By Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY, NSW: In the lead up to the Australian launch of the new Disney Asus Eee PC, local product manager – consumer market Gordon Kerr has said that both parents and technology suppliers are responsible for protecting children from bullying, crime and exploitation online.

Although Kerr could not set a firm date for the impending release of the new Disney model, he did say that it will be coming soon. With a new model aimed so directly at the child market, we asked Kerr if he considered it an obligation of the supplier to also protect the user from the unfortunate evils that exist in Cyberspace. He said the burden should be shared.

“I think it’s a wider issue than just netbooks — it’s a wider communication issue,” Kerr said.

“We’ve got children now who have mobile phones: you equip a kid with a mobile phone, and the latest phones have all got WAP et cetera on them.

So yes, it’s an issue of etiquette, there’s a lot of cyber bullying happening at the moment, and it’s an issue of taking responsibility for what your kids access, same as TV.

“When I was growing up, my parents would keep an eye on what I was watching, and I definitely agree that it is something which is important for computers.

“The Disney range is clearly aimed at the child market, and it has integrated parental control within the product.”

Kerr said that this new parental control would go well beyond the Net Nanny programs of the late 1990s, which were more famous for the ease of circumvention than any of the protection they afforded. We asked for what the Asus protection would involve.

“It does restrict certain websites, but it also restricts what the child can do, so you can’t go in and make changes to the system. You can’t bypass the program, it actually sets it up so you can have a simplified interface, so there’s only certain things the person can own. You can also control the time the person can access it, and that there’s a series of different levels.”

Kerr said that Asus was currently in discussions to determine the price point of this model.