Giving parents a break

Posted: Jun 20, 2006 9:05 AM

Kids are revealing everything about themselves to complete strangers over the Internet on MySpace. The TV networks are suing to keep the FCC from cracking down on indecency. And ingenious minds are making it easier than ever to access porn, by way of cell phones and iPods.

It seems as though technology is always working against us. The more innovations and inventions go on the market, the harder parents have to fight to protect their kids from a steady stream of smut, violence, and even sexual predators.

But that gives us all the more reason to celebrate when we find technology that can actually benefit our families. My friend James Ackerman, a Centurion and an expert in communications, recently told me about one such development that I think is a great idea, something that can help make parents’ lives a lot easier.

Many of you are probably familiar with TiVo, the television recording system. TiVo has now unveiled a new product called KidZone, designed specifically to help parents find and record family-friendly programming and to block kids from finding not-so-friendly programming.

The way KidZone works is simple, which I think makes it especially appealing to busy parents who, if you’re like me, don’t have time to decipher pages of instructions. What you do is pre-approve the shows you want your kids to watch. The TiVo itself gives recommendations for family-friendly shows. Also, three other respected organizations with which TiVo has partnered—the Parents’ Choice Foundation, Common Sense Media, and the Parents Television Council—provide their own lists of recommendations.

If you want, you can use the TV ratings system by setting the program to record only shows with certain ratings, or you can find out which shows the FCC has designated “Educational and Informational” and set it to record those. And you can make certain exceptions to these pre-approved lists, if there are any shows among them that you would rather not record.

However you make your choices, the program will automatically record them. And when you put your TiVo in “safe mode,” protected by a password, then only those shows that you pre-approved for your kids will appear.

As TiVo explains in a press release, and I concur, this program is a big improvement on the V-Chip. First of all, I’ve met very few people who were actually able to figure out how to use the V-Chip properly. Also, the V-Chip works only by blocking certain shows; it doesn’t help parents select good programming, the way KidZone does.

The KidZone program is a way to do what I think we Christians really need to do: be in the world but not of it. This helps our kids not to ignore the media altogether, which could limit their sphere of influence in a media-crazy world, but rather to look at the media with discernment and to make wise choices.

It’s good news and an encouraging sign when a leader in the technology industry makes promotion of family-friendly programming a high priority.

For Further Reading and Information

Read more about KidZone at TiVo’s website.

TiVo KidZone Launches as Parents Concern Over Children’s Television Viewing Soars,” press release, 15 June 2006.

Karen Brown, “TiVo Creates Safe KidZone,” Digital Pro Sound, 15 June 2006.

Stefanie Olsen, “Web firm tries to create safe haven for tweens,” CNET, 15 June 2006.

BreakPoint Commentary No. 051213, “Technological Toys: Are You Gift-Wrapping Porn?

BreakPoint Commentary No. 051216, “Rated ‘A’ for ‘Assault’: Video Games and Your Kids.”

BreakPoint Commentary No. 050901, “Bottling Up Smut: Cleaning Up the Public Square.”

BreakPoint Commentary No. 060530, “A ‘Smorgasbord’ for Pedophiles: The Allure of MySpace.”

Terry Mattingly, “Narrow focus draws ‘PG’ rating for Baptist-backed film,” Scripps Howard, 7 June 2006.

Habits of the High-Tech Heart”—a “BreakPoint This Week” special broadcast with Dr. Quentin Schultze.