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It will happen.

Just like lyrics, sooner or later, blogs and websites will include a parental rating.

It may not be a placard, so to speak, but may be a meta tag inserted “behind the scenes”.

Major search engines could easily be reprogrammed to “read” these ratings in an attempt to give readers results that best match their request(s). If a site doesn’t have a (voluntary) rating, they may be ignored by the search engines. Submit an incorrect rating, and Google (or the other search engines) may impose a penalty.

No way, you say? Google already has a report tool that allows readers to report sites that are abusing Google’s quality guidelines re: spam. It can be found in their “Webmaster Tools” – “Webmaster Guidelines” section.

A self imposed rating system could potentially send hundreds of thousands of bloggers scrambling to “clean up” their blog sites(s), in an effort to appeal to more readers.

What I wrote in my “hypothetical” post, titled:“Blog Loses Massive Traffic Due To Profanity”, may not be far from the truth.

Today’s Lesson

Individuals continue to preach about, and practice their freedom of speech. Demonstrating these freedoms has expanded to the world wide web, not only on adult sites, but in blogs as well. Some say blogosphere is the only place left where they can “express themselves” openly.

But, the power of parents cannot be underestimated. They care what their children are exposed to, and have won some major battles.

Voluntary ratings are in place for TV programs, movies, and music.

Interactive entertainment software is now self regulated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board(ESRB).

If you join social networking sites like StumbleUpon or Digg, before you submit an article, you are asked if the site contains “adult content”.

Interestingly enough, while grabbing a link from Digg, I spotted this article. “999 Emergency Numbers for Myspace and Co.”, from Gizmodo.com which states

Social networking sites like Facebook, Bebo and MySpace may soon have to carry a ‘999’ emergency link to improve the safety of kids online.

So, as you can see, the writing is on the wall.

As a blogger, you can join forces with a self regulatory community and rate your own blog or website .SafeSurf, iWatchDog, The Family Online Safety Institute, and ChildSafe are great places to gather information about self regulation. Netscape Netwatch is often used by those who want to guard users from having access to inappropriate sites.

For parents who want control over what their children have access to, parental control software is available. In some cases, such as Crawler Parent.com, it’s free. Their software can guard a computer, block websites with dangerous content, and produce detailed reports.

Consumer Search, PC Magazine, and Star Reviews have detailed reviews of currently available . fee based, “parental control blocking software”. Some of the popular ones are NetNanny, BeSafeOnline, Safe Eyes, and CyberPatrol, and iProtectYou.

Consumer Search reminds parents if they are planning to upgrade to Windows Vista, or Apple’s “Leopard” operating systems, they contain a built in parental control (although it may not be stringent enough).

According to TV Guidelines.org, if my blog were a TV show, it would be rated “G”

General Audience
Most parents would find this program suitable for all ages. Although this rating does not signify a program designed specifically for children, most parents may let younger children watch this program unattended. It contains little or no violence, no strong language and little or no sexual dialogue or situations.

Parental Guidance Suggested
This program contains material that parents may find unsuitable for younger children. Many parents may want to watch it with their younger children. The theme itself may call for parental guidance and/or the program contains one or more of the following: moderate violence (V), some sexual situations (S), infrequent coarse language (L), or some suggestive dialogue (D).

Parents Strongly Cautioned
This program contains some material that many parents would find unsuitable for children under 14 years of age. Parents are strongly urged to exercise greater care in monitoring this program and are cautioned against letting children under the age of 14 watch unattended. This program contains one or more of the following: intense violence (V), intense sexual situations (S), strong coarse language (L), or intensely suggestive dialogue (D).

Mature Audience Only
This program is specifically designed to be viewed by adults and therefore may be unsuitable for children under 17. This program contains one or more of the following: graphic violence (V), explicit sexual activity (S), or crude indecent language (L).

Although you may think your blog won’t be read by children, many adults don’t want to read profanity or see “adult content” either. With a rating system, they could choose to only read “G” or “PG” rated sites, leaving others , out in the cold.

Today’s Assignment

How would your blog rate?

Do you think blogs should contain a rating to protect children?

Would you have a problem including a voluntary “rating” placard on your blog?

Do you use parental control software on your computer to protect your own children?

Photo Credit zappowbang’s photos

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Look Who's Talking
  1. I just stopped by your blog and thought I would say hello. I like your site design. Looking forward to reading more down the road.

    Robert Michel

  2. NezNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara,

    Interesting topic. Google already has the “safesearch” feature that’s on by default. Having it display results based on ratings is another step further.

    People will surely be concerned about censorship issues, which is why other search engines exist — even though Google is the 9,000,000 pound godzilla.

    Thanks for all the useful links for parental tools for kids’ computer use.

    Right now, we simply do not allow ours on the computer.

    They get their “electronic media” fun from their Sony Playstation and Nintendo DS.

    Oh, and I’d guess my blog is rated G or PG.

    Nez’s last blog post..Being Present with Your Kids

  3. Debbie YostNo Gravatar says:

    I did one of these ratings a while ago and I think I got a PG. I would agree with that. As a mother, I do not have a problem with ratings. I rely on them for television shows that my children watch and use parental controls on my cable box. I try to control where my children go on the computer, but as they get older they will start to test the limits.

    I prefer my blog to stay PG. I’m never going to be G because once in a while I hit on adult topics. I try to keep information as friendly as possible, but you just can’t discuss some items without going PG. I don’t prefer to read graphic or vulgar blogs, but I don’t really need a rating for me. I can see from reading whether I relate to the person or not. I have no problem with these blogs being out there. I do believe strongly in the 1st Amendment, but it is also my right to just go elsewhere.

    Thank you for providing all the links for parental control!

    I hope I made sense.

    Debbie Yost’s last blog post..My Purse

  4. Hmmm… I think I straddle the line between G and PG…I guess PG to be safe – simply because of some of the content. I am careful about the language I use on my site… I don’t think it would be what I want it to be if I torched it with profanity

    And no – I wouldn’t underestimate the power of The Parents

    I have nothing against blogs being rated for the parents and would gladly ‘rate’ mine for those purposes (anything for the children!)

    I don’t have children yet :) but when I do, you better believe I’m siccing my pc with decent protection. Way too many accidental finds outthere – even by a one letter typo on a normal url

    JEMi @ InMyHeels’s last blog post..Survival of a Broken Heart: A How-To Guide

  5. NaturalNo Gravatar says:

    How would your blog rate? I would rate it G..but my latest post from my daughter does have the word ‘breast’ in it. We don’t use cute words for body parts…I wonder if these ratings would be able to tell the difference between chicken breast and the word alone. I don’t curse or use foul language on my blog. Don’t allow it either.

    Do you think blogs should contain a rating to protect children? No. I think parents should protect their own children. Know which sites they are going on and block out the rest.

    Would you have a problem including a voluntary “rating” placard on your blog? No I would not have a problem doing so.

    Do you use parental control software on your computer to protect your own children? I’m my daughter’s own parental control…no software has anything on me. She’s only 8, so I know everything she does, but when she gets older and I just can’t be around her, at least at home, I may think about it then. The important thing is to teach your kid right from wrong and hope they make good choices. If they want to read crap on the web, they will find a way. Talk to them when they are young so it won’t be so hard when they are older.

    Natural’s last blog post..From the Mouths of Babes

  6. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Welcome to the community at BWAB Robert,

    Have fun digging through the older posts and archives. Hopefully we’ll see you joining in more of the conversations as well. I’ll be popping into your blog, too.

    Hi Nez,

    As a parent, it sounds like these issues are something you have already addressed. With kids growing up so fast, and being exposed to so much, it becomes the parent’s responsibility to take an active roll in what their kids watch/read.

    Hi Debbie,

    I, too, believe strongly in the first amendment. I also like the fact that parents have the ability to choose what their children are exposed to, via a rating system. And although the rating systems may have minor flaws, they are a good guideline to follow.

    Hi JEMi

    Parents banning together for the sake of their children are a force to be reckoned with, aren’t they?

    I think as bloggers, we can easily do our part in the form of self regulation and decide how we want our blogs to be perceived.

    Hi Natural

    I saw that post your daughter did (will be over later to comment). That was cute. I don’t think the word “breast” would change a “G” rating.

    You’re right on target communicating with and monitoring your daughter’s computer usage.

    You get an “A” in parenting 101 too. Great job! :)

  7. Barbara, now I see what you meant when you said my comment yesterday reminded you of your next post. Like I said, my blog is PG, and I wouldn’t have any problem with a voluntary rating.

    I’m not entirely clear on the rating system though. This post now has the word “breast” three times (four now that I wrote that). Is it still rated G? How much can you talk about breasts (there’s that word again) before it changes the rating?

    There’s some formula they use to judge how strong the language is when rating a movie. It’s based on what words are used, and how many times. Supposedly there was one movie that was able to go from R to PG-13 by removing one instance of the word “wiener,” because that took it just under the limit.

    Hunter Nuttall’s last blog post..The Best And Worst April Fools’ Joke Of 2008

  8. Interesting article Barbara. I never really thought of a rating system of blogs.

    Hunter brings up a good point with how comments affect rating of article. Would be nice to have a plug-in that automatically flags comments that might not match a specific rating. Wouldn’t be surprised if one existed or was developed soon.

    sterling | bizlift’s last blog post..Update – New Champ, Paris-Nice and Full Feed

  9. Debbie YostNo Gravatar says:

    Me again. Hunter’s comment had me cracking up. Too funny. But he does make a good point. A blog I read was at a PG rating. She stated she was at this rating because a few instances where she was talking about her dogs reproduction. She’s trying to start a kennel and the male was not fulfilling his duties. She got all these comments mentioning the word (I don’t remember what it was now) and it sent her rating over to R just from that one post. The rating guide is helpful, but it is just a guide. I have let my 11 year old daughter see some PG-13 movies because it depends on why it is rated that way. Star Wars III was PG-13 because of what happened to Anakin at the end, but she saw that when it came out. She’s also seen all the Harry Potters but some of those have been PG-13. Natural said she doesn’t need the ratings because she is in control. Although I agree with her, I can’t always be there. I have a television in my bedroom the kids watch as well as one in the basement. I have three children and sometimes they aren’t in the same place so I can’t monitor all of them all of the time. Therefore, the rating block has been helpful to me. However, I do not let it replace my parental responsibility.

    Debbie Yost’s last blog post..My Purse

  10. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Alright Hunter,

    Are you trying to sabotage my “G” rating?

    I guess it might make a difference if you’re talking about human body parts or chickens/ducks/ or turkeys, and how the term is used. I’m sure recipe sites aren’t rated lower because they use “white meat” in their dishes. (I’m trying hard not to repeat “the word”). :)

    That is interesting though how movies can get their ratings changed by dropping or adding certain words.

    Hi Sterling,

    That’s a great idea about a plugin as a “warning” for comments.

    And…that’s actually something I’m concerned with. If one of my “approved commenters” leaves a comment that contains profanity, it would stay there until I could moderate it.

    Hi Debbie,

    I thought you were going to use “the word” again and make it five times. :)

    Yes, it is just a guide. Parents do need to take responsibility and also talk to their children.

    As parents, we also know if a child is mature enough to see a movie that may be rated over their age.

  11. Cath LawsonNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara – this would be a good idea in principle. But how long would it take for the black hat SEO lot to abuse it as they do the Google complaint button now, and also StumbleUpon?

    It would be nice if something could be done though. Personally I think there should be a seperate search engine for porn. I would like to see it banned altogether but apparently it stops people who should be locked up anyway from raping and murdering people.

    Often kids face the biggest dangers online on social networking sites and even gaming sites, when adults pretend to be kids. We had huge problems with my stepson on a game called Runescape but i can’t say a lot about it right now as the police are still investigating it. They’ve only had his computer 2 months and they still haven’t had time to look through it!

    Cath Lawson’s last blog post..When Keeping Up With The Jones’s Is Bad For Business

  12. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Catherine,

    Granted, some would try to abuse it, but at least it could be a good guideline for parents. Even with some movies and lyrics, parents need make that final decision in determining if they are age appropriate for each child. Rating systems should never be a substitute for on hands parenting.

    With regard to children having problems online, that’s where those 999 numbers could come in handy. Hopefully that happens and kids will have somewhere to turn if they feel they’re being stalked.

  13. I like to have my blog readable by children if any came by. Might bore them to tears though. I just like to fan creative sparks where I find them and kids can be great that way.

    I see nothing wrong with voluntary ratings. I no longer have minor children but if I did, I would sure be attentive to the whole internet thing in whatever way necessary to keep the kid(s) directed in positive directions. A far different world than I grew up in, and certainly requires different handling.

    I do not object to others writing how they want to write, but there needs to be a sensible way to keep kids from running amok.

  14. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Lexi,

    Welcome to the BWAB community.

    This is a different day and age, isn’t it. All the more reason to do what we can to protect them for as long as possible

    I came by your blog and checked out a little of your art work. It’s beautiful. I’ll be back again soon.

  15. Since I started blogging I have felt it is like a community. If you were at a neighbourhood party and there were children in the room you would watch your language and not tell dirty jokes or show inappropriate pictures. I think we have to keep in mind that there are children on the Internet and our sites are just a click away.

    Technology is moving ahead so fast we are just now thinking about laws to regulate content and how to protect children on the Internet. There is always a fine line between protecting our children and free speech. Where do you draw the line and how do you protect your children? I don’t think you are far off with your post. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

    I want my site available to everyone so it would be rated G (General Audience).

    Patricia Robb’s last blog post..The New Kid on the Block: Establishing Good Working Relationships

  16. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Patricia Robb,

    I agree on the community aspect, and I like your analogy of the neighborhood party, and how we would behave.

    I don’t think a rating system would affect those worried about their freedom of speech. They could still publish what they want, but just rate it as adult content.

  17. Hi Patricia Robb,

    I am also agree on the community aspect, and I like your analogy of the neighborhood party, and how we would behave.
    I prefer my blog to stay PG. I’m never going to be G because once in a while I hit on adult topics. I try to keep information as friendly as possible, but you just can’t discuss some items without going PG