Block Ads for Booze, Smokes, Porn and More with State’s Child Protection Registry

Block Ads for Booze, Smokes, Porn and More with State’s Child Protection Registry

(Lara Mossa, May 26, 2020)

Michigan -Last Summer when Beth Smith was working she thought it was safe to let her sons – ages 10, 13, and 17 through their Kindles.  But within days of them using the digital readers there was a problem – her youngest received an unwanted pop-up – a pornographic advertisement.

“I was mortified instantly – just mortified – and then really, really angry and worried about all of the things he could be exposed to,” said Smith of Byron Center. “I felt so guilty for even thinking it would be okay…I was completely mortified, and I felt so bad for my son.”

Thankfully her son knew better than to click on any questionable pop up, but it’s still something that could have left an impression on him. The incident left Smith in a predicament – how to let kids learn online without exposing them to mature content. She said she was appalled to even think of it.

But she also discovered there’s a solution.  With the help of a statewide agency, Smith and other parents and guardians can prevent their children from seeing inappropriate ads.

Known as the Michigan Child Protection Registry, it is a free service through which parents can register their children and protect them from ads ranging from pornography and alcohol to tobacco including vaping, gambling and marijuana.

“It doesn’t just block them,” said Alisha Meneely, Community Outreach Director for the agency, which is part of the Michigan Secretary of State’s office. “It stops them.”

Here’s how it works. By law, companies that advertise in Michigan have to scrub their list with the registry once a month. Most of them comply, she said. Guardians can sign up their child’s email address and cell phone number as well as their own for the service. The contacts remain on the registry for three years before they have to be re-entered. The program started in 2005.

“Pornography and the purchase of other adult-related items are just one click away from harming our children emotionally, physically and spiritually,” Meneely said. “The statistics clearly show that minors are highly susceptible to the marketing of alcohol, tobacco, pornography, gambling and illegal drug products, and this program would provide a useful tool for parents looking to limit their child’s exposure to these harmful enticements.”

Available at the website, www.protectmichild.com, the registry takes only a couple of minutes, and schools can sign up their own school domain, which would protect those email addresses as well. It takes about 30 days for it become effective. If adults notice that their child is still receiving inappropriate texts, they can go to the website and file a complaint. The registry is checked every day, and companies can be fined if they are not following the law, Meneely said.

While the service also is available in Utah, the goal is to have it available nationwide. Michigan has more than 1 million email addresses and cell phone numbers already registered.

  Many parents do not know about it.

“It’s too bad,” Meneely said. “It could really be stopping a lot of ads that come to these kids.”

And with children being home due the Corona virus, they are more likely to use electronic devices and be inundated with ads.

“They’re on their devices even more,” Smith said.  “I think the problem is going to get worse.”

After hearing about the registry through social media, she immediately registered her information and her oldest son’s cell phone. So far, they have not noticed anymore inappropriate messages.

“It gives you just a little more piece of mind that you’re doing something to prevent these things as much as possible,” she said.

Sign up at https://www.protectmichild.com/

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