Government needs to do more to protect children online


Leading web security specialists are warning that the Government must see through its promise to protect children from pornographic images on the Internet.
MP’s have called for tighter filters to prevent children seeing unsuitable content online following a cross-party parliamentary inquiry into the issue which has concluded that the government and internet service providers (ISPs) need to do more.

The inquiry found that children were easily accessing pornography and websites showing extreme violence.

Free access to this type of content has exploded in recent years, despite attempts to control its’ distribution.

Simon Wilcox from Smoothwall, a leading provider of dynamic content analysis technology, said that both Government and the ISPs must take a proactive stance to give parents and schools the tools to block children’s access to pornographic and violent content.

Simon said: "“It’'s obvious that the Government should be working with ISPs to ensure that parents know what safety settings are available on their home computers and other internet-enabled devices. This has been happening in countries like the Netherlands for years; our concern is that there is a lot of rhetoric and not much action.

"“If anything, recent developments are more worrying, the Department for Education (DfE) decided to withdraw from any responsibility to maintain a national minimum standard for e-safety filtering in schools by folding the ICT agency responsible - Becta. We hope that the Government doesn'’t do the same with its latest promise to work with ISP’s to ensure that stronger filters for adult content are put in place.”

“"The Government must take the lead so that the industry has clear guidelines and the public have a better understanding on how they can protect their children."

Recommendations from the inquiry include:

  • The Government should initiate a formal review of an Opt-In filter to access adult material on the internet;
  • The Government should press for accelerated implementation plans for "Active Choice"; the content filtering system proposed for new internet customers by the largest ISPs;
  • Within 12 months, ISPs should roll out "single account" network filters that provide one-click filtering for all devices connected to the same internet account;
  • A single regulator should take lead responsibility on internet safety;
  • Public Wi-Fi networks should have a default adult-content bar;
  • Government and industry should draw up new guidelines to publicise existing safety settings on computers and internet-enabled devices;
  •  ISPs should provide more support and signposting for internet safety education.

Currently all the big four UK ISPs, BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin, have agreed to offer new subscribers the option to install parental controls.