Tuesday, 11 October 2011
Internet safety down to your ISP?
Today four of the UK’s internet service providers have announced plans for increased internet safety. These include subscribers being able to choose to block sites with adult content at the point they sign up. The measures are aimed at being able to prevent children from accessing porn on the internet.
In theory this might be seen by some parents as a positive step. After all no-one wants to think of their children inadvertently stumbling across porn online, or in the case of older children, actively looking for it. But I think how effective these measures will be in practical terms has to be questioned.
What constitutes as adult content is, after all, very subjective. So while a site which actively promotes the distribution of pornography is one that would be easily identified and blocked, sites such as Amazon which sell books and DVD’s which might be of an adult nature might easily be identified as adult sites, even though they are not. Similarly web forums where strong language may be used in everyday conversation could be classified as adult purely because of the nature of some of the words being used there.
It’s therefore not inconceivable that a parent choosing to have adult sites blocked in the belief that they are blocking porn will, in fact, end up blocking innocent sites they themselves choose to use on a daily basis.
Rather than having someone else decide what constitutes acceptable content, shouldn’t parents be educating themselves on how to police their children’s internet use better? It would be all too easy to pass the responsibility of keeping children safe online on to someone else, however ultimately parents need to take responsibility for what their children are viewing on the internet, if for no other reason than to have awareness of what it is their children are doing online.
There are plenty of decent parental control solutions out there, which can be individually tailored to ensure that while the parents can access the sites they need to, the children cannot, and can remain safe online.
It should come down to individual responsibility, not the mass blocking of websites based on someone else’s perceptions of what is and is not appropriate content.