The UK’s four major Internet Service Providers have signalled their intention to take a back seat over what children can access online after they published a Code of Practice, putting the decision on what to block in parents’ hands.
The ISPs: Virgin Media, BT, TalkTalk and Sky, said they believed parents are best-placed to decide whether to turn controls on, and to decide what types of content and applications to block, rather than having those decisions made for them by internet firms.
The Code commits them to educating parents about content controls but does not require them to automatically block content, only allowing access to content deemed “adult” when specifically requested.
Ofcom research released earlier this week found that four out of five parents have spoken to their children about staying safe online and around two thirds had set rules for their pre-teens.
The code commits its signatory ISPs to teaching parents about the availability of parental controls, providing tools free of charge to filter access to the internet at the point of purchase and reminding customers of the blocking tools at their disposal at least once a year.
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said he was pleased to see the industry “taking action to help parents protect their children online”. He said: “The new code of conduct is a real, practical step to ensure households make a choice about parental controls when opening a new internet account. I look forward to continuing to work with the ISPs and the rest of the industry to help children enjoy the benefits of the internet safely.”
The Children’s Minister Tim Loughton added: “Parents are quite rightly concerned about their children accessing harmful or inappropriate content online. But many parents don’t always know how to activate parental controls at home.
“That's why it’s important they are asked to make a choice at the point of purchase over whether they want parental controls switched on or off.”