The Directorate General X of the European Commission has requested a study of the techniques and technologies available to facilitate parental choice, addressing specifically the television environment. This is prompted by the interest, at European level, in parental choice devices of the kind that have been adopted elsewhere in the world, especially the United States and Canada. This study only encompasses choice mechanisms to protect children from harmful content; it does not consider approaches to illegal content. As several European Union documents have outlined, it is necessary to differentiate between these categories of content.1 They represent different issues of principle, and call for very different legal and technological responses. Furthermore, as the study also shows, what is considered harmful depends on cultural differences and can be distinct according to different age groups. All this has to be taken into account in defining appropriate approaches to protect children against undesired material whilst ensuring freedom of expression.
A significant public interest lies in protecting children from viewing excessive television violence and other programming that may produce harmful effects. Children are presumed, quite justifiably, to be different from adults, to be more vulnerable, less able to apply critical judgemental standards, and more at risk.2 Ordinarily, society depends on parental supervision to protect children, but____________________