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Mumsnet have been asked to attend a Parliamentary Inquiry (set up by a group of MPs and Peers from all political parties) into online child protection next week and we wanted to know your thoughts on the topic. It is obviously quite a wide header, but the terms of reference are as follows:
"1. To understand better the extent to which children access on-line pornography and the potential for harm that this may cause
2. To determine what British Internet Service Providers have done to date to protect children online and the extent and possible impact of their future plans in this area
3. To determine what additional tools parents require to protect children from inappropriate content
4. To establish the arguments for and against network level filtering of content that would require an 18 rating in other forms of media
5. To recommend to Government the possible form of regulation required if ISPs fail to meet Recommendation no.5 from the Bailey Review."
Please take a few minutes to complete this short survey. Our focus will be to represent Mumsnetters' (and kids') experiences, broadly responding to points 1 and 3, but there is also space for any other thoughts you may have, and we'll also reference discussions that have already taken place on the site.
NB: Your ISP is the company who sends you the bill for your internet usage at home
It is open to all UK Mumsnetters with at least one child. Everyone who takes part will have our grateful thanks and if you enter your details at the end you will also be entered into a prize draw to win a £50 Amazon voucher and a copy of The Mumsnet Rules.
Thanks and good luck with the prize draw!
Here's the link again
I've looked at TalkTalk's HomeSafe and I don't think it's very good. It only blocks whole websites, it only allows up to 9 exceptions and it's not configurable for different devices or accounts - everybody in the household is subject to the same level of filtering.
This is from the TalkTalk FAQ ...
My children are different ages; can I have separate settings for different ages?
The advantage of these products is that they protect every computer or device in the whole home. As you can change the settings whenever you choose, you should still be able to find the right balance of protection for everyone in your family.
I'm not sure what the 'right balance of protection' would be between a 5-year-old, a teen, a MNer
googling dragon butter and a 'D'H who may be a secret or not so secret porn user
Ideally, something at this 'network level' would be configurable centrally for different devices or accounts. Does anybody know if this is possible? In the meantime, parental controls that are installed on each device (eg K9) are the way to go, IMO.
I am wholeheartedly against any ISP-level filtering because
a) it will be less effective than the device-level parental controls which are currently available
b) it will slow things down for everybody
c) it will be costly and the costs will be passed on to all of us
d) it puts in place a system which could be used by a less benign future government to censor anything they didn't want us to see.
Focusing more broadly on point 3 ...
To determine what additional tools parents require to protect children from inappropriate content
I think there is currently far too much focus on technological solutions. However good at making filters we get it's only ever going to be a partial solution. We may be able to stem the worst of the tide on our home machines but some inappropriate stuff will always get through. It will do nothing to prevent our DC from accessing content on other devices and networks which are out of our control and it won't stop material being circulated amongst friends.
I see trying to police the internet as a bit like trying to police the street. We can have all the laws we want, lots of police on the beat, traffic calming measures etc. but as well as these, we need to educate our youngsters in the dangers of the street so they can go about in reasonable safety with increasing levels of independence. This starts early - not picking up sweeties off the pavement, how to cross the road, what to do if you encounter a dog you don't know, not going off with strangers - and continues through their teens and into early adulthood - what to do if you're offered drugs, how to handle social drinking, how to get home if you've missed the last bus, what to do if you are mugged ... I think there needs to be a similar emphasis on education when it comes to the internet.
If we don't want our youngsters looking at porn we need to be prepared to talk to them about why in the same way we have conversations about why drugs are a generally bad idea. We need to also have proper conversations with them about illegal downloads, oversharing on FB, online bullying, grooming, gambling, pro-suicide and pro-ana sites, online scams ... a big shiny Porn-Be-Gone! button is no substitute for ongoing supervision, education and guidance.
If there is money to invest in online safety I'd like to see it spent on education and support for parents and young people.
- I'd like to see regular sessions offered for parents - perhaps as part of schools' academic review days/parents evenings - where they can learn about what the dangers are, how to talk to their DC about the issues and how to find, install and use a range of the best filtering tools currently available.
- I'd like to see all aspects of internet safety properly covered as part of the national curriculum. Young people need the space to discuss the issues surrounding internet safety just as they now do around drugs, relationships etc.
- I'd like there to be a named contact in schools who parents or youngsters could go to for help and advice if they encountered any problems with internet safety among their own DC or their friends.
(sorry it was long)
PlentyOfPubgardens - my ds's secondary school ran an awareness campaign and the children had a visit from police officers who deal with this area to explain about how to keep themselves safe and what to do if they encounter problems etc online.
Us parents were also given the chance to come to a discussion on it. My dad said to me 'why are you going? you know all about that stuff already.' As I said to him you can never know enough and I would rather be up to date and know what the current risks are then be complaicent because I 'know it all'.
I did in fact learn quite a lot that evening.
The evening was really poorly attended, given it was open to all parents of year 7 and 8 students I would estimate that barely 10% of parents turned up. One parent pointed out that, given it was so poorly attended, did that not show a worrying lack of concern by those who hadn't attended.
It was at this meeting that I discovered that my ds is the only child is his year who has never been on facebook and doesn't have an account. One other child didn't go on there, as his account had 'gone weird ' but had in the past.
I find that quite shocking that these dc are under 13 and yet their parents think it is fine for them to lie about their age to access stuff online they want to see. What do they supose is going to stop them lying about being 18+ to get on other sites they want to see too...
I am firmly against any proposal for mandatory ISP-level filtering.
a) If the filtering is only going to filter 18+ hardcore porn then it will still allow through a whole host of material that is inappropriate for children (eg, rotten.com, 4chan.org, liveleak.com etc). Therefore a responsible parent would still need to have filtering software on the home PC(s) to block access to such sites.
b) If the filtering is going to be to block any and all sites that are not child-friendly, then a whole load of adult non-porn sites will be included. Mumsnet will quite likely be one of them (it already is on at least one mobile phone company's filter list). Or, more likely, the parent will get fed up of not being able to get to the grown-up, non-porn sites they want to and so opt-out of the network filtering and then still have to set up filtering software on the home PC(s) to block access to the porn and/or nasty sites.
c) Network-level filtering (either at the ISP or on the home network) cannot distinguish between different people wanting access to different things. I want access to mumsnet and liveleak.com, I don't want my 9yo DD getting to either of them. A network-level filter cannot do that.
d) If someone really does want ISP-level filtering, despite all its flaws and its costs, then they can vote with their feet and move their broadband contract to an ISP that offers such a service. Making it mandatory is nanny-state politics at its worst.
gillybean, that awareness campaign sounds like the sort of thing I have in mind. It's a shame it was so poorly attended as it sounds like it was quite valuable for those who went. I don't know whether it's just a lack of concern that keeps people away from such events. Perhaps some parents thought they already knew all there was to know as your dad assumed you did. I agree this a rapidly changing area and we should be continually updating our knowledge. I also wonder if there are parents who simply can't bear to even think about what their DC might be looking at. It's not so much a lack of concern as denial in this case. I think such parents need a safe, supportive atmosphere to move past this, not the empty promise of a magic button that will supposedly stop all the bad stuff.
I wonder if such awareness campaigns would be better attended if they were rolled out nationally and well advertised - TV campaigns, leaflets etc.?
I absolutely agree with you about parents turning a blind eye to younger children bypassing age restrictions. The child who has learnt it's OK to lie and click an 'I am over 13' box won't think twice before clicking an 'I am over 18' box when it suits them.
For reference, here is recommendation no 5 from the Bailey Report:
Making it easier for parents to block adult and age-restricted material from the internet: To provide a consistent level of protection across all media, as a matter of urgency, the internet industry should ensure that customers must make an active choice over what sort of content they want to allow their children to access. To facilitate this, the internet industry must act decisively to develop and introduce effective parental controls, with Government regulation if voluntary action is not forthcoming within a reasonable timescale. In addition, those providing content which is age-restricted, whether by law or company policy, should seek robust means of age verification as well as making it easy for parents to block underage access.
ACTION: Internet industry and providers of age-restricted content, through the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS)
Ah, cheers Snorbs
So, from the sound of it, the government has already decided that the ISPs are the right people to deal with this and they want opt-out controls, not opt-in.
Looks like this discussion is mostly a waste of time then
Do we have any assurances we won't be put on a Special List for opting out? Most of us will end up opting out/turning it off because it's going to be a complete PITA in exchange for not very much protection at all.
I've come across age verification in connection with another website I used to frequent.
- it didn't work - it blocked lots of people who were over the required age while letting lots of minors through. Details of how to age-verify using databases of dead people's data were widely circulated.
- it was untrustworthy - the age verification was one arm of a business whose other arm was mining and selling data to US political groups. It claimed to check people's details against databases which were already publicly available, even where (UK for example) such public databases don't exist.
Obviously this is just one company and it was based in the US but I've yet to see any examples of more reliable and less dodgy age verification solutions.
solidgoldbrass talks sense. I congratulate also her employing the sadly underused expression, "bellend".
You see, the trouble with a lot of pro-censorship people is that they are deeply unimaginative and have no sense of humour. They think everyone should be like them, sexually vanilla and content with Family Fortunes and CBeebies by way of entertainment: they don't ;ike anything that's a bit artistically challenging and don't have the faintest idea what literary merit is. So they are quite happy for all kinds of satirical and lavatorial humour sites, all kinds of medical/psychologial self help groups and all kinds of fiction and discussion and general information sites to be barred or made really hard to access, just incase someone's eight-year-old sees the word 'cunt' typed in big letters or something.
If children and young people are properly educated about sexual diversity, personal boundaries, online bullying, self-esteem and all the rest of it, seeing a few pictures will not actually turn them into either basket cases or menaces to society. Education, not censorship, is always the answer
Katemumsnet, I've just had a look at the TalkTalk HomeSafe thing.
It's an opt-in ISP-level network filter. It's got a couple of extra bells and whistles attached - there's a virus scanner of dubious worth and the ability to block games and social networking sites during "homework" times - but there's nothing new, special or clever about it.
As it is just an ISP-level filter it has all the same flaws as other ISP-level filters. Any filtering and time limits you set on it will apply to everyone using your home broadband (As an aside, I wonder if they class mumsnet as "social networking"?) And a quick googling suggests that it's easily circumvented either by using proxies or VPNs.
Nevertheless, I'm glad that TalkTalk is offering it. If people want such services then they can move to TalkTalk and opt-in (or not, as the case may be). Hopefully then the government will realise that don't have to mandate anything.
Done (I think, the submit page could not be displayed)
Interesting that without even having looked at the responses on this thread I completed the survey making the same points about the emphasis needing to be on education and awareness and not the lazy solution of the thin edge of censorship.
Thanks to everyone who took part, lubeybooby was selected as the winner and gets £50 Amazon voucher + MN Rules book.
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