Why more tools like Olly should be developed and used
Some time ago I wrote a short piece about how new technologies, such as tablets and smartphones, can distract parents from paying full attention to the life of their children. The portability of technology means it can be readily accessed and the temptation to check your email or Twitter feed at any time, perhaps during your child’s school play or sports day, can be irresistible. On the other hand, whereas television was once the great occupier of your child’s time, which enabled you to focus on doing the dishes or hanging up the washing, the iPad and new technology is now also fulfilling this task. Portable computing is also increasingly being used in schools. In fact, this technology is all around us and increasingly all-pervasive.
However, as technology becomes increasingly personal, the value that we put on talking to our children about their internet use should increase. So too should the value we place on tools that can help build a safer environment for them. At CARE, we have been working with Baroness Howe on her Online Safety Private Members’ Bill, which would make it a requirement for all internet service providers, to provide a pornography-free internet service as a matter of course unless a client decides to opt-in to an unfiltered service. This would mean that the Wi-Fi in a family home would protect a 13 year old from accessing age-sensitive content on his iPad. However, the sort of excellent protection that you might have at home does not always extend elsewhere. It is possible to use the same iPad connected to an internet connection in which the filter has been turned off.
This is why, in addition to the opt-in mechanism proposed by Baroness Howe, tools like Olly are such a good idea and why we would also like to see Baroness Howe’s Bill succeed in conjunction with the development of more tools to help children stay safe online. Olly is a web browser available free on the iPad which will eventually be made available on several other platforms. Built into Olly’s search function is a filter which steers children away from more than 600 million adult websites making the iPad that much more family-friendly.
John Carr, one of the world’s leading authorities on children’s use of the Internet, has praised the app:
“Parents love technology and rightly want their kids to have it both for educational reasons, to help them stay in touch with friends and family, and have fun. But parents are also very concerned about their children’s potential exposure to an almost endless supply of porn that is easily accessible online. Olly can deal with that. And the beauty is in its simplicity. Many parents find some of the available filtering programmes fiddly, daunting and complex. Olly is very straightforward.
An important feature of Olly is its ability to distinguish between sites that contain sexually explicit content and sites that contain information about sexual health or might be relevant in the context of schoolwork. ”
It is fantastic to see initiative being taken to promote healthy, family-friendly browsing. We hope that others will be encouraged to generate similar tools as we look forward to the next stages of Baroness Howe’s Online Safety Bill.