Access to Net will be filtered

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The Independent Online
MINISTERS ARE to announce plans to help parents to "filter" the use of the Internet by children. The scheme will be included in a government report on e-commerce to be published next week.

Stephen Byers, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, said yesterday that the Government would be setting up an Internet site specifically for parents. "This new site will provide parents with advice on how to filter unsuitable content, and offer links to content- filtering software," he said.

The Government hopes that promoting the use of filters will remove obstacles to Internet take-up, in homes, libraries and schools. "A major barrier to Internet usage is parental concern that children will be exposed to obscene or harmful content," Mr Byers said

Solutions being considered range from password-protected access, to software that would enable parents to download filters. The Government is also consulting local authorities on a national approach to controlling what children see. Local authorities, faced with rapidly rising Internet demand, are anxious to boost public access to online services in libraries. But there is concern children can gain uncontrolled access to sites containing offensive content.

Mr Byers' department said it was working with industry advisers to establish a website that will include information about managing children's time on the Net and look at ways of screening unsavoury material. "This is something that parents perceive as a barrier and we want to remove these barriers to make it safe for children to use what is a great educational tool," said a spokeswoman

The Government is co- ordinating its moves to help parents to filter Net content with the Internet Watch Foundation, an organisation funded by the UK Internet industry. It aims to reassure the public and business that the Internet is a safe and secure place for work, education and leisure.