The short answer is that we want to help families protect themselves from inappropriate content online. Whether from pornography, violence in video games or films, the promotion of alcohol or tobacco and any other age sensitive content.
With the advent of the internet, social networks and hand held mobile phones (that are basically small computers) we are seeing a huge shift in how technology is used. From the more passive Radio or TV media, where traditional legislation offers some form of protection for children, for example through the watershed, or age restriction on purchasing DVDs on the high street, we are moving into an environment where content is increasingly being produced by the very users who consume the media online.
At the same time, content is no longer subject to regulatory standards based in one country, making it hard for individual Governments to seek to regulate standards of content that can be accessed or consumed online.
Parents need to use discernment about how they help their children navigate the joys and dangers of the internet. But they also need help. We want to support them.
CARE’s Protecting Families Online campaign is about promoting parental control mechanisms, the requirement for robust age verification to access age-sensitive content and an opt-in/opt-out approach to blocking age-sensitive or inappropriate content at Internet Service Provider level.
CARE has always been concerned about families and the safety of children around the TV and in the use of other media.
We have made recommendations to government on better regulation of remote gambling websites based outside of the UK. Alongside others CARE recommended the use of a robust computer games age-rating system, which was implemented by Government through the Digital Economy Act. During the debate around that Act, CARE was very much involved with supporting Baroness Howe, who moved amendments in the House of Lords debate on the Digital Economy Bill. She proposed two key changes to legislation which highlighted the importance of educating parents, at the point of sale and for the duration of the contract with Internet Service Providers and Mobile Phone Operators about the use of Parental Control Mechanisms. She also moved an amendment on the need for robust Age Verification Mechanisms for content which is age-sensitive and would usually be regulated on the high street. If you are interested in reading the debate you can access them on the They Work For You website, dated from the 8th of February 2010.
CARE is currently involved at the European level in the Directive on Combating the Sexual Exploitation of Children, which will ensure measures to ensure children are kept safe from sexual predators.
In the UK, we have launched the Protecting Families Online campaign to add particular focus to the efforts which are ongoing here in the UK.
CARE is doing two things. First, we are offering resources and information to parents concerned about their children’s safety, so they can help their children keep safe online. There are many good, but often underutilised tools that already exist, so rather than recreating the wheel, we want to point parents to some very good resources that you can access through our website. Please go to our family protection resources page.
Secondly we recognize that parents cannot do all the work alone. Government and industry have to take some responsibility to ensure that children and young adults are protected from age inappropriate content.
Some very good work is happening in the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) which is a body set up to bring together Government, the industry and other interested parties as a talking shop in order to move things forward.
As a charity that represents a large number of Christian parents and grandparents, we want to seek to tighten up regulation and best practice, as well as promote the good work that the UKCCIS is involved in, highlighting the need to restrict access to age inappropriate content which children and young people might be tempted to access online.
The last government conducted a number of reviews into what it can do to increase child safety online. The most publicised and comprehensive review was the Byron Review conducted by Dr. Tanya Byron. It made a number of recommendations, one of which was to set up the UK Council for Child Internet Safety.
The Council launched the Zip It, Block It, Flag It campaign. More on that over on our family protection resources page.
UK Council has so far been focused on protecting children from unsolicited danger. However, not much work has gone into protecting children from content that they actually might be tempted to access themselves, whether that is an age restricted computer game, film or website like those that are used primarily as promotion of alcohol or tobacco. Of course pornography is also a very serious concern.
They have however recently announced the launch of the BFI Kite Mark for Parental Control Mechanisms which you can read about in our family protection resources page.
CARE’s work in the area of protecting families online will focus on highlighting to parents the importance of putting proper restrictions in place whether at the level of individual computers, mobile phones or games consoles that have access to the internet, or to ensure that parents can chose, through their Internet Service Provider whether to filter age inappropriate content so that such content cannot be accessed by an audience for whom that content is not designed.
In the UK, we have laws that govern the sale and access to age sensitive material in the terrestrial market place, so why don’t we ensure children are protected online? The government has not decided exactly what needs to be done next. Ed Vaizey MP, the Minister for Communications has intimated that Internet Service Providers should offer parents the option of turning pornography off.
Some Internet Service Providers have said that it would be almost impossible to do from a technical perspective, while others, notably Talk Talk have said it is possible. CARE is keen to see technology emerge that will block pornography and other age inappropriate content at ISP level, if parents chose to do so. In the meantime, we are continuing to promote the importance of Parental Control Mechanisms.
In the first instance join the campaigns Facebook page or CARE’s weekly Impact Direct email bulletin service where we will keep you updated on developments as and when they are happening so that you can be involved in the campaign by writing to your MP, or to a company that needs particular persuading. Indeed, why not commend Talk Talk or Ed Vaizey right now for taking the initiative? Or write to your MP and ask them what they can do to support the campaign?
To find out how go to the CARE news section here.
We will also post links from the page from time to time, to interesting articles or resources that have come out which help parents help their children.
In the second instance, please do take a look at the other part of our website which provides researchers to tools and information about keeping your children safe online.