, a Kaiser Family Foundation study found that in 2004 the typical 
American child of that age was likely to live in a home with three 
televisions, three video cassette recorders (``VCRs''), three radios, 
three CD/tape players, two video game consoles, and a personal computer 
with an Internet connection. Data from 2005 indicates that this 
ubiquity even extended to households with children six years and 
younger, 78 percent of whom had personal computers, and 50 percent of 
whom had a video game player. According to a recent study by the Pew 
Internet & American Life Project (``Pew''), 71 percent of children ages 
12 to 17 owned cell phones in 2008 and 74 percent owned an iPod or 
other MP3 player. The study also found that more than 70 percent of 12- 
and 13-year-olds owned a portable gaming device in 2008--more than the 
percentage that owned a cell phone among that age group. We therefore 
seek information about whether these trends continue to hold true, and 
ways in which they may have changed.
    Studies also demonstrate that the pervasive presence of media in 
the lives of children has led to children spending significant time 
using some form of media, and often using two or more kinds of media 
simultaneously. One study found that five years ago, in 2004, children 
ages 8 to 18 already were reporting an average of five hours and 48 
minutes of daily electronic media use, while, in 2005, children six 
years and younger averaged two hours and twenty four minutes of daily 
exposure to electronic media. Further, a Kaiser Family Foundation study 
analyzing 2004 data concluded that 8- to 18-year-olds watched on 
average just over three hours of television each day and nearly four 
hours when videos, DVDs, and pre-recorded shows were included. The same 
study found that 12- to 13-year-olds spent about 1\3/4\ hours each day 
listening to music (including radio, CDs, tapes, or MP3 players), one 
hour each day on the computer (not including schoolwork), and just 
under 50 minutes each day playing video games. The study also concluded 
that one quarter of the time that 8- to 18-year-olds used media, they 
used two or more media at the same time. Thus, the amount of media 
content to which children were exposed exceeded the number of hours 
children actually used media. We seek comment on how these viewing 
habits may have changed in the past several years. We also seek comment 
on the extent to which the rise of media multitasking by children--
their use of more than one kind of electronic media simultaneously--may 
be increasing their total exposure to media content.
    The rise in Internet use by children plays a significant role in 
their exposure to more forms of media. For instance, according to a Pew 
study analyzing data from 2006, 93 percent of American children ages 12 
to 17 accessed the Internet. The number of applications children are 
using online are increasing as well: children are now heavily involved 
on social networking sites, share videos on sites such as YouTube and 
GoogleVideo, and share artwork, photos, stories, and videos online. We 
seek comment on whether these trends have increased and whether 
children have begun using other new forms of media over the past 
several years.
    We ask commenters to identify additional data and studies on 
children's media use beyond those that we have discussed. Are there 
additional relevant studies describing which media platforms children 
are using most frequently? Are there studies analyzing trends in 
children's media consumption (for example, how does the amount of time 
children spend texting and using social networking sites compare to 
television viewing, and how has this changed over time)? Are there 
studies describing where children use media (inside the home in the 
presence of a parent or outside the home)? In what ways does media 
consumption vary depending on a child's age? Are there studies 
concerning what kinds of content are most commonly accessed by 
children, and if so, what do such studies conclude?
    We also seek comment on whether there are classes of children who 
do not have access to new digital media platforms. Does access vary 
depending on race, ethnicity, geography, parental income, or 
disability? Does access depend on the educational level of a child's 
parents? What studies have been done on these issues? What can 
government or industry do to ensure that all children have access to 
digital media?
    We invite commenters' views on which studies are most reliable, 
what gaps exist in the research, and where the Commission could 
contribute by commissioning further studies. In particular, we ask 
commenters to identify whether the studies cited account for the newest 
media technologies.

Benefits of Electronic Media for Children

    Electronic media offer numerous benefits for children. As discussed 
below in more detail, among these benefits are (i) access to 
educational content; (ii) acquiring technological literacy needed to 
compete in a global economy; (iii) developing new skills in the use of 
technology and the creation of content; (iv) facilitating new forms of 
communication with family and peers; (v) improving health through 
telemedicine; and (vi) removing barriers for children with 
disabilities. We seek further information on the benefits that 
electronic media offer for children, what actions can be taken to 
ensure that parents, teachers, and children are aware of these 
benefits, and the extent to which educational content is offered over 
the various electronic media platforms.

Key Benefits

    Substantial evidence indicates that one significant benefit of 
media for children is helping children to learn. Research on 
educational television programs for children demonstrates that programs 
designed with a specific goal to teach academic or social skills can be 
effective, with potentially long-lasting effects. A number of studies 
have concluded that preschoolers who viewed Sesame Street had higher 
levels of school readiness than those who did not. Evidence also shows 
that children who were regular viewers of the educational program 
Blue's Clues showed improved problem-solving skills. Research on 
educational interactive media software and digital games suggests they 
may have similar positive results. There is also evidence that mobile 
media, such as cell phones and iPods, can be useful in enabling a 
personalized learning experience for children, encouraging children to 
learn outside of school, and reaching underserved children.
    Children with digital media skills are also likely to be better 
positioned to compete in today's workplace. As a greater number of 
workplaces incorporate computers and the Internet into everyday work 
activities, the ability of young people to use these tools becomes 
critical to ensuring the availability of job opportunities. One study 
has suggested that teaching at-risk youth marketable skills such as 
word processing, Web design, desktop publishing, or video production 
can help them find jobs and resume their education.
    For older children and youth, new forms of media have opened up new

[[Page 61311]]

ways of communicating with peers and family. Cell phones, text 
messaging, and social networking sites, for example, have become 
important means by which many youths communicate with peers and 
parents. Studies have suggested that these communication tools are used 
by adolescents primarily to reinforce existing relationships and can 
have a positive impact on their social connections.
    There is also evidence that media tools can improve children's 
health. One study has noted that a variety of media solutions are being 
used today to promote better health outcomes for children, including 
the development of interactive games and social networking programs to 
help children understand and self-manage chronic conditions. Another 
study found that media tools can provide a resource for children to 
help them learn about important health topics, including nutrition, and 
to influence healthy behavior.
    Evidence also suggests that media technology can help those with 
disabilities by, for example, assisting those with vision impairments 
to read, providing on-screen translations to the hearing-impaired, and 
enabling the physically impaired to work or take care of themselves at 
home.
    We seek comment on the benefits identified above as well as other 
potential gains from children's media use. What do child psychologists, 
educators, and academics know today about the favorable effects of 
media on children? Do the benefits to children vary depending on the 
child's age, socio-economic class, or other factors such as disability? 
Are there studies other than the ones cited above that are important to 
consider with respect to the benefits of electronic media for children? 
Among the studies that have been conducted, which are most reliable or 
most widely recognized as providing important information on this 
issue? Do these studies account for the newest media technologies? Are 
there significant gaps in the understanding of the benefits of 
electronic media to children that should be filled by further studies? 
If so, what studies should be done and what role should the Commission 
play in facilitating further learning about these benefits?
    Electronic media are most likely to benefit children if parents, 
teachers, and children are aware of the possible benefits. We seek 
further information about the level of awareness among parents, 
teachers, and children of the benefits of electronic media. While some 
parents make efforts to ensure that their children are exposed to 
beneficial media, other parents may not be engaged with their 
children's media use, may be unfamiliar with the potential benefits of 
media use, or may not be technically competent to assist their children 
with electronic media. What efforts can be taken to ensure that all 
children receive the benefits of electronic media? What efforts have 
been made and should be made to educate parents and teachers about how 
to harness the benefits of electronic media for children?

Educational Content

    Electronic media can be used to provide educational content for 
children, but it is unclear how much educational content is being 
offered today across electronic media platforms. We invite comment on 
this issue. Is there enough educational content for children available 
on electronic media today? Do sufficient marketplace incentives exist 
to create educational content for children, or is governmental or 
industry action needed to increase incentives? Is there educational 
content available for children with particular needs, including, for 
example, children whose first language is not English? Is there 
adequate content available for children of different ages?
    To the extent there is educational or other beneficial content 
available for children today, what means do parents, teachers, and 
children have to select or ``white list'' this content? In the CSVA 
Report, we discussed a number of technologies currently available that 
permit parents or others to select or ``white list'' content, including 
tools for the Internet, cell phones, and television. See CSVA Report at 
paragraphs 36-38, 65, 71, 99, 150. Are there examples of tools that 
allow parents to find and select educational content available on 
particular media that stand out as best practices? Could any such best 
practices be extended to other media?
    To the extent commenters believe there is an insufficient amount of 
educational or other beneficial content available for children today, 
we invite comment on what steps the government or industry could take 
to promote the development and availability of this content. Are there 
any partnerships between commercial entities and public or 
noncommercial entities that enable the creation of educational content? 
We note that the Children's Television Act (``CTA'') is one example of 
government action to promote the availability of educational content on 
one type of medium--broadcast television. We invite comment on whether 
the Commission's rules implementing the CTA have been effective in 
promoting the availability of educational content for children on 
broadcast television. We note that a 2008 Children Now study concluded 
that, while stations are generally meeting the three-hour-per-week core 
programming benchmark, most core programs focus on social-emotional 
lessons for children rather than cognitive-intellectual topics, such as 
physical science, history, or cognitive skills, and that relatively few 
core programs are ``highly educational.'' We ask commenters to describe 
the quality of core programming provided by commercial television 
licensees today. Is there a sufficient amount of cognitive/intellectual 
children's programming available today? Would children benefit from 
more cognitive/intellectual programming? We also ask commenters to 
describe the quality of core programming provided on broadcasters' 
multicast streams, as well as what steps broadcasters take to promote 
that programming. What are the economics of providing educational 
content? What is the audience size for this programming? Should the 
Commission consider an approach that would permit commercial entities 
to fund the creation of educational content to be provided by others, 
such as PBS. How would such a regime be implemented and enforced?

Risks of Electronic Media for Children

    While electronic media offer numerous benefits for children, they 
also present risks. As discussed below, among these risks are (i) 
exposure to exploitative advertising; (ii) exposure to inappropriate 
content (such as offensive language, sexual content, violence, or hate 
speech); (iii) impact on health (for example, childhood obesity, 
tobacco use, sexual behavior, or drug and alcohol use); (iv) impact on 
behavior (in particular, exposure to violence leading to aggressive 
behavior); (v) harassment and bullying; (vi) sexual predation; (vii) 
fraud and scams; (viii) failure to distinguish between who can and who 
cannot be trusted when sharing information; and (ix) compromised 
privacy. We seek further information on the risks that the evolving 
electronic media landscape presents for children, whether parents, 
teachers, and children are aware of these risks, and what can be done 
to protect children from them.

Potential Risks

    One significant concern with children's exposure to media is the 
harms that may arise from advertising specifically directed to children 
and used to influence children's consumption of products. Some of these 
products may be unhealthy food that can promote obesity. In addition, 
there is some evidence that younger children

[[Page 61312]]

often do not understand the persuasive intent of advertisements, and 
even older children may have difficulty understanding the intent of 
newer marketing techniques, such as interactive, embedded, viral, and 
behavioral advertising that blur the line between commercial and 
program content.
    There is also concern about children's exposure to media content 
that may be inappropriate, such as offensive language, obscenity, 
indecency, profanity, or other content that is unsuitable for minors, 
as well as concern about exposure to content that could influence 
children to engage in behaviors that pose risks to their health. For 
example, studies have indicated that heavy exposure of children to 
violent media content may increase the likelihood of future aggressive 
and violent behavior, and that youth exposed to smoking in media are 
more susceptible to viewing smoking favorably and to becoming smokers. 
Studies have also noted a link between exposure of adolescents to 
sexual content on television and early sexual behavior, and have found 
that exposure to alcohol advertising and to electronic media that 
portray alcohol use increases adolescents' alcohol use. One study has 
concluded that children who spend more time playing video games are 
more likely to get into physical fights and be ``physically heavier.'' 
In addition, as noted above, the growing epidemic of childhood obesity 
has focused attention on the possible role of media use and food 
advertising in influencing children's body weight and eating behaviors. 
While many studies conclude that exposure to particular kinds of media 
content can pose a risk to children, there is also some evidence that 
too much time spent with electronic media in general can be harmful to 
children's health.
    The increased use of the Internet by children, including the 
increased use of social networking sites, creates new risks to minors 
online, including the danger of sexual solicitation, exposure to online 
harassment and bullying, frauds and scams, and compromised privacy. One 
study has concluded, however, that the risks minors face online, 
including harassment, bullying, and sexual solicitation, ``are not 
radically different in nature or scope than the risks minors have long 
faced offline, and minors who are most at risk in the offline world 
continue to be most at risk online.'' With respect to online sexual 
solicitation of minors, research has indicated that approximately 13 
percent of youths have received sexual solicitations online, and most 
of these recipients are between 14 and 17 years of age. Research has 
also found that most sexual solicitors of children online are other 
adolescents rather than adults. The percentage of youths who receive 
sexual solicitations online has declined in recent years, however, and 
research has suggested that online harassment or cyberbullying of 
children may pose a more common threat. Although studies differ widely 
in the number of adolescents that report being victimized by the use of 
the Internet, text messages, or e-mail to embarrass or threaten them, 
one study conducted in 2005 found that more than 70 percent of teens 
had been harassed in the previous year. Concerns have been expressed 
also about the potential infringement of privacy and potential 
exploitation of children online, ranging from concerns about children 
posting personal information online to concerns about commercial 
organizations targeting children through such practices as ``data-
mining.'' One study has concluded that 46 percent of children have 
disclosed personal information to someone they met online.
    We seek comment on these and other possible risks we have not 
identified. What are the chief harms that can befall children from 
using electronic media, and how serious are they? What do child 
psychologists, educators, and academics know today about the risks of 
media exposure to children? Is there a consensus about the most 
significant risks? Are there certain risks that are just as likely to 
be present even when children are not using electronic media? Do the 
risks vary depending on the child's age, socio-economic class, or other 
factors? Are there studies other than the ones cited above that are 
important to consider with respect to the risks electronic media pose 
to children? Among the studies that have been conducted, which ones are 
more reliable or more widely recognized as providing important 
information on this issue? Do these studies account for the newest 
media technologies? Are there important gaps in the understanding of 
the risks of electronic media to children that should be filled by 
further studies? If so, what studies should be done and what role 
should the Commission play in facilitating further learning about these 
risks?
    In addition, the level of awareness of these risks among parents, 
teachers, and children is unclear. We seek to learn more about how 
aware parents, teachers, and children are of the risks of electronic 
media exposure. What efforts have been made and should be made to 
educate parents, teachers, and children about these risks?

Impact of Advertisements on Children

    Exposure to excessive and exploitative advertisements is a 
significant risk children face from electronic media. Advertisements of 
particular concern for children include: (i) Those that promote 
products specifically to children; (ii) those that promote unhealthy 
food, thereby contributing to childhood obesity, and (iii) those that 
contain inappropriate content, such as offensive language, sexual 
content, and violence. While we discuss below the means parents have to 
protect children from the risks of electronic media use, those means 
might be less useful in protecting children from advertisements. For 
example, household media rules are unlikely to be effective in 
protecting children from inappropriate advertisements, because parents 
are usually not aware of the content of a particular advertisement 
before a child sees it. Similarly, parental control technologies 
generally block entire programs or Web sites rather than specific 
commercials contained within otherwise acceptable content for children.
    What do child psychologists, educators, and academics know about 
the effects of advertisements on children? In what ways do these 
effects vary based on a child's age, socio-economic class, or other 
factors? Among the studies that have been conducted, which ones are 
most reliable or most widely recognized as providing important 
information on this issue? Do these studies consider advertisements 
carried on newer media technologies, such as the Internet and mobile 
devices? Do advertisements for beneficial products, such as nutritious 
foods, produce positive effects for children? Are there significant 
gaps in the understanding of the effects of advertisements on children 
that should be filled by further studies? If so, what studies should be 
done and what role should the Commission play in facilitating further 
learning about these risks?
    New digital media also make possible new forms of advertising that 
warrant scrutiny into how they impact children. As discussed above, 
these forms of advertising include interactive advertisements, 
including advergames, and embedded advertisements, as well as 
behavioral and viral advertising campaigns. To what extent are children 
subjected to these new forms of advertising, including when using the 
Internet and mobile devices? What do child psychologists, educators, 
and academics know about the effects of these new forms of advertising 
on

[[Page 61313]]

children? Can they have a positive impact if the advertisement is for 
something beneficial, such as nutritious food? We note that there are 
pending NPRMs on interactive and embedded advertising in television. 
See Children's Television Obligations of Digital Television 
Broadcasters, Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed 
Rulemaking, 19 FCC Rcd 22943, 22967 (2004) (``2004 Order and FNPRM''); 
Sponsorship Identification Rules and Embedded Advertising, Notice of 
Inquiry and Notice of Proposed Rule Making, 23 FCC Rcd 10682 (2008). 
Parties wishing to update the record on the issues of interactive 
television and embedded advertising in broadcasting and cable 
programming may file ex parte submissions in those proceedings.
    The CTA is an example of a governmental action to ensure that one 
type of medium--television--limits the amount of advertising viewed by 
children. Specifically, as implemented by the Commission, the CTA 
requires commercial television licensees, cable operators, and DBS 
providers to limit the amount of commercial matter that may be aired 
during children's television programs to not more than 10.5 minutes per 
hour on weekends and not more than 12 minutes per hour on weekdays. In 
addition, the Commission requires broadcasters to use separations or 
``bumpers'' between programming and commercials to assist children in 
distinguishing between advertisements and program content. We invite 
information about the effectiveness of these rules in limiting 
commercial material viewed by children on television and how they might 
be improved.
    The CTA's commercial limits apply only to broadcast, cable, and 
satellite television. To what extent are children exposed to excessive 
and exploitative advertisements on media other than television? What 
actions, if any, should government take to create incentives to limit 
the exposure of children to advertisements and to promote associated 
policies, such as the separations policy, on these other media? Are 
there examples of voluntary industry efforts to limit the exposure of 
children to advertisements on these other media? Have these efforts 
been successful?
    The role of advertising in the spread of childhood obesity also 
warrants further study. The Commission has participated in the Task 
Force on Media and Childhood Obesity, which included representatives 
from the media, advertising, food, and beverage industries, along with 
consumer advocacy groups, healthcare experts, and academics. The Task 
Force met in an effort to examine the impact of media on childhood 
obesity and to explore voluntary recommendations to address the 
phenomenon. In addition, the Better Business Bureau has created the 
Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative to provide food and 
beverage advertisers with a self-regulation mechanism for 
advertisements aimed at children. The Initiative is aimed at ``shifting 
the mix of advertising messaging directed to children under 12 to 
encourage healthier dietary choices and healthy lifestyles.'' Have 
these voluntary efforts to curtail advertising of unhealthy food to 
children proven effective? Do these commitments extend beyond 
television to other media platforms, such as the Internet and mobile 
devices? Are additional actions needed to address these concerns?
    We invite comment also on the extent to which parents are concerned 
about exposure of children to inappropriate content within 
advertisements on various media, such as offensive language, sexual 
content, and violence. To what extent are commercials containing 
inappropriate content aired during children's television programming or 
during general audience programming that may be viewed by children, 
such as sports programming? Is it feasible to block advertisements that 
may be inappropriate for children on various media platforms? What are 
the costs and benefits? What likely economic impact would this have on 
advertiser-supported media? If the benefits outweigh the costs, what 
actions could government or industry take to ensure that children are 
not exposed to inappropriate content? What incentives could the 
government provide to encourage age-appropriate advertising practices? 
One concern raised previously is the airing during children's 
television programming of promotions for upcoming television programs 
that may themselves contain inappropriate content. We note that the 
Commission's definition of ``commercial matter'' for purposes of the 
commercial time limits may discourage the airing of these inappropriate 
promotional materials. Specifically, the definition of ``commercial 
matter'' includes all promotions of television programs or video 
programming services other than ``children's or other age-appropriate 
programming appearing on the same channel or promotions for children's 
educational and informational programming on any channel.'' 
Accordingly, nonexempted promotional materials aired during programming 
produced for children age 12 and younger must be counted as commercial 
time. Has this rule limited the exposure of young children to 
inappropriate promotional materials during children's television 
programming?

Protecting Children From the Risks

    Through household media rules and parental control tools, parents 
have some ability today to protect children from the risks of 
electronic media use. As discussed below, we seek comment on the level 
of awareness among parents of these protections and how effective these 
tools have been in combating risks posed by media consumption. We 
recognize that these issues may not be resolved solely by technology 
solutions. Accordingly, we also seek comment on non-technological 
solutions that will help protect children. In assessing these 
protections, we urge commenters to consider the impact of media 
convergence. While media convergence has many benefits, it may also 
make it more difficult for parents to protect their children from the 
risks of media exposure. For example, content that parents may block 
via the V-chip on the home television set, such as a program that is 
rated TV-14, may be freely accessible to their children on the 
Internet. Moreover, while indecency regulations apply to radio and 
television broadcasting, subscription services have generally received 
different regulatory treatment, requiring parents to take additional 
actions to protect children when using these services. In addition, 
children can now access television programming and the Internet on 
their mobile devices outside the home, where no parent is present. How 
does the mobile nature of media today affect the ability of parents to 
monitor their children's media consumption? What strategies have 
parents used to monitor their children's media exposure outside of the 
home? Have these strategies been effective? Is there more that 
government or industry should do to keep pace with this convergence and 
increase parents' ability to control the content to which their 
children are exposed? How can or should current laws be updated to 
reflect this convergence and to keep pace with changes in technology?
    We also note that household media rules and parental control 
technologies require parental involvement in their children's media 
use. Some parents, however, may be unaware of the risks from electronic 
media use or choose not to be engaged in their children's media use. 
Because household media rules and parental control tools will not 
protect children of these parents, they face increased risk of harm in 
the digital

[[Page 61314]]

world. We invite comment on what can or should government or industry 
do to protect these children from that harm. Is teaching media literacy 
to children in schools starting at a young age, as discussed further 
below, the best way to protect these children? In addition, as children 
grow older, they may become more media savvy than their parents and may 
be able to circumvent controls put in place by their parents. What 
options are there to protect these children from the risks of exposure 
to electronic media?

Household Media Rules

    One means for protecting children from the risks of electronic 
media consumption is for parents to establish rules governing their 
children's media use (``household media rules''). What studies describe 
the extent to which parents have established and implemented household 
media rules? Have these strategies been successful in protecting 
children? How can household media rules protect children when they are 
using technologies outside the home, such as mobile devices? Are 
different strategies required for newer media, such as texting and 
social networking sites, than for more traditional media, such as 
television? Are there particular rules or strategies that can serve as 
best practices for particular media or across media? Are there 
resources for parents to learn more about establishing and implementing 
household media rules?

Technology and Parental Control Tools

    Another way to protect children from the risks of electronic media 
consumption is through the use of parental control technologies. In the 
CSVA Report, we identified a wide range of parental control tools that 
exist and are available today with respect to over-the-air television, 
cable and satellite television, audio-only programming, wireless 
services, non-networked devices such as DVD players, video games, and 
the Internet. We found that the record in that proceeding indicated 
that no single parental control technology available today works across 
all media platforms. Moreover, even within each media platform, we 
found that the available technologies vary greatly with respect to 
certain criteria. Generally, we identified five areas for further study 
with respect to parental control tools across media platforms: (i) 
Level of consumer awareness of such tools; (ii) pace of adoption; (iii) 
ease of use; (iv) familiarity with and understanding of ratings 
systems; and (v) pace of innovation. As discussed below, we seek 
comment on each of these issues in order to increase our understanding 
of how parental control technologies can best be used to protect 
children in an evolving electronic media marketplace.
    Level of Consumer Awareness of the Tools. We seek comment on the 
extent to which parents are aware of specific parental control 
technologies across all media platforms. To what extent does the level 
of awareness differ among media? What additional promotional and 
educational efforts would be effective in increasing awareness of these 
parental control technologies? In the CSVA Report, we noted that 
estimates of awareness of the V-chip among parents vary from 49 percent 
to 69 percent. We seek comment on what actions, if any, should 
Congress, the Commission, or industry take to increase awareness of the 
V-chip as a tool to protect children from inappropriate content on 
broadcast television. Would a joint effort between the Commission and 
industry similar to that undertaken in connection with the DTV 
transition be effective in familiarizing parents with the available 
tools? If so, how should such an outreach program be most effectively 
structured?
    Pace of Adoption. We seek comment on the extent to which parents 
are adopting specific parental control technologies. To the extent that 
the adoption rate is low, what reasons, if any, besides lack of 
awareness keep parents from adopting parental control technologies, and 
to what extent do these reasons differ among media? For example, in the 
CSVA Report, we noted that adoption of control technologies may be 
greater for the Internet than for broadcasting and other traditional 
media. We invite comment on the reasons for this difference in adoption 
rates. We also seek comment on whether and, if so, what actions could 
be taken to increase adoption of parental control technologies. In the 
CSVA Report, we noted that estimates of V-chip adoption vary from 5 
percent to 16 percent of parents. We seek comment on what actions, if 
any, Congress, the Commission, or industry should take to increase 
adoption of the V-chip. In this regard, we seek data and information 
about whether parents have doubts about the reliable application of the 
existing ``TV Parental Guidelines'' industry rating system by 
programmers or other responsible entities and, if so, whether those 
doubts affect parents' interest in using V-chip technology. Would 
improvements in the operation and visibility of the industry's 
Oversight Monitoring Board, which fields complaints about ratings, be 
helpful in addressing such doubts?
    Ease of Use. We seek comment on what, if any, features of specific 
parental control technologies parents find easy to use and helpful, and 
what features they find confusing and difficult to use. We seek comment 
on whether and, if so, how these technologies could be improved to make 
them easier for parents to use.
    Familiarity With and Understanding of the Ratings System. We seek 
comment on whether parents are familiar with and understand the various 
ratings systems currently in use and the way content is evaluated for 
blocking and other purposes in conjunction with specific parental 
control technologies. To the extent the level of familiarity or 
understanding is low, we seek comment on whether that lack of 
familiarity or understanding is impeding use of particular parental 
control technologies. We also seek comment on whether and, if so, what 
steps can be taken to increase familiarity and understanding of the 
various ratings systems. Are there studies or data from other countries 
that have ratings systems or other parental control technologies? In 
the CSVA Report, we noted studies indicating that many parents do not 
understand the existing TV Parental Guidelines used in conjunction with 
the V-chip. We seek comment on ways to increase understanding of the TV 
Parental Guidelines. Would the creation of a uniform rating system that 
would apply to various platforms be an appropriate objective? If so, 
how should such a system be structured and administered?
    Pace of Innovation. We seek comment on the pace of innovation with 
respect to parental control technologies. Is innovation in parental 
control technologies proceeding at a pace consistent with other 
consumer technologies (e.g., computers, mobile phones and broadband 
devices)? We also seek comment on whether innovation in parental 
control technologies is proceeding at a pace that ensures that new 
parental control features and devices are being developed at a rate 
that meets evolving parental and caregiver needs. What is driving 
innovation in parental control technologies--is it the force of 
parental concerns, or is it simply the pace of innovation in media 
technologies themselves? In the CSVA Report, we noted a number of areas 
for further study regarding innovation with respect to V-chip 
technology. Can the V-chip be used to select or ``white list'' 
television programs identified as ``core'' educational programs? How 
feasible

[[Page 61315]]

would it be to add this function to the V-chip and what would be the 
costs and benefits of doing so? Can the current V-chip technology 
support an ``open V-chip'' that would allow parents to select from 
multiple ratings systems? Is further investment in the V-chip 
warranted, given the relatively low use of the V-chip and the 
increasing number of alternative parental control tools available to 
pay TV subscribers? What steps, if any, should Congress, the 
Commission, or industry take to give parents access to multiple content 
ratings for television in addition to ratings assigned by content 
producers?

Media Literacy

    Some experts view increased media literacy and education for 
parents, teachers, and children as a key way to enable children to 
enjoy the benefits of electronic media while avoiding the potential 
harms. We seek comment on how great a role media literacy can play in 
this respect and what actions can be taken to promote media literacy.

Is There a Minimum Necessary Level of Media Literacy?

    We seek comment on whether there is a minimum level of media 
literacy that parents, teachers, and children must have to ensure that 
children can participate effectively in modern society and enjoy the 
benefits of electronic media while avoiding the potential harms. By way 
of example, some of the necessary elements of media literacy might 
include knowledge of: (i) The various types of electronic media; (ii) 
the benefits of the electronic media landscape; (iii) how to access 
beneficial content; (iv) the risks of the electronic media landscape; 
(v) how to avoid these risks (for parents, this may include household 
media rules and use of parental control technologies; for children, 
this may include the critical thinking skills needed to make smart 
choices); (vi) how to distinguish between program content and 
advertising; and (vii) the privacy implications of using various media. 
Are all of these elements necessary to a minimal level of media 
literacy? Are there additional necessary elements? Are there studies of 
what parents, teachers, and children must know to be sufficiently media 
literate?

Teaching Media Literacy to All Stakeholders

    We seek comment on the availability and sufficiency of media 
literacy training for parents, teachers, and children. To what extent 
is media literacy a required part of school curricula throughout the 
nation? Is media literacy education in schools particularly critical 
for those at-risk children whose parents are either unaware of the 
benefits and harms of media consumption or choose not to become 
involved in monitoring their children's media use? At what age should 
children begin to be taught media literacy? Is it critical for such 
education to begin early in a child's development? What roles do the 
Department of Education and other government or private organizations 
play in this area? Are there studies or data on the effectiveness of 
media literacy education and which approaches work best for particular 
demographics? What are current best practices on teaching media 
literacy? Are there limitations on the value of teaching media literacy 
to children? For example, are there certain issues, such as the ability 
to understand persuasive intent in advertising, that children under a 
certain age lack the cognitive ability to comprehend? We also note that 
schools are responsible for students' media consumption while they are 
in school. How do schools determine whether to use media literacy and/
or control tools to protect children while consuming media in schools? 
What factors do schools consider in determining what is appropriate 
material for children to access? To what extent are schools blocking 
content that might be beneficial for children? Are there any studies or 
data available on the impact on long-range educational and/or career 
opportunities from limiting children's access to online resources? Is 
there anything that can and should be done to assist teachers and 
schools in managing students' media consumption and promoting students' 
media literacy while they are in school? How are parents and teachers 
taught media literacy? Are there examples of media literacy programs 
that could serve as a model for teaching parents and teachers? What 
role could or should the government, and the Commission in particular, 
play in ensuring that children, educators, and parents receive 
appropriate media literacy training? What role should the media 
industry play in this area?

Resources on Media Literacy

    While there is a significant amount of information on media 
literacy available today, it is unclear whether parents, teachers, and 
children are aware of this information or whether they can find this 
information easily. Is there a single source today that pulls together 
existing information about media literacy? What are the available 
sources of such information? Should the government, and the Commission 
in particular, seek to establish an on-line resource? If so, how can 
the Commission best promote this resource so that parents and children 
are aware of it? Are there other governmental or private organizations 
that are working on or have already prepared such on-line resources? 
Are they comprehensive? Do they cover the latest technologies?

Other Outreach

    We seek comment on other efforts that would be effective in 
promoting media literacy among parents, teachers, and children. Some 
examples of these efforts might include promotional campaigns, 
outreach, and public service announcements (``PSAs''). What 
contribution could these efforts make toward promoting media literacy?

Coordinating Government Efforts

    We recognize that other governmental activities are underway that 
address one or more of the issues raised here. For example, in the 
Broadband Data Improvement Act, Congress directed the National 
Telecommunications and Information Administration (``NTIA'') to 
establish the Online Safety and Technology Working Group (``OSTWG'') to 
examine, among others things, industry efforts to promote online safety 
through educational efforts, parental control technology, and blocking 
and filtering software. See Broadband Data Improvement Act, Public Law 
110-385, section 214(b), 122 Stat. 4096, 4104 (2008). Specifically, 
OSTWG is charged with reviewing and evaluating the following issues:
    (1) The status of industry efforts to promote online safety through 
educational efforts, parental control technology, blocking and 
filtering software, age-appropriate labels for content or other 
technologies or initiatives designed to promote a safe online 
environment for children;
    (2) The status of industry efforts to promote online safety among 
providers of electronic communications services and remote computing 
services by reporting apparent child pornography under section 13032 of 
title 42, United States Code, including any obstacles to such 
reporting;
    (3) The practices of electronic communications service providers 
and remote computing service providers related to record retention in 
connection with crimes against children; and
    (4) The development of technologies to help parents shield their 
children from inappropriate material on the Internet.
    See id. The same law requires the Federal Trade Commission 
(``FTC'') to

[[Page 61316]]

carry out a nationwide program to increase public awareness and provide 
education about strategies to promote the safe use of the Internet by 
children, including encouraging best practices for Internet safety. The 
Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 authorizes the 
Attorney General, in consultation with the National Center for Missing 
and Exploited Children, to carry out a public awareness campaign to 
demonstrate to children, parents, and community leaders how to protect 
children better on the Internet. The same law directs the Attorney 
General to make grants to States, units of local government, and 
nonprofit organizations to establish programs for educating children 
and parents in the best ways for children to be safe when on the 
Internet. Pursuant to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, the 
FTC has adopted rules detailing, among other things, the 
responsibilities of Web site operators that seek to collect information 
from children under the age of 13.
    The Commission recently partnered with OnGuard Online, a 
partnership with 11 Federal agencies and 17 groups concerned with 
safety, hosted by the FTC, which provides practical tips ``to help you 
be on guard against Internet fraud, secure your computer, and protect 
your personal information.'' OnGuard Online provides educational 
material, videos, and games on a wide range of subjects including e-
mail scams, identity theft, kids privacy, social networking sites, 
spyware, and phishing. Much of the material can be downloaded, printed, 
embedded in third party Web sites, and otherwise widely used and 
distributed. The Commission looks forward to participating in and 
contributing to OnGuard Online.
    We seek comment on any additional efforts underway, at either the 
Federal or State level, that address the issues raised in this NOI. 
What can the Commission do to assist these existing governmental 
efforts? Are there areas that the government is not currently 
addressing that the Commission should address? Which of the ongoing 
governmental activities encompass media platforms other than online 
media, including television, radio, audio devices, and video games?

Legal Authority

    We note that the Commission has varying degrees of statutory 
authority with respect to different media. We ask commenters, in 
proposing any action, to discuss the source and extent of the 
Commission's authority to take the action, or whether new legislation 
would be needed to authorize such action. In addition, as discussed 
above, commenters should discuss the compatibility of any proposed 
action with the First Amendment.

Procedural Matters

Ex Parte Presentations

    This is an exempt proceeding in which ex parte presentations are 
permitted (except during the Sunshine Agenda period) and need not be 
disclosed.

Comment Filing Procedures

    Pursuant to sections 1.415 and 1.419 of the Commission's rules, 47 
CFR sections 1.415, 1.419, interested parties may file comments and 
reply comments on or before the dates indicated on the first page of 
this document. Comments may be filed using: (1) The Commission's 
Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), (2) the Federal Government's 
eRulemaking Portal, or (3) by filing paper copies.
     Electronic Filers: Comments may be filed electronically 
using the Internet by accessing the ECFS: http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/ecfs/ 
or the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Filers 
should follow the instructions provided on the Web site for submitting 
comments.
     In completing the transmittal screen, filers should 
include their full name, U.S. Postal Service mailing address, and the 
applicable docket or rulemaking number. Parties may also submit an 
electronic comment by Internet e-mail. To get filing instructions, 
filers should send an e-mail to ecfs@fcc.gov, and include the following 
words in the body of the message, ``get form.'' A sample form and 
directions will be sent in response.
     Paper Filers: Parties who choose to file by paper must 
file an original and four copies of each filing. If more than one 
docket or rulemaking number appears in the caption of this proceeding, 
filers must submit two additional copies for each additional docket or 
rulemaking number.
    Filings can be sent by hand or messenger delivery, by commercial 
overnight courier, or by first-class or overnight U.S. Postal Service 
mail (although we continue to experience delays in receiving U.S. 
Postal Service mail). All filings must be addressed to the Commission's 
Secretary, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission.
     The Commission's contractor will receive hand-delivered or 
messenger-delivered paper filings for the Commission's Secretary at 236 
Massachusetts Avenue, NE., Suite 110, Washington, DC 20002. The filing 
hours at this location are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. All hand deliveries must be 
held together with rubber bands or fasteners. Any envelopes must be 
disposed of before entering the building.
     Commercial overnight mail (other than U.S. Postal Service 
Express Mail and Priority Mail) must be sent to 9300 East Hampton 
Drive, Capitol Heights, MD 20743.
     U.S. Postal Service first-class, Express, and Priority 
mail should be addressed to 445 12th Street, SW., Washington, DC 20554.
    People With Disabilities: To request materials in accessible 
formats for people with disabilities (braille, large print, electronic 
files, audio format), send an e-mail to fcc504@fcc.gov or call the 
Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 (voice), 202-
418-0432 (tty).
    Comments and reply comments will be available for public inspection 
during regular business hours in the FCC Reference Center, Federal 
Communications Commission, 445 12th Street, SW., CY-A257, Washington, 
DC 20554. These documents will also be available via ECFS. Documents 
will be available electronically in ASCII, Word 97, and/or Adobe 
Acrobat.
    Additional Information. For additional information on this 
proceeding, contact David Konczal, David.Konczal@fcc.gov; Kim Matthews, 
Kim.Matthews@fcc.gov; or Holly Saurer, Holly.Saurer@fcc.gov; of the 
Media Bureau, Policy Division, (202) 418-2120.

Ordering Clauses

    Accordingly, it is ordered, pursuant to the authority contained in 
Sections 1, 4(i) and (j), 303(r), and 403 of the Communications Act of 
1934, 47 U.S.C. sections 151, 154(i) and (j), 303(r), and 403, that 
this Notice of Inquiry is adopted.

Marlene H. Dortch,
Secretary, Federal Communications Commission.
[FR Doc. E9-27664 Filed 11-23-09; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6712-01-P