11/22/2011 04:45 pm ET | Updated Jan 22, 2012

Protecting Children Online

Whether it is identity theft, online tracking, or profiling, the Internet can be an open door to a child's personal information. A Wall Street Journal investigation into online privacy last year found that popular children's websites install more tracking technologies on personal computers than do the top websites aimed at adults.

According to recent research by

Society has an obligation to protect our children and online safety for children should be a priority. We need a three-pronged approach to address
this issue: policy changes; industry self-regulation; and more parental tools, monitoring and education.

Current legislation being considered includes proposed amendments to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by the FTC.  COPPA has
not been seriously updated since 1998 -- only four years after the first browser was introduced to the marketplace. (That was back when you still
needed an antenna on your car for your "car phone" to work.) In May, the Do Not Track Kids bill
(H.R. 1895) was introduced by Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas); it proposes barring websites outright from using
kids' data to target ads to them until they are 17.  Debates continue about the appropriate age cut-off and exactly how this legislation would be

A recent New York Times editorial,

"A Push for Online Privacy,"

stated that "Despite bipartisan concern about potential abuses, Congress has not acted to protect consumer privacy, and there is little chance
legislation will pass anytime soon."

Okay, well if we cannot count on policies to protect our children online anytime soon, how about self-regulation?

The desire to know who, what and where people are at any given point is driven by advertising revenue. The more companies know about a consumer, the more they can target advertising to their buying habits. Until their revenue model changes, what incentive do these companies have to self-regulate? Unless, of course, there is legislation in place, and you see the circular argument.

So it is up to the parents, and as a parent, I can say we are falling short.  The same

So we can wait for politicians to step up to build a regulatory framework to protect our children's online privacy and hope that the online industry will check its own greed, or we can take control of protecting our kids today by monitoring our their online use, educating them about online safety, and using the tools available to protect them from being tracked.