ERGA, and independent advisory body to the European Commission organised an interesting workshop on 4 October in Brussels with different stakeholders presenting their present and future activities on the protection of minors. The role of parents in this and services targeting parents were constantly highlighted by both industry and policy speakers. EPA was offered the opportunity to present our view and approach in this area as well are reflect on the state of play and plans presented.
Madeleine de Cock Buning – Chair of ERGA highlighted the importance of raising awareness among parents, the desire of parents to have transparency of services, especially of those platforms where self-produced content can be published. She also mentioned a policy push for enhanced parental control measures. She quoted that “parents want safe heavens for their children” that is an illusion apparently while some protection measures are clearly desirable. She also highlighted the need for good practices to be shared without legal obligations. She emphasised that protection of minors should be a joint efforts of authorities, companies, parents and educators, and that flexibility and openness are necessary for that.
Lubos Kuklis offered a recap of the ERGA report on the protection of minors that contain the measures used, approach of the largest players and measures in the pipeline. When in comes to television services it was mentioned that obligatory labelling systems are not there in every member state and if they are there, they are not the same. In this field there are PIN protection and parental control services. In the video-on-demand field the so-called watershed methodology is present as well as parental controls and dedicated children apps. Video-sharing platforms are mostly rely on users, trying to create communities of attentive users. Audiovisual content distributors use labelling, PIN or parental control in selected services, and rely on info by content producers. In their cases PIN is always in place for content not suitable for minors. There are also some trans platform initiatives: You Rate It, miracle, alliance to better protect minors online, ICT Coalition.
The German age rating system of games and apps and the Dutch age-rating institutes methodology were presented as inspiring practices, as well as the policy of Google on YouTube, and Netflix. Spanish Telecom and Sky have presented their policy as intermediaries, with the former focusing on information and cooperation, especially with parents, and the latter presenting their new default setting on Sky devices being 13+, a setting 6-7% of users turned on voluntarily before, with no restriction becoming a private setting rather than default.
Miracle, an age classification initiative based on legal regulations, developmental psychology and flexibility of parenting. The presenter said “we are likely to come to a point of parental control fatigue and parents will refrain from turning it on”, a thought challenged by EPA’s standpoint promoting dialogue, education and parenting measures instead of applying any parental controls.
Some new initiatives raise a number of child rights issues so they need to be followed and scrutinised by parents association in order to prevent any initiative to become operational that harm the rights of the child, the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations to come into force in May 2018), EPA has been dealing with for some time, being one of them.
There was an opportunity to present EPA’s official policy and standpoint at the event. Of the 2014 policy paper it was highlighted that parents are responsible for guiding their children, and we need information and support, request constant dialogue from companies and authorities and want transparent rules on content not suitable for minors. The need for minors to be able to fully delete content was also highlighted.
The parents’ organisations’ demand to have no restrictive regulations, but more support to change parenting practice and bulid trust was emphasised in the presentation. It is an illusion to think there is a ‚children only’ online highway, thus we need to learn how to cross the same road together – a thing parents need to be empowered for and let to educate their children. Ratings are a useful information tool for parents, but it is not clear as it is, so there is a need to develop a uniform European system and involve the parents in it. There is a need to use different approaches to parents of under 10-11 and of those over.
This workshop was declared to be the first in a series of events and we bear the promise of ERGA to be involved in all future ones.