As a new father and a security professional, it terrifies me to think of my daughter roaming freely around the Internet. However, I feel like restricting her completely will cut off a valuable avenue for education.
Recently, it seems in the media there has been a push to move websites that contain adult content into the .xxx sponsored top level domain (sTLD) in order to easily classify them. While I understand the reasoning for this, there is definitely a large spectrum of additional content which, in my opinion, is unsuitable for children and disallowing access to this sTLD would not provide an adequately restricted environment.
So far in my career it has been drilled into me that while blacklisting can occasionally be effective, whitelisting provides a far greater solution for validating input data. I feel like this concept can easily be applied to the restrictive domain design. I propose that a more suitably-themed sTLD that could be used for this purpose is the .kid domain. By creating a child-friendly sTLD and monitoring the sites that are granted permission to use it, a child’s laptop or web-capable device could be configured to only allow queries for these sites to complete.
While I was in the process of writing this post, a colleague pointed out to me that a similar solution has already been implemented (http://www.cms.kids.us). However, from what I’ve seen, this does not seem to be successful as only a handful of sites have been registered to date.
I believe there are a number of reasons why this is the case. First, since this is a usTLD (United States Top Level Domain) it is restricted to websites which are run by a United States Citizen. Already this limits the number of sites that can utilize this solution.
Also, as I mentioned previously, I feel like an sTLD would be more appropriate. A sponsored top level domain has an entity responsible for it. If the entity set up a reliable system for verifying websites wishing to utilize the domain then it is much more likely that the content on the .kid sTLD would be applicable for children.
The most prevalent reason that the kid.us usTLD has not been successful, in my opinion, is that no easy method for restricted access to this domain has been made available. If an option was added to some of the major operating systems/user interfaces where a restriction could be enabled to only allow .kid domains to be resolved, this would encourage websites to register .kid domains in order to remain visible to their target audience. With the recent adoption of tablet computing presenting a more restricted system to the user, it would be fairly easy for vendors to add restrictions to these products for activating “child mode” in which only .kid domains are resolved.
This setup would leave a problem in locating the content on the .kid domain, since a device would be unable to access http://www.google.com for example. However, I feel that once enough sites were available on the domain, .kid-specific search engines would be created.
There is no feasible way to provide a 100% safe place for children to be—whether in the real world or on the Internet. We, as parents, need to evaluate our children’s environments, both physical and virtual, and provide our children with the tools they need to stay safe while allowing them experience an appropriate amount of life. While nothing can replace good parenting when it comes to your child’s exposure to the Internet, I expect that a .kid sTLD would be a large step in the right direction.
The following URL’s provide additional reading regarding the .XXX sTLD: