Age Verification as a Shield for Minors on the Internet: A Quixotic Search?
This article examines the issues raised by the use of the Internet by minors and children. In addition to being an outstanding source of information and a tool for connecting people in numerous affinity networks, the Internet has a dark side. Its resources may be abused for many bad deeds, including cyber bullying or facilitating encounters with child predators. One way to protect minors is to ensure that their age and identity is verified. However, this is not technically feasible without infringing on the privacy of these children as well as that of the adults who might have to be screened as well, if only to prove that there are not minors. After looking at the current problems, the existing laws, and comparing with developments in other countries, the article identifies some of legal and technical hurdles before stressing the important role of parents, guardians and education. While legislators are playing whack-a-mole, chasing child pornography, child predators, and cyber bullying, parents cannot let their children venture on the Internet unprepared and unsupervised. Despite its friendly face and its very approachable demeanor, the Internet is not a nanny. Rather, it is a reflection of the world, a combination of the good, the bad and the ugly.