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Connected to the Internet, the PC has created enormous opportunities for people of all ages to enhance the way they work, learn, play and communicate. The personal empowerment that has resulted from this PC revolution is phenomenal.
Like any medium, the Internet raises issues that concern parents, teachers and others, including Microsoft. Microsoft has long recognized that protecting young people from inappropriate online content is essential as society moves further into the Information Age. This paper is intended to provide an overview of Microsoft initiatives designed to help ensure that the World Wide Web is a safe, educational and entertaining place for young people to explore.
Microsoft believes that ensuring this safety is a responsibility shared broadly among parents, the industry, government and communities. Moreover, there is no single solution. A combination of informing and educating parents and children, using widely available technological tools, and providing adequate supervision is clearly a key part of any solution.
Platform for Internet Content Selection (PICS), Internet Explorer Content Advisor, and the Internet Content Rating Association
A free, easy-to-use technology included with Windows that allows parents to limit what their kids see on the Internet
Microsoft was part of the original team that developed the "Platform for Internet Content Selection" (PICS), an open technical standard endorsed by the World Wide Web Consortium that can support different rating systems for filtering Internet content and excluding content deemed inappropriate by parents or teachers.
Since August 1996, Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser has included the Content Advisor parental control made possible through the PICS platform. The Internet Explorer Content Advisor, built into Internet Explorer and included free of charge with every copy of Windows sold, allows parents or guardians to limit their children’s access to sites on the internet that have rated their content according to objective standards – for example, various degrees of profanity, violence or sexuality. Parents may set viewing thresholds as restrictively or leniently as they see fit, and can even bar the viewing of any site that has failed to rate its own content.
Microsoft was also one of the first companies to support RSACi – a rating system based on PICS being implemented by the Recreational Software Advisory Council and increasingly being used by online content providers to rate their sites. RSACi is now being promoted internationally through the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA), of which Microsoft is a founding sponsor.
Kids Online Safety Initiative with Boys and Girls Clubs of America
Microsoft teams with BGCA and Shaquille O’Neal to help disadvantaged youth get online and use the Internet safely
Microsoft, in cooperation with Boys and Girls Clubs of America, will be piloting 15 technology centers in clubs serving economically disadvantaged communities. The project will evaluate how best to provide technology access through local Boys and Girls Clubs and work with their national organization to share best practices. Microsoft’s $1.1 million commitment will provide computers, Internet access, infrastructure improvements, staff training and supervisory personnel for the centers.
Microsoft is also creating with the BGCA and basketball superstar Shaquille O’Neal an online safety training program called Stay Safe Online. The program will be piloted in the 15 technology centers and will provide Club members with helpful safety tips for surfing online. Shaquille O’Neal stars in the online program, as he and four other animated characters, teach children about online safety and the proper use of the Internet. The program reinforces for children that the Internet is a great place to discover and explore if you know the rules of the road.
Microsoft’s online service educates new members about online safety and refers them to filtering products
During the sign-up process for the Microsoft Network (MSN), one of the world’s largest online services, we provide information on "user choice" that enables members to activate the Content Advisor feature in Internet Explorer. In addition, MSN makes available a link to a list of currently marketed non-Microsoft parental control software titles, and that list, in turn, contains further links to the Web sites for those products.
Microsoft uses the RSACi system to rate MSN's content (everything published aside from MSNBC news, and our consumer calendar, shopping and e-mail services), and MSN provides a variety of educational Web pages and tips on how to stay safe online. To educate MSN members, we provide hints and tips on children and computers, adult content, privacy, member Ids, security, chat-room use and other areas of interest.
MSN actively encourages parents to stay closely involved in their children’s activities online; we warn that there may be areas on the Internet that they might not want their children to view; and we strongly caution them about giving out any personal information. We also explain that the Internet content to which they link from MSN, MSN-hosted Web pages and other Microsoft online services is not controlled by Microsoft.
Microsoft, the Naperville Police and the Illinois Attorney General team up on kids online safety
One of the biggest challenges to online safety for children is the "cybergap" that often exists between children and adults. Even technologically savvy parents and teachers are facing the challenges of dealing with children whose computer skills and capabilities surpass their own. Microsoft, in cooperation with the Naperville (Ill.) Police Department's Internet Crimes Unit (NPD) and the Illinois Attorney General's Internet Task Force, created the Safekids Web – complete with a presentation on Internet safety and a teachers’ training guide – to help parents and educators teach children the fundamentals of Internet safety.
Microsoft also publishes online a list of sites offering tips to both parents and teachers on online internet safety, as well as a number of sites rich with content targeted at children. And, finally, Microsoft’s Encarta Schoolhouse Web site lists 30 guidelines for children to follow to stay safe online.
Microsoft designs interactive software and online resources for kids that make learning fun
Microsoft devotes substantial resources to developing educational materials for children. Our offerings include the grade-based "My Personal Tutor," identifies a child's specific learning needs and offers instruction where and when it's needed most; our interactive TeleTubbies and Barney Actimates, which allow children to learn through play at their own pace and with a partner; our award-winning "Scholastic’s The Magic School Bus" CD-ROM series featuring a magically transformable bus which takes a class of enthusiastic, inquisitive students on educational field trips on subjects like the solar system, dinosaurs and oceans; "Creative Writer" designed to inspire and enable kids to publish their ideas to the world through a studio of writing and drawing tools for school projects and creative writing; and our widely acclaimed "Encarta" Encyclopedia, an authoritative collection of more than 40,000 articles, 9,300 photos and illustrations, 13,500 Web links and numerous audio and video clips designed to bring learning to life.
Microsoft’s Internet-on-TV product lets parents set up restricted accounts for kids
WebTV Networks, Inc. is a Microsoft subsidiary that delivers the Internet via television using a TV set-top box and a telephone line. The WebTV Network offers six separate accounts for each household, so that parents can set up restricted accounts for use by children. Specifically, the WebTV Network offers two features that restrict access to mature content on the Internet, SurfWatch and a Kid Friendly zone, either of which can be activated for a child's account. SurfWatch is third-party, content-filtering software that, when activated, prevents access to mature content on the Internet. Kid Friendly is an even more controlled WebTV service that pulls together only content of interest to children, and which makes the Internet both a safe and fun environment. Additional security features enable parents to prevent children from sending and/or receiving e-mail.
Coordination with Law Enforcement
Microsoft coordinates with and trains law enforcement worldwide to pursue online criminals and predators
Microsoft has instituted a 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week hotline that law enforcement can use if they need immediate assistance in pursuing online criminals, including child pornographers and pedophiles. We also now employ four individuals who are respected worldwide for their specialized experience in law enforcement and investigative techniques. Working with a staff of 20, these experts help law enforcement determine how, when and where criminal activity may be occurring on or via Microsoft’s online services, and what Microsoft can do to help catch the perpetrators within the bounds of the law. At present, we estimate that we assist law enforcement with almost 1,000 requests per year.
Microsoft’s experts actively support and participate in classes and forums on evidence collection and preservation involving a wide range of law enforcement agencies. Participants in Microsoft-sponsored classes have included personnel from the FBI, DOJ, DEA, Secret Service, intelligence organizations and state attorney general offices. We have also sponsored our experts’ individual training activities at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Academy, the FBI Academy and the National White Collar Crime Center. In addition, our experts represent Microsoft at various national and international crime fighting organizations such as Interpol, the Federal Computer Investigations Committee, the High-Tech Crime Investigator Association and the International Organization of Chiefs of Police.
Industry Sponsored Education and Resources: America Links Up & One Click Away
Microsoft partners with our industry peers to ensure the availability of online resources for kids, parents and teachers
Microsoft is a lead sponsor and corporate host of "America Links Up," a public-awareness and education campaign sponsored by a broad-based coalition of non-profits, education groups and corporations concerned with providing children with a safe and rewarding experience online. The site points kids to fun and exciting sites to explore, and steers parents and educators to tips on how to provide online guidance to children so they surf safely.
Microsoft, along with a number of industry partners, has also committed to funding the "One Click Away" Web site by July 1999 and making kids online-safety tools and good content easily accessible -- just "one click away" -- for every parent, child, teenager and concerned user on the Internet. As a result of the breadth of companies committed to this effort, when it is fully implemented more than 95 percent of Internet users will find these resources just one click away every time they go online.
Helping parents manage their children's personal information online
Microsoft Kids Passport is an innovative service that will help parents ensure their children use the Web safely. Kids Passport will give parents the confidence that their child’s online privacy is protected, allowing the child to safely benefit from the vast resources and educational potential of the Internet. By using Kids Passport, parents will be able to decide on a site-by-site basis whether they want to allow their child to use participating Web sites’ services that collect and/or disclose personally identifiable information, such as their name, e-mail address, postal address, or phone number. These services might include newsletters, discussion groups, pen pal programs, wish lists, or contests. Kids Passport also allows parents to make a different set of choices for each child. This allows parents to make appropriate consent decisions based on the child’s age today, and to modify these decisions as the child matures and can be given greater responsibility for his or her online behavior.
Kids Passport is the first turnkey solution available to Web sites for managing parental consent and helping sites comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which goes into effect April 21, 2000. COPPA requires that all Web sites obtain parental consent before collecting and/or disclosing a child’s personal information. Kids Passport will be available later this Spring.