ISPs to help parents block porn

Internet providers in the UK are to change practices to make it easier for parents to block their children from accessing porn on the web, it was announced today.







Customers signing up with four of Britain's biggest internet companies - BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media - will be offered an "active choice" over whether they want to impose parental controls on web access in their home.



The move is one of a number of measures being announced today to tackle the problem of sexualisation of childhood, also including a new website which parents can use to report concerns and seek advice.



The ParentPort website will allow parents to raise complaints about internet content, TV programmes, adverts, videos, computer games and sexualised products such as clothes being marketed to children.



It will provide advice on how to contact the regulators responsible for clamping down on inappropriate media and marketing activities.



Prime Minister David Cameron is today hosting a Downing Street summit bringing together representatives of regulators, industry and parents to assess progress on the recommendations of an independent review by Mother's Union chief executive Reg Bailey of the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood.



Also being discussed will be new guidelines, published last week by the Advertising Standards Authority, to restrict sexual images on billboards located where children are likely to see them, such as near schools.



And there will be a clampdown on "peer-to-peer" advertising by under-15s, where children are recruited by companies to promote their products to their friends via social network sites like Facebook.



Mr Bailey's report, published in June, warned that modern life was putting children under pressure both to consume goods and services and to take part in a sexualised life before they are ready.



"Active choice" internet controls were one of Mr Bailey's key recommendations. New customers will automatically be asked when signing up for a service whether they want to opt in to explicit sites. This is thought likely to protect a higher proportion of children than existing practices, which require parents to seek out methods of blocking access.



In a joint statement, the four internet service providers (ISPs) said: "BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media are pleased to have developed and agreed a code of practice, including measures to ensure that customers are provided with an active choice as to whether to activate parental controls in the home.



"The ISPs have committed to improve the way they communicate to customers, enabling parents to make simple and well-informed choices about installing and activating parental controls and other measures to protect children online. The four ISPs are working with parents' groups and children's charities on this important initiative and will continue to do so."



The parentport.org.uk website has been jointly developed by regulators including Ofcom, the BBC Trust, the ASA, the Press Complaints Commission and the British Board of Film Classification.



Ofcom 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. We have already tested the website with parents and the feedback has been positive. We will keep listening to parents and intend to develop the site in light of further feedback."







Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties 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.



"A free and open internet is the basis of Britain's economic future - for the Government to actively intervene on non-legal grounds sets a precedent that could cause irreparable harm to free speech."

PA

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