|Childrens Online Privacy Protection Rule Comment, P994504
Submitted on June 11, 1999 by
The Association of Educational Publishers (EdPress)
The Association of Educational Publishers (EdPress) appreciates the opportunity to provide these brief comments on the Federal Trade Commissions proposed rules to implement the Childrens Online Privacy Act of 1998. We commend the FTC for the careful and comprehensive consideration it has given this difficult issue, not only in crafting this proposed rule, but in its earlier work in examining the many uncertainties related to this new and rapidly changing medium.
We share many of the concerns raised by Congress, the FTC and others about the impact the Internet can have on children. EdPress is an organization serving publishers of educational materials for children, families and schools. EdPress and its members have long focused on supplemental educational publishing--in an increasing variety of forums--and its positive impact on learning and teaching. EdPress serves CEOs, editorial, marketing and PR professionals. Member companies include national, regional and local school and teacher publications, national childrens magazines, software publishers, supplemental publishers and broadcasters, foundations and corporations with educational programs. Allied members include school districts and educational associations. Among EdPresss 400 company members are Scholastic Inc., Weekly Reader Corporation, Highlights for Children Inc., Time For Kids, The Cricket Magazine Group, Evan-Moor Educational Publishers, The Education Center, Turner Learning, and The Learning Company. Though the level of sophistication and activity varies widely, most of the members of our 104-year-old organization have a significant presence on the Internet.
We recognize that this nationthrough decisions made by the Congress and state and local governments, as well as classroom teachersis committed to encouraging young people to use and explore the Internet. We share the enthusiasm shown by policy makers, parents, educators and young people for childrens use of this medium. We appreciate its significant potential as an educational and enriching resource and as a tool through which young people and parents can obtain additional and traditional educational resources. And we are committed to promoting the use of the Internet as a means for increasing the access to quality learning for all children.
We therefore caution the FTC and other policy makers not to send mixed messages about the Internet to parents, educators and children. We agree that certain protections are needed and laud the goal of increased parental involvement in childrens use of the Internet. But the federal government should not promote the need for access to the Internet in every classroom, while, at the same time, implying that interactions and exchange of information online are bad. It should not praise the Internets educational value while making it harder to fulfill that promise.
Parents and educators regularly encourage children to combine reading and writing with active citizenship. On the Internet, this may mean sending e-mail letters to the editor in response to articles they have read online or in a magazine. It may mean writing a review of a book online. In most cases, websites designed for children are a beneficial form of communication that can have significant educational value.
While we realize that Congress restricted this Act to "commercial" websites, we encourage the FTC to recognize that commercial transactions are not inherently bad. A childs expressed desire to own The Magic School Bus or read Highlights for Children every month should be encouraged.
We urge the FTC to show as much flexibility as possible in writing the rules to implement the Act to ensure that educational websites can operate in ways that support sound educational practice and in ways that reward a childs curiosity and love of reading and the written word. As the FTC recognizes, this is a very complicated matter. We urge you to be extremely cautious to ensure that this Act and its rules do not have negative unintended consequences.
Overly restrictive guidelines could thwart the educational publishing industrys ability to serve children, families and educators by denigrating the websites themselves, discouraging communication from children that has educational and personal value, and creating barriers that diminish the ability of publishers to use the Internet as a means to provide traditional supplemental materials to families, children and schools either online or through the mail.
While, for the most part, our comments speak generally to the proposed rules, we offer the following specifics:
EdPress is pleased that the FTC will hold a workshop on the proposed rule on July 20, 1999. Industry representatives from our association will participate in this event for the purpose of assisting the FTC in refining the proposed rule to uphold the intent of the Childrens Online Privacy Act without creating unintended consequences that will limit educational opportunities for our nations children and their families. We ask the FTC to hold further discussions regarding this rule and to accept reply comments in the near future. We offer to the FTC our association as a resource to answer any questions and concerns you might have about how educational publishers and schools use the Internet to serve children and families.
John J. Micklos, Jr.
Charlene F. Gaynor