Gordon Ross, president and CEO of Vancouver-based Net Nanny Software International Inc, addressed the Congressionally appointed Child Online Protection Act Commission hearing on Internet filtering and rating at the University of Richmond, VA, on June 20. The commission is evaluating the effectiveness of technological solutions to protect children online. Net Nanny makes filtering software which allows parents to set parental controls over their children’s Internet surfing. Firsthand experience has taught our company that education is key to protecting children online. It must focus not only on children, but on parents as well. Each month, we team up with law enforcement and other computer security specialists to teach a free eight-hour class called the "Internet and Your Child" (IYC) to parents, teachers and law enforcement. These people are interested in Internet safety and practical tips for improving children’s online experiences. Some of them have computer experience and understand the dangers associated with the Internet, but most do not. The curriculum covers a wide variety of Internet concerns and the major technical methods for managing Internet access. It maintains neutrality by providing objective information and encouraging attendees to make up their own mind about ways to control the Internet. One of the most significant resources we use is GetNetWise – an excellent online resource for information on tools, reporting trouble and accessing positive online content. The classes have a secondary benefit in that they help to create a lasting community network of concerned people who come from different backgrounds.... In every sense of the word, this is a grassroots public/private partnership that is supported by the goodwill of a handful of people and companies. While it is making a very positive impact, it needs additional resources to meet the overwhelming demand for Internet training. The government should make it a priority to encourage the growth of educational programs such as IYC through endorsements and the creation of public-private funding partnerships. It should require that straightforward information on current and proposed laws be posted in a central location that is easily accessible, so people are up-to-date on the legal climate. It should also expand funding for law enforcement to ensure that it has the latest technology and training to fight crime. Over 90 per cent of the police departments in the U.S. have 50 officers or less making it difficult for departments to expend the resources necessary to meet demand. Federal, state and local agencies need to be encouraged to find more efficient ways to work together, and with their counterparts overseas. It is crucial that they learn more successful ways to navigate jurisdictional lines that have been complicated by the Internet. And finally, the government should continue to promote user empowerment technologies that put control into the hands of individuals. They want and need protection that suits their own situation. Free enterprise ensures that these technologies are available and that they will continue to improve. It is my hope that people involved in protecting children and the integrity of the Internet will seek to find a middle ground where both goals can be met through accurate product and issue analysis, sharing of constructive ideas and a willingness to look beyond individual agendas to achieve a workable solution. The alternative is more confusion for consumers and the danger that both child safety and our constitutional rights will fall through the cracks. Like most things, client-side filters are not perfect, but they will reach their potential if they are built with constructive input from people who care. Ideally, their potential will be reached when people understand that filtering tools should never replace parenting in the digital age, but rather assist it. With the proper combination of technology, education and policies, we will succeed in protecting children online and preserving the integrity and openness of the Internet.