TalkTalk presents HomeSafe, the UK's first-ever network level security service
With children accessing the internet in a range of ways for increasing amounts of time, how can parents allow them reasonable online freedom while protecting them from harm?
TalkTalk believes HomeSafe, the UK's first-ever network level security service, puts the power back in parents' hands.
The internet has revolutionised the way our children learn, play and communicate. People under 16 have never known a world without it. But a recent survey by YouGov found that almost half of parents of 6-17 year olds feel the use of social networking and other non-educational websites is having a negative impact on their children's education. And one in five believes their children's school grades are suffering "significantly".
Cause for concern
So what do our kids get up to online? Research from broadband provider TalkTalk found that:
- Half of 12-17 year olds use social networking sites every day, yet only 16% are using the internet for homework
- Among 6-11 year olds, half are spending up to two hours a day using the internet to play games, with just 10% using it for homework
Perhaps more worryingly, the study showed that over half a million children have given out personal information to strangers over the internet and 1.8 million have accessed pornography online.
And a quarter of 6-11 year olds are spending an hour a day on social networking sites - despite many of these sites claiming to have a "no minors" policy.
But TalkTalk also found that over half the parents it questioned didn't know what sites their kids were accessing.
Not surprising then that almost 60% of parents are worried their children could accidentally be exposed to inappropriate content, and the same number are concerned about their kids downloading a virus or malware. And 76% of parents think they should be taking more responsibility for introducing restrictions on home PCs.
One solution for all the family
TalkTalk has launched the answer to this problem: HomeSafe, the UK's first network level internet security and parental control service.
HomeSafe is unique because it filters the broadband feed before it reaches the home - so there is no need to set up controls on individual devices. So, whether kids are downstairs on the Playstation or upstairs on their phone, parents are empowered to better protect them from inappropriate content and viruses.
"Customers have been sharing their concerns with us about family online safety for some time, and we've always felt we have a responsibility to help parents protect their children online," says Dido Harding, TalkTalk's chief executive.
HomeSafe has three key features...
With Kids Safe, parents can easily select categories they wish to filter out from their internet and apply this to all internet-enable devices accessing their home broadband. Parents can also build a tailored list by selecting the categories they wish to filter from their internet service.
Categories are: dating; drugs, alcohol and tobacco; file sharing sites; gambling; games; pornography; social networking; suicide and self-harm; and weapons and violence.
HomeSafe works by filtering websites against a blacklist of domains. That blacklist is constantly update through daily keyword searches, manual assessment and customer feedback. Sites that have not been tested will be listed as "uncategorised" and can also be blocked by parents if they wish. In addition, parents can override individual site blockings on a case-by-case basis using their TalkTalk account details.
Unlike traditional keyword-based security software, which has been criticised for 'over-blocking' and preventing access to 'safe' sites, HomeSafe is intelligent enough to tell the difference between sites that are all about a subject and those that merely mention it.
For example, an article on the BBC news website that discusses pornography would not be blocked by HomeSafe when the 'pornography' category is selected, but adult websites would be. Similarly, a website like Ask Frank, which aims to offer support for drug abuse, would be allowed if the 'drugs, alcohol and tobacco' category is selected. But sites that promote illegal drug-taking would be blocked.
HomeSafe also features a Homework Time option, which lets the account holder block access to non-educational sites - such as social networking and gaming sites - at any time of their choosing.
So parents can block children's access to online distractions during homework time, without cutting them off from the host of educational tools that are available to them online. In keeping with the rest of the service, it is quick and easy to use - it takes less than a minute to set up.
Experts estimate that the number of infected websites doubled to 1 million last year, but one click within the HomeSafe menu will activate an alert system that blocks webpages infected with any kind of malware or other online threats.
And because it works at network level, Virus Alerts will protect every device being used to access that broadband account. The Virus Alerts service works by scanning websites that users try to connect to. If it finds any viruses or other harmful threats, it alerts the user and advises caution in entering the website.
If a website is found to be clean, it is placed on a 'safe list', which is refreshed every day to make sure it remains safe. Infected websites are placed on an 'unsafe list', which is rescanned every day and, if a page is found to be clean for seven days, it is given a clean bill of health and removed from the unsafe list.
Last updated: over 1 year ago