Parents have a genuine concern about their children viewing TV shows and Web sites they deem objectionable. But at the same time, there's a lot of rhetoric from special interests groups that want Congress to regulate cable in a way that would restrict customer access and negatively impact the industry. Cox created the Take Charge! initiative to address both these issues — to help parents understand how to use parental controls and to address Congress's concerns.
The multifaceted Take Charge! campaign includes commercials, public service announcements, media literacy workshops, family-oriented events and a comprehensive Web site, cox.com/takecharge. Through the site, parents can access simple, user-friendly tools to help manage their children's use of cable TV, high-speed Internet and digital phone services. The Web site features a newsletter, downloadable tips and step-by-step instructions on how to monitor and control the media environment in their home.
Cox's Take Charge program positions the company as a leader in helping parents manage what their children see, and don't see, on TV and the Internet. In the process, it highlights the positive messages of Cox's video, voice and Internet services, while underscoring Cox's position as a friend to customers and contributor to its communities.
Created by Cox's public relations team following the intense negative reaction to the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show debacle, the program continues to thrive because it provides critical tools to help families make the most of Cox's services and to ensure that kids watch and surf safely. The program also thrives because it has evolved to meet customers' needs. In 2006, as the phenomenal growth of MySpace.com and other social networking sites focused intense attention on the dangers facing kids on the Internet, Cox enhanced Take Charge to directly address Internet safety.
To frame the issue of teen Internet safety, Cox partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) on a national survey of 1,160 teens. The research revealed that, due to a lack of Internet safety education and parental involvement, teens are exhibiting risky behaviors online. For instance, 30% said they are considering a face-to-face meeting with a stranger they met online and 14% have already had such an encounter. However, the research revealed direct correlation between safe online use and parental involvement, and it validated Cox's plans to focus on Internet safety.
The survey results about the risks teens take online were alarming to Cox. The company worked to raise awareness among parents and encourage them to talk to their kids about Internet safety. Re-signing Take Charge spokesperson John Walsh, child advocate and host of America's Most Wanted, (Fox) was the company's first step. Next Cox held a media tour with Walsh, which aired in the company's local markets and nationally through appearances on Larry King Live, Anderson Cooper 360 and Catherine Crier Live.
Walsh and Cox filmed a series of public service announcements, which ran more than 800,000 times on their network and provided more than $17 million in donated advertising time. In addition to the public service announcements produced by Cox, the company also aired NCMEC's Internet safety PSAs and donated cash and advertising time totaling more than $18 million.
In June, Cox convened a National Teen Summit on Internet Safety at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The company recruited teens from Cox markets to share their online experiences, discuss positive and negative aspects of Internet use, and advise parents and Internet service providers on how to encourage cyber smarts. Walsh hosted the program and created a compelling exchange of opinions and ideas, which later aired on Cox's L.O. channels.
Following the Summit, the teens, Walsh and Cox representatives visited Capitol Hill and met with key House members. The teens took lawmakers on a tour of the Internet, including their own MySpace pages, and made the case for Internet safety education by showing actual Web sites of teens disclosing personal information that could put them at risk. When the teens returned home, they served as advocates for safer surfing and spoke during high school assemblies, parent and teacher meetings and wrote Internet safety articles for their local papers.
Throughout the year, Take Charge! generated tremendous attention from media and lawmakers, while helping teens be safer online, empowering customers and promoting the company's leadership in protecting children.