Former FCC Chairmen Join Task Force Calling For New Digital Kids Initiative

Group will organize a national campaign to fund efforts aimed at helping parents and teachers better manage the growing impact of digital media on kids and teens

Common Sense Media
Thursday, January 24, 2008

Washington, D.C. – Joined by a bipartisan group of former FCC chairmen and leading media industry executives and educators from across the country, Common Sense Media today announced the launch of the Digital Kids Task Force, a group that will organize a national campaign to fund efforts aimed at helping parents and teachers better manage the growing impact of digital media on kids and teens.

The announcement coincides with the FCC's auction of broadcast spectra that will be vacated by analog broadcasters as they convert to digital signals. The auction, which is expected to raise billions of dollars through the sale of public airwaves, will allow companies to offer more wireless Internet access to consumers, including kids.

"Today's children spend an average of nearly seven hours per day consuming digital media – from the Internet to mobile phones to video games," said Common Sense Media CEO and founder James P. Steyer. "This vast digital media landscape can have both a positive and negative impact on kids' learning and healthy development. We're launching the Digital Kids Initiative so that parents and educators can make sure that kids get the best, and avoid the worst, of this new media world."

The founding members of the Digital Kids Task Force include three former FCC chairmen: Michael Powell, William E. Kennard, and Newton Minow. Other task force members are:

Dr. Geoffrey Cowan – University Professor and Former Dean, The Annenberg School for Communication at USC; Former Director, Voice of America

Gary E. Knell – President and CEO, Sesame Workshop

Hon. Rebecca Q. Morgan – Former California State Senator (R); Founding President and CEO of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network

Dr. Ramon Cortines – Deputy Mayor for Education, Youth and Families for the City of Los Angeles; Former Superintendent of Schools, New York, San Francisco

Yogen Dalal – Technology Entrepreneur; Managing Director, Mayfield Fund

Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel – Chair, Department of Bioethics, The Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health

Marcy Carsey – Founding Partner, Carsey-Werner Productions

Richard Barton – Leading Internet Entrepreneur; Founder of and CEO,

Steyer said that the members of the bipartisan task force believe that when public airwaves are sold, some of the proceeds should be used to serve the public interest.

"Television stations that use the public airwaves are required to serve the public interest by airing educational children's programming each week," Minow said. "We believe that part of the proceeds from auctions of the public airwaves should serve the public interest in a similar fashion to the Digital Kids Initiative and the Digital Promise project, to help parents and kids be safe and smart in the new media world, and to address new opportunities to use technology to improve learning."

The group is meeting with key legislators in Washington, D.C., this week to explore options for funding the new initiative. The Digital Kids Task Force will spend the coming weeks educating legislators, teachers, and industry leaders about its efforts to:

  • Support innovative digital media education programs for parents, teachers, and children to help America's children learn digital safety and smarts.
  • Establish a centralized research program on the impact of digital media on children.
  • Test and develop programs that use new technologies to enhance children's ability to learn.
  • Educate parents and teachers about the opportunities and potential dangers of the digital media world.

Quotes from FCC Chairmen:
Former FCC Chairman Michael Powell
: "We are in a new age of communications, and in order to help parents keep their kids safe and smart, we must introduce them to 'digital hygiene' by teaching them the proper rules for communicating in the digital era."

Former FCC Chairman William Kennard: "As a parent, I know first-hand that my child is growing up in a digital word that has a new set of challenges for parents. I also know that the spectrum auction is going to impact this digital world by opening up even more access to wireless Internet for kids. It is critical for parents and educators to understand the perils as well as the possibilities of the digital media landscape, which is why we urgently need to fund the Digital Kids Initiative."

Common Sense Media is the nation's leading nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving the media lives of children and families. Today, millions of parents, educators, and young people will turn to the Common Sense Media Guide for the trustworthy information, easy-to-use tools, and practical guidance they need to raise a generation of media-savvy kids and families. To become a member, please visit us at