Skip to main content

Ofcom: How to protect your children online

UK communications regulator Ofcom has published a new report advising the government on safety measures to help safeguard younger web users.

The document outlines practices the country’s largest Internet service providers (ISPs) have put in place to help parents protect their offspring from harmful online content.

The news follows a July 2013 agreement between the government, BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media to ensure new customers were offered “family-friendly network-level filtering” by the end of last year.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has asked Ofcom to produce three reports in Internet protection for children – this latest report is the second.

DCMS tasked the regulator to identify the approaches individual ISPs are taking to ensure family-friendly filtering services are successfully implemented, rather than the effectiveness of the filters themselves.

Such measures include ensuring new customers are presented with an “unavoidable choice” on whether to activate the filters, which apply to web based content on any devices connected to fixed broadband in the home.

Read more: New programme launched to promote online safety in the UK

This latest report claims that the four largest ISPs now have a network level friendly filtering service that is offered to new customers.

When signing up for a new Internet service, clients are presented with a prompt from their chosen provider during the set-up process that explains the filtering service and offers a pre-ticked option to use it.

According to Ofcom, this way of managing the content a child may come across is helping parents to prevent their children from accessing inappropriate websites.

Each of the four ISPs has common filtering categories including suicide and self-harm, pornography, file sharing, crime, drugs, violence and hate – although other categories vary by individual providers.

BT, Sky and TalkTalk were found to be successful in meeting the government’s target of December 2013 for implementing the security measures.

However, Virgin Media did not launch its filtering service until February 2014 and even then only 35 per cent of new customers were offered it and not in the form of a pre-ticked box.

Despite this, the firm says it is implementing additional ways for its customers to choose filtering after the initial set up.