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Parents Say UK ISPs Still Not Doing Enough to Protect Children Online

Tuesday, Jul 1st, 2014 (11:06 am) - Score 788

A new survey of nearly 500 parents conducted by Super Camps during June 2014 has found that 80% of respondents think broadband ISPs and regulators (Ofcom) have not yet done enough to make the Internet safe for children to use, which is despite all of the major providers now offering an enforced option to enable Parental Controls.

The survey, which was apparently so authentic that they actually needed to call it the annual Authentic Childhood Survey, reveals that most parents still expect more to be done to control Internet content, such as by offering a choice to view certain material. As one parent allegedly said, “No. It’s a nightmare out there. I don’t even feel safe. My daughters are so tech savvy and I’ve never been on Facebook! It’s scary.”

Some respondents to the survey also called for ISPs to introduce network-level filtering (website blocking) by default, while others felt that there were still “many pop-ups and advertising” on the Internet that are “not always suitable for children“. Meanwhile another said, “I feel they’ve gone out of their way to make it hard for parents to control“.

Guy Ker, Managing Director of Super Camps, said:

This survey reveals real anxiety that children are exposed to material that has no place in a healthy childhood. Parental fears are unequivocal. Many parents feel powerless to prevent children accessing material whose content is unquestionably of concern.

The survey shows that there is some recognition of Government moves to tighten restrictions on content, but a real sense that more needs to be done to protect children in the face of a deluge of inappropriate content. Parents feel exposed because many don’t know enough about what their children are getting up to on their computers, and lack the computer skills necessary to set controls.”

But many of the comments on the survey appear to suggest a lack of understanding about how the new Active Choice Plus system that big ISPs have introduced actually works, not to mention how the Internet itself works. Customers who sign-up to a one of the providers (e.g. Virgin Media, BT, TalkTalk and Sky Broadband etc.) are given an “enforced” option of whether or not to enable filtering, which comes pre-ticked as “Yes” (i.e. to disable it you have to specifically un-tick the box). A list of various categories is then similarly offered for censorship (e.g. self-harm, social networking [Facebook], porn, dating etc.). It couldn’t be any simpler.

However, leaving aside the fact that it’s ultimately the parent’s responsibility to keep their children protected when within the home environment and not the ISPs, there are also plenty of free Internet tools around for helping in this department. A simple Google search is all it usually takes to uncover these (e.g. Ad Block for stopping pop-ups etc.) and many modern Smartphones, Tablets and Desktop computers already have similar features built-in.

But outside of those it’s important to recognise that ISPs cannot control content on remote servers, which is what makes up the Internet, and even the blocks they do introduce can easily be circumvented. In addition, such filters often end up blocking perfectly legal sites due to poor categorisation or filtering errors (we’ve already seen sites for victims of sexual abuse or self-harm be censored). Ultimately no amount of filtering can ever replace effective parental supervision.

Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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