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Gore puts Net protection in parents' hands

Following the school shootings in Littleton, Colorado, the White House announces the Parents' Protection Page, a resource to help parents block minors' access to violent and "inappropriate" Net content.

Following the school shootings in Littleton, Colorado, the White House today announced the Parents' Protection Page, a resource that will help parents block minors' access to violent and other "inappropriate" Net content.

As reported earlier, Vice President Al Gore's plan aims to put child safety resources just "one click away" from parents' grasp and is being backed by the Internet Education Foundation and major online companies, including America Online, AT&T, Disney Online, Network Solutions, and Yahoo.

The site, which is not live yet, will include links to filtering technologies and sites deemed appropriate for children and will refer Net users to places where they can report online activity that concerns them. The Parents' Protection Page content also will be syndicated so that online service providers can build it into their existing sites.

"With this new Parents' Protection Page, we will help ensure that children aren't surfing into dangerous waters," Gore said in a statement. "By establishing one simple place to block and monitor what children will see, we are giving the computer keyboard back to those who know best--America's parents."

The Clinton administration has held meetings similar to the one today and has promoted the same technologies to quell complaints about the easy availability of online pornography.

But the renewed effort focuses on curbing minors' access to violent Net content, after news reports and policy makers focused heavily on the suspected Littleton killers' online activity. Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, who witnesses said killed 12 Columbine High School students and a teacher before killing themselves on April 20, both used the Net. Harris reportedly discussed making bombs and committing murder on his AOL site.

The Littleton tragedy has sparked a nationwide dialogue about a range of issues, from the alienation many teenagers feel to minors' access to guns and violent media. The Parents' Protection Page is expected to address these topics.

Not surprisingly, the White House wants to lead the discussion about how to address the issue of youth violence. And it will be Gore, the administration's primary spokesman on high-tech issues, who will set the tone when the debate turns to the Net.

Other lawmakers already are placing part of the blame for the Littleton carnage on the media. Yesterday, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing, "Marketing Violence to Our Children," which concentrated on video games, music, TV, and the Net.

"The tragedy in Littleton was a bizarre and complex crime. We should examine this and other school shootings from every angle and not single out one potential cause," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) testified yesterday.

Still, he fingered violent video games as one contributing factor and added, "I have begun discussions with Internet service providers and computer manufacturers about how to make screening software, which helps parents protect their children from inappropriate material on the Internet, more readily available."