MOUNTAIN VIEW (KCBS) – The growing use of smartphones by digitally savvy teenagers has some parents calling for new tools to protect how their children’s Internet browsing gets tracked by marketers.

Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs neatly summed up the concern of many parents participating in a town hall meeting Wednesday at the Computer History Museum on how advertisers target children. Information gathered about teenagers’ online activity now could come back to haunt them years later.

“There aren’t tools, and there isn’t a clear understanding of the risks,” Kovacs said.

Several parents at the forum said they were worried about what type of information was being gathered about their kids who now have greater access than ever to the Internet.

KCBS’ Chris Filippi Reports:

Lawmakers now recognize how aggressive some advertisers have become in pinpointing how children surf the Web.

Sites that cater to children are 30 percent more likely to deposit cookies and other tracking files on a user’s computer than a site geared towards a general audience, said Congresswoman Jackie Speier.

“Many of these websites are targeting young kids,” she said, and not necessarily with products that parents might consider age appropriate.

“One, in particular, was linked to a porn site,” Speier said.

Her latest privacy protection bill would require Website operators to give visitors the option to opt out of being tracked, a tool some Silicon Valley executives see as just the top of the iceberg.

The co-founder of, Owen Tripp, urged tech companies to develop better ways of discouraging children from making unwise choices they might later regret.

“We need to rise to the occasion. We need something that says, if you’re trying to send a picture without clothes on, block it,” Tripp said.

Common Sense Media, a non-profit that advocates for children on media policy issues, estimates nearly 20 percent of teenagers have had private emails and text messages forwarded without their permission.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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