Call to improve mobile internet controls

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The Independent Tech


Mobile phones should be fitted with improved parental controls so that children can be prevented from accessing harmful internet material, a Government advisor will say today.

Tanya Byron will say that youngsters are increasingly accessing the internet via their phones and that the national safety strategy must keep pace with technology.

She will call for the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) to work with phone manufacturers to enhance parental controls on mobiles.

There are concerns about young children accessing social networking sites, which can be used for cyber-bullying, and internet pornography.

Professor Byron, whose recommendations led to the creation of UKCCIS in 2008, will urge minimum standards for parental controls on games consoles as well.

Her latest intervention comes in a progress report on the Government's implementation of her previous demands to enhance child safety.

She will praise the Government's internet safety strategy, its awareness campaign for parents and the setting up of the UKCCIS, a coalition of Government, charities and industry.

But she will say that more needs to be done to keep up with developments since then, such as the growth in wifi-enabled mobile phones, enabling remote access to the internet.

In advance of today's report, she said she was "impressed" with the work done since her 2008 review.

"Raising awareness of, and improving education in, the way in which children and young people deal with risks online is an important first step," she said.

"The UK has taken this first step but there is more to be done.

"Parents should be confident to let their children explore the opportunities the internet and new technologies can bring.

"However, they need to be able to support their children to develop the skills to become savvy and risk aware digital citizens.

"Whilst good progress is being made to raise awareness - this needs to continue at pace."

Children's Secretary Ed Balls said the UK was a "world leader" in child internet safety.

"The internet is a wonderful tool for the modern world, but as Professor Byron reports, it continues to evolve at a rapid pace," he said.

"More young people are now accessing the internet on their mobile phones and games consoles, and as parents we need to manage the way our children are using these technologies.

"I'm glad Professor Byron has made it clear that industry and Government need to redouble their efforts to provide support to parents to help them keep their children safe online.

"We need to make sure we are constantly assessing progress against the rapid advancements in new technologies."

Emma-Jane Cross, chief executive of bullying prevention charity Beatbullying, said her organisation supported Professor Byron's recommendations.

"Protecting vulnerable children and young people from persistent and pernicious bullying in the digital space is critical and we must listen to children and young people when framing policy and educating both children and adults to stay safe on line," she said.

"Government commitment to digital Britain and keeping children safe online is crucial."

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