One of the topics I cover with great interest, as a journalist and as the father of two sons and a daughter, is « children and the digital worlds ».
The Digital Worlds can bring content of great value to the lives of our kids. For example, the Internet provides immense quantities of useful information.
But the Digital Worlds, as the mirrors of human activities in the real world, can be the places of unwanted encounters. A child who isn’t seeking objectionable content can come across it inadvertently or someone may deliberately force such content upon him.
That is the reason why I published a book in 2004 entitled « Children in front of the screens: pornography, the real violence », with a preface by Dr. Aldo Naouri, a famous French pediatrician.
After this publication, I was part of the French Government’s Interdepartmental Working group on Internet and Kids’ Safety, in 2005.The written contribution I prepared within the framework of this working group was: « Filtering software and parental control: an incentive for the development of 100% reliable products ».
In December 2006, I sent a letter to the 577 French MPs asking for a better protection of children online. After reading my mail, four MPs immediately requested clarification from the Head of the French Department in charge of Family Policy (ministre de la Famille).
In January 2007, I gave a lecture before the Head of the French Department in charge of Youth and Sports (ministre de la Jeunesse et des Sports): « Is there an impact of pornography on young people? « .
In June 2007, I submitted various proposals for a safer Internet to the Unit E-6 (eContent and Safer Internet) of the Directorate-General for Information Society and Media of the European Commission.
In January 2008, I published a book entitled « The 90 questions all parents are asking themselves about mobile phones,the Internet, video games… » to help families with the uses of online technologies by children (see http://www.nosenfants.fr – it’s in French, sorry!). As far as I’m aware of, this book is unique in France: it is the only one to address all aspects of new technologies and to give parents easy to implement pieces of advice.
In this book, I raise, among other issues, a problem that concerns all families, worldwide: the control tools currently available to families are not powerful enough. *.
In July 2008, I created a Linkedin group about kid’s safety in the digital worlds (see http://www.kids-safety-in-the-digital-worlds.com/).
In August 2008, I met with an adviser of the Head of the French Department in charge of Family Policy (ministre de la Famille) to ask for a better protection of children online.
At the invitation of parents associations, local administrations, associations for the defense of children and social organizations, I have given about thirty lectures for the parents on the theme of children and the new technologies.
*E.g.: SafeSearch, provided by Google.
When preparing the book (« The 90 questions all parents are asking themselves about mobile phones, the Internet, video games… »), in July 2007, I tested the Filtering tools of Google, Microsoft Live Search and Yahoo!. After chosing the strict filtering option (Filter both explicit text and explicit images), I entered « sexe » (French word for « sex ») in Google, Live Search and Yahoo!. Live Search returned no result. Google and Yahoo! returned pages of results, but I didn’t find any objectionable content. But both Google and Yahoo! displayed sponsored links for adult web sites.
In July 2007, I sent an e-mail to the PR specialists of Google and Yahoo!. Soon after, Yahoo! undertook to change its filtering process so that no more « Adult » sponsored links would be displayed when the strict filtering option was activated. Anne-Gabrielle Dauba-Pantanacce however, PR specialist at Google France, simply answered that Google did its best to keep SafeSearch as up-to-date and comprehensive as possible. « If you find websites containing offensive content in your results, please contact us. »
In July 2008, I repeated the exact same test. The situation has not evolved in a year and seems to be even worse. On http://www.nosenfants.fr/2008/07/when-preparing-book-90-questions-all.html, you will find 3 snapshots of the test I made last July. I entered « sexe » on Google, Live Search and Yahoo!. The results speak for themselves. Click on the pictures to enlarge them.
The first snapshot is from Google: please note the sponsored link and the fourth result of the search, both of them Adult content.