DfE publishes report from internet parental controls consultation

14 Dec 2012 UK SIC

Today, the Department for Education has released its report from the consultation it carried out over the last few months into internet parental controls.

The consultation was led by Department of Education Ministers as well as Home office ministers who chair the UKCCIS (UK Council for Child Internet Safety) Executive board and received over 3,500 responses from members of the public, parents, voluntary organisations, industry and academics.

Having analysed the responses received the Government proposes an evolved approach to child internet safety which involves:

–          Actively helping parents put in place appropriate safety features for their children on the internet

–          Covering existing ISP customers as well as new ones

–          Prompting or steering parents towards safety features

–          Making it easier for parents to take control of setting up internet access for their children

The Government is calling internet service providers (ISPs) to “actively encourage people to switch on parental controls if children are in the household and will be using the internet.”

The report goes on: “The Government is urging providers to go one step further and configure their systems to actively encourage parents, whether they are new or existing customers, to switch on parental controls. The Government believes providers should automatically prompt parents to tailor filters to suit their child’s needs e.g. by preventing access to harmful and inappropriate content. We also expect ISPs to put in place appropriate measures to check that the person setting up the parental controls is over the age of 18.”

This approach builds on the commitment of the four major ISPs in the UK – BT, Sky, Virgin and TalkTalk to provide ‘active choice’ for parental controls to all new customers, which they have all implemented.

In addition the Government has called the information and communication industries, retailers and device manufacturers to “work to develop universally-available family-friendly internet access which is easy to use. The Government wants to see all internet-enabled devices supplied with the tools to keep children safe as a standard feature.”

Some key findings of the consultation reveal that majority of respondents believe that children’s safety online is the responsibility of parents, which explains why automatic blocking or filtering isn’t a preferred option for them. Parents clearly state that they need free and easily accessible education and information to support their children in staying safe online, with parents of vulnerable children needing more support. The report concludes that the Government will look to define children who are most vulnerable online and improve protection and education for them and their parents/carers; look into defining and identifying inappropriate content and start investigating age verification solutions to prevent access to harmful content online. 

As an organisation working closely with the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), the UK Safer Internet Centre will follow the recommendation for ‘active choice’, working to make sure that this active choice made by parents is an informed choice. Parents have the opportunity and should be actively encouraged to make choices around what internet content is accessible in the family home and to their children. These choices need to be informed choices and parents should be given education and awareness raising opportunities to enable them to make these choices. The important message to parents and carers is simply that parental controls (or filtering) are available from their Internet Service Provider, and they are free, and they can find more information on the website of their Internet Service Provider (ISP). Early next year the UK Safer Internet Centre will be hosting short, easy to follow videos from the 4 biggest ISPs, who are BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin, that will clearly demonstrate where parents can find these controls and how they can set them up.

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