Internet providers offer parents bar on porn


David Cameron said parents could feel ''it is a jungle out there''

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Four leading web providers are to offer customers the option to block adult content at the point of subscription.

BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin will offer the protection for smartphones, laptops and PCs.

It comes as David Cameron on Monday met industry representatives amid concern over sexualisation of children.

The prime minister also launched Parentport - a website to help parents complain about inappropriate content.

And he backed a ban on billboards displaying risque images near schools.

Mr Cameron said there was a "growing tide of concern" amongst parents who were concerned about children being exposed to "inappropriate advertising and sexual imagery".

"I welcome the progress being made, including the Parentport website being launched today that will give parents a strong voice and a single hub to air their concerns about inappropriate products, adverts or services.

Start Quote

Let's just get on and do this - because internet's coming to our TVs, it's coming to our sitting rooms”

End Quote Claire Perry Conservative MP

"But we must do more, so today I call on businesses and industry to go further and in the new year I will again review progress because I am determined we are really making changes that support parents and protect our children," he said.

"There's no doubt that the sort of pressures - what you see on television programmes and advertising hoardings and sort of a mixture of pester power problems but also just the sense that our children are being forced to grow up too quickly," he said. "We don't want to see always the answer as a regulatory legislative answer - so what can we do showing some social responsibility."

The new measures, aimed at helping parents protect their children from internet porn and other explicit sites, follow a report earlier this year by the Mothers' Union Christian charity known as the Bailey Report.

The four ISPs said in a statement that they: "have worked closely with government and a range of stakeholders to swiftly introduce measures addressing recommendations set out in the Bailey Report."

They said they would talk to parents about how to activate and administer parental controls. The tools to limit what children can see and do online are already available but, before now, have not been offered to customers as they sign up.

The Conservative MP Claire Perry, who's been leading a Commons inquiry into online child protection, said she welcomed the moves.

But she said she was concerned it was only for new customers and would not be introduced until 2012.

"We know the technology's already there. We know that people want it, so why the wait? Let's just get on and do this - because internet's coming to our TVs, it's coming to our sitting rooms," she said.

The BBC's technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones said the industry was a bit wary of these plans as it did not want to be seen as censors.


Parents will welcome the new controls on pornography although, with children accessing the internet from a variety of devices, including mobiles, it will not entirely solve the problem.

Kids are also very smart and have proved themselves more than capable of getting around the filters set up in schools so it won't be long until there is widely-available "advice" online about how to avoid the home versions.

From the ISPs point of view there is a fine line between providing customers with the filters they need to feel safe and policing the internet.

The latter is something they have vehemently backed away from when it comes to requests from the content industry to block access to illegal music and films.

Blocking porn, they will argue, is just responding to customer demand but those opposed to filtering net content are likely to see it veering towards censorship.

Web providers currently offer packages which enable certain websites to be filtered out, he added. However this was an "imprecise art".

TalkTalk offers users network-level filtering software, which means it protects all devices used on the home internet connection.

This is seen as important as more families surf from a variety of laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Some 150,000 TalkTalk customers have so far opted in to the HomeSafe service, according to the firm.

It blocks a variety of websites, including suicide and self harm, violence and weapons, dating sites, gambling sites and filesharing. Parents decide what sites they want to include on a blacklist.

Increasingly ISPs are offering more sophisticated filters for customers.

"The major service providers are accepting that their customers expect them to play their part in helping to ensure children are able to use the internet in a safe way," said Sebastien Lahtinen from Think Broadband.

"It's worth noting that those determined to get around a filter will find a way of doing so, often quite trivially," said Mr Lahtinen.

Some critics are concerned that such filters represent the thin end of the wedge when it comes to censoring the web.

Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: "We should tread very carefully when developing state-sanctioned censorship of the internet.

"Let alone the quagmire of deciding what should be censored, it is a dangerous path to go down to expect technology to replace parental oversight and responsibility," he added.

Critics of filters argue they often block access to innocent sites and never shield people from all inappropriate destinations.

Age restrictions

The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones: "It's a fairly blanket blocking of all sites that may be unsuitable"

Mothers' Union's head, Reg Bailey, warned that childhood was being wrecked by the "commercialisation and sexualisation" of children on TV, amongst advertisers and on the web.

He said he was pleased businesses and regulators were not just "paying lip service" to his recommendations, but said the areas tackled so far were relatively easy to implement.

"I don't want the more complex technical issues facing businesses to get in the way of them making changes.

"Over the next year I will be working with voluntary groups to hold organisations and government to account. The outcome we are seeking is far too important to slip off the agenda."

The changes proposed in Mr Bailey's review include restricting steamy pop videos to older teenagers and later television slots and covering up magazines on shelves that feature sexualised images.

Organisations behind Parentport

  • Advertising Standards Authority
  • Authority for Television On Demand
  • BBC Trust
  • British Board of Film Classification
  • Office of Communications
  • Press Complaints Commission
  • Video Standards Council/Pan-European Game Information

Source: Ofcom

Telecoms watchdog Ofcom said the launch of Parentport would make it easier for parents to complain about material they had seen across the media, communications and in retail.

It said the website had a "have your say" section where parents could give informal feedback and comments and also offered advice on keeping children safe online.

Chief executive Ed Richards, said: "Seven UK media regulators have come together to develop a single website, with a single aim - to help protect children from inappropriate material.

"Each regulator shares this common purpose and is committed to helping parents make their views and concerns known."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 291.


    Actually I am the Senior IT technician who happens to be dyslexic. Thanks for your kind words

    at least I can spell troll

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    @134 anotherfakename

    Hehe, I think you totally missed the joke!

    But that aside, I agree with you in that this proposed censorship is not a good thing

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    The technology already exists for parents who want to censor the material their children can access on the internet. And now we have to rely on the government to do the censoring for us?

    No thank you very much. Oblige parents to actually parent their children, that's all thats needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    @279. breadbin40
    Kids should not be allowed computers in their bedrooms under 16 there is no need it should be in same room as parents.Why the need for comps we learnt from books its just an excuse no wonder kids cant read write properly.

    I noted 15 grammatical and other types of error in the item detailed above. D-. See me after class.

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    In any case, I'm not the least bit worried about my kids searching the internet for stuff that they think is naughty. What I am concerned about is the sexual content on kids' programmes that make them think casual sex is not only normal but expected of them. Have the powers that be never watched Glee?

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    How are they going to make they filter out all the porn sites and only the porn sites. Listening to radio 5 this morning they said it was a "very inexact science" so i bet people are stopped from viewing harmless sites and some harmful ones may still make it through the filter

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    I only go on Gamefaqs, hotmail, this site, rely on horror, various gaming forums and YouTube. That's all I need.

    Why do kids really want to use the internet anyway? If anything they'd use Facebook (as usual)

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    53. Killer Boots Man

    This is a tough one. On one hand I don't want my 7 year old son stumbling across inappropriate sites.........

    Have to ask, why does your 7 year old son have unsupervised internet access?

  • Comment number 283.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    I don't have or want children and I definitely don't want collective responsibility for anyone elses either. Government, yet again, steps in to absolve some people that shouldn't have cats, let alone children, from virtually every resposibility they have. Decent parents should be appalled at this because it tars all parents with the same brush.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    A cursory glance at comments suggests that the proposal has generated the usual "nanny state" and "the government should not do parents job for them" responses. Forgive me, if I have misunderstood, but the proposal offers an "option" to block adult content. So adults can choose to have nanny block or not block? Equally, is this censorship or just user control over what we want to see or not see.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    If you bring your children up well then no amount of internet sex/violence exposure will corrupt them. It's a parents responsibilty to teach right and wrong. There is a danger that if you cover something up or remove it then it becomes more desirable. In the past women used to cover up their ankles and they became objects of more desire.
    Deny a child of sweets then they may steal them instead!

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    Kids should not be allowed computers in their bedrooms under 16 there is no need it should be in same room as parents.Why the need for comps we learnt from books its just an excuse no wonder kids cant read write properly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    A lot of people on here have advocated siting the PC in a 'public place' in the house. The downside of this is that the Mrs can monitor what I am viewing. This is another good reason for a man to have a shed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    Enforcing backdoor censorship is not the right thing to do as kids will search out the things they aren't allowed. It's better to help kids understand what the consequences of unregulated pornography can be rather than forbid them access to less savoury parts. Patronising them will only cause bigger problems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    I use the internet; be it http, ftp, dc, nnpt, ed2k, impa, pop3, rdp, or any other acronym

    The World Wide Web uses HTTP, and this is what the blockers will stop

    As a lover of adult content, I can tell you that HTTP is not used for porn as much as everyone thinks it is. If you are in the know, and don't like getting the credit card out, you don't get your content over HTTP

    Parents beware

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    I think porn on the internet is a problem but these aren't the only dangers on the net. War footage, banned films, peoples radical views, facebook, twitter, news...all of these indoctrinate/brainwash our kids into thinking this is the easy alternative to REAL life. Turn it off, go outside and talk to people. Do something instead of vegetating. The internet is a tool, not a life!

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    This is the thin end of the wedge. They chose porn because it is something most people won't kick up a fuss about. Next it will be downloading films and music and then watching football without paying Sky that will be banned. Then the government will take the right to censor forums, ban encryption of data and eventually block news sites.

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    Just as an aside, when I first went on broadband I put some content filtering on my router just to see how effective it was. I put in the word sex (bet that won't get past the BBC censors). Then found my daughter couldn't get to her school e-mail as it had essex in the domain name. So my biggest concern is who actually decides on the list.

  • Comment number 272.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?


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