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Fox launches online-safety campaign

Kiefer Sutherland of "24" to star in public-service announcement. Campaign to keep MySpace out of trouble?

Fox Interactive Media announced on Thursday a multimedia campaign to help kids and parents improve their online street smarts.

Through a partnership with the National PTA and Common Sense Media, the News Corp. division plans to use TV and Web ads, as well as informational materials, to spread advice regarding online safety.

Kiefer Sutherland Kiefer Sutherland

Kiefer Sutherland, who plays government agent Jack Bauer on Fox's popular "24" TV thriller will be featured in a public-service announcement that will play on Fox-owned television networks, both national and regional, as well as online Fox properties such as game-centric IGN Entertainment and its Rotten Tomatoes film reviews site.

Accompanying the public-service announcement will be an "Internet Survival Guide for Parents" published by Common Sense. The nonprofit organization specializes in family-oriented reviews of movies, TV, games and Web sites.

Fox's sponsorship of the Internet safety campaign may help boost News Corp.'s standing among politicians and parents. Its social-networking site, which was measured by tracking firm Hitwise last week as the single most visited U.S. Web site, has recently come under fire for facilitating interactions between minors and sexual predators--not to mention for providing a stage for "cyberbullies."

In addition, members of Congress this week hinted at a crackdown on social-networking sites, a move that would potentially eat into MySpace's young user base.

A national poll of parents that Common Sense conducted this spring revealed genuine conflict over the Internet's role in children's lives: Parents fear for their children's online safety, but at the same time, they acknowledge that the Web is simultaneously an important tool for learning and socializing.

Eighty-five percent of survey respondents considered the Internet to be the most dangerous form of media for children--in second place, with 13 percent, was television. Seventy-nine percent voiced concerns that social-networking sites such as and MySpace were unsafe.

Lifestyle concerns came into play as well, as 71 percent of parents worried about Web usage keeping their children from being outside.

But while they may be worried about children's Web activities, respondents to the Common Sense poll don't want to simply shut kids off from the Internet. Seventy-four percent identified the Web as the best form of media for helping kids to learn and mature, ahead of TV, magazines and DVDs; and 91 percent appreciate how the Internet helps kids explore their interests.

As for how to reconcile the Web's benefits with uneasiness about children's online use, 83 percent of poll respondents say there's no excuse for not knowing enough about the Internet. With the public-service campaign, Fox and Common Sense aim to address that issue.