Friday 25 November 2011

Are parents in control?

Mediawatch-UK recently submitted evidence to the Parliamentary Enquiry into Online Child Protection, which is seeking to determine what British Internet Service Providers have done to protect children online and what could best be done to protect them from harmful online material.

As part of our submission we included the results of a survey we conducted amongst our members.  We asked our members whether or not their ISP had ever contacted them with details of the parental controls available as part of their package.

  • 80% said their ISPs had never contacted them about parental controls.
  • 20% reported that their ISPs had informed them about parental controls. 
  • Of those who had been told about parental controls 61% were with TalkTalk.  Approximately 60% of TalkTalk subscribers had been alerted to their provider’s new HomeSafe service. 
  • Of members who subscribed to other services only 11% had been told about the parental controls available. 
Of particular concern were a number of BT customers who were under the impression that installing parental controls will cost them a further subscription.

Our sobering statistics show that the majority of internet users are not alerted by to the existence of controls by their ISPs.  It is therefore imperative that ISPs actively communicate to their users the parental tools which are available.

The six largest ISPs in the country control in excess of 90% of the market.  With revenues of more than £3 billion annually these companies must share the responsibility for protecting children online.

There is a suggestion that it is entirely the responsibility of parents to safeguard their children from harmful imagery.  Many parents feel they are able to protect their children by monitoring their browsing histories but new functions such as Google Chrome’s Incognito mean this is no longer the case.  Other parents say that they are not confident in their ability to install a filter. 

It is for this reason that we are supporting the proposal of Claire Perry MP for an ‘opt-in’ system to block adult sites at source unless specifically requested.