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Commissioner George Vradenburg, III
Vice President for Global & Strategic Policy
America Online, Inc.

It has been my pleasure and honor to serve on this Commission, along with my distinguished colleagues from throughout the Internet industry and the public interest community. I appreciate their dedication and creative thinking in the critical area of keeping children's online experiences safe, educational, and entertaining. I also want to thank Elizabeth Frazee of AOL and Liza Kessler of Leslie Harris & Associates for their hard work on my behalf in support of this Commission.

This Commission has worked hard to meet the challenge Congress presented to us: evaluating technologies and methods to help protect children from exposure to harmful to minors material, and making recommendations based on our findings. We heard from producers of cutting edge technology, educators, law enforcement agents, and young Internet users.

Based on my experience on this Commission, three things stand out:

  1. Technology choices are robust and continue to develop.

    We heard testimony from GetNetWise that they have grown to include over 120 parental empowerment tools. We also heard testimony from companies that analyze information on the Internet in real time, companies considering children's online safety in wireless and broadband, and companies with many creative approaches to Internet safety. None is a "magic bullet" for child safety, but each may fit the needs of some families. Furthermore, there is every reason to believe that these technologies will continue to develop and thrive.

  2. Education works.

    No law, technology, or corporate initiative can take the place of an involved parent who understands the importance of exercising parental control over children online. AOL has been leader in this area, and will continue to educate children, parents, and other consumers about how to have a safe online experience, and about their choices for parental controls. We look forward to continuing work on this with other industry leaders, educators, non-profit organizations, and especially parents.

    AOL's internal efforts to educate consumers about online safety, useful child-friendly content, and the Parental Controls available to them have been an extraordinary success. We believe that similar efforts must continue to take place throughout the Internet industry. GetNetWise is a good example of the kind of work that we can do together to educate families on Internet safety and their choices of parental empowerment tools. AOL will continue to promote public-private interest partnerships that focus on educating families and caregivers on Internet and online safety.

  3. Existing laws with regard to child sexual exploitation, child pornography, obscenity, and where clearly applicable, "harmful to minors," should be enforced.

    Many law enforcement officers and children's safety advocates testified to the COPA Commission that they are hard at work protecting our children from sexual predators who use the Internet as a means of contacting children. They testified that police resources are stretched thin, and that they had trouble recruiting, training, and retaining sufficient officers to address this problem.

    Every level of government, from Congress and the Executive Branch of the federal government on down must recommit themselves to protecting children from online exploitation, and to making resources available to hire staff, improve training programs, and foster cooperation between law enforcement agencies and jurisdictions.

This Commission examined innumerable technologies and methods for protecting children from harmful to minors material online. A well-informed parent has the power to teach his or her child the safety rules of the Internet and the power to find -- and fine-tune -- a technology that approximately reflects that families' values. Unfortunately, the kind of broad-based multi-media education that families need in order to make informed choices online does not have the reach it needs.

At AOL we have always believed that protecting children online must be a collaborative effort between families, caregivers, and the private and public sectors, including law enforcement. Particularly as technology evolves and converges, we must look together for new ways to give parents the skills and tools they need to keep up with technological advances. We all need to work together supporting efforts such as GetNetWise, educating children, parents, and caregivers about safe and appropriate online activity, and developing and refining technological tools so that families and caregivers can make informed choices about how their children use the Internet. AOL has been a leader in these efforts and will continue this leadership.

Our work together must not stop with the submission of this report to Congress. AOL is committed to remain involved in this critical national issue and to continue pushing it forward.

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