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EU Study Finds UK Parents do the Most to Protect Children Online

Posted: 14th Jan, 2011 By: MarkJ
stop sign - uk internet censorshipA new Europe-wide study ('EUKidsOnline') by the London School of Economics (LSE), which looked at the use of parental controls and internet filtering, has revealed that UK parents lead the rest of Europe with 54% blocking or filtering their children's internet access. By contrast the EU average is just 28%, with Romania on the lowest at 9%.

In addition to the use of parental controls, 70% of parents surveyed said that they talk to their children about what they do on the Internet and 58% claim that they stay nearby their children when they go online (i.e. such as moving the computer into their living room).

Despite all this the UK government is still putting pressure on broadband ISP to restrict universal access to pornographic content by implementing an "opt-in" system, which would require verification that a user is over 18 for access to be removed.

However, many ISPs already offer Parental Controls and most mobile operators impose similar restrictions by default, which usually require Credit Card Verification to disable. There are also plenty of third party software solutions available.

Sadly any such restriction wouldn't be very effective since an ISP can only offer a thin illusion of control, which almost any child with the ability to use an internet search engine like Google could easily circumvent. ISP controls are no substitute for good parenting or simply moving the family computer into your living room.

Another study released simultaneously assesses the effectiveness of the tools used. It shows that while a healthy 84% of the software programs tested enable parents to block access to certain websites, they are less efficient at filtering so-called web 2.0 content (i.e. social networking sites or blogs).

It also found that the existing software is good at filtering adult online content, but there is still at least a 20% chance that sites with unsuitable material, especially those encouraging youngsters to self harm (sites promoting anorexia, suicide or self-mutilation), could pass through. At the same time, other sites that include content specifically for children are blocked.

In addition, only a few products on the market are able to filter web content accessed via mobile phones or game consoles, at a time when one child out of four in Europe goes online in this way.

Elsewhere the UK government has this week presented the first Child Safety Online Kitemark to Netintelligence for its own cloud-based internet filtering solution. The Kitemark requires internet filtering software to be easy to install, easy to use and effective in blocking inappropriate online content such as pornography, violence and racism.

According to the communications regulator, Ofcom UK, three in four children aged 5-15 now use the internet at home - yet only 43% of parents of children aged 5-15 say they have controls or filtering software in place; a situation that has actually worsened since 2008 (49%). Ofcom's results clearly differ from LSE's.
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