Porn-free Net accounts for schoolchildren

CHILDREN'S CHARITIES yesterday welcomed the first Internet accounts for kids which allow them to surf safely on the global computer network.

The growing number of children who are going on-line has raised concerns among parents and teachers that they will be exposed to pornography, violence or approaches from paedophiles.

Recent figures have shown that 2 million children regularly use the Internet, and 1.8 million more are expected to use it within the next 12 months. But nearly half a million children claim they have been "upset" by something they have found on the Internet.

The new accounts provided by AOL, a UK subsidiary of American Online, one of the leading Internet providers, will give children their own customised surfing environment with access to e-mail and pre-screened sites from the Internet.

Parental controls will also offer parents the flexibility to tailor their child's on-line experience further, allowing them to restrict and control access to certain sites.

"The Internet is a fantastic resource, but parents are rightly worried that children might come across illegal, offensive or exploitative websites. Parents teach their children to be streetwise, so why not teach them to be Netwise too?" said Gill Keep, senior policy officer at Childline, the national helpline for children in trouble or danger, which is also going on-line.

Childline said that just as parents tell their children not to talk to strangers, they should also give children basic Internet rules such as "never give anyone on-line your name, address or telephone number unless you have permission" and "always tell if you see anything which upsets you, or makes you feel uncomfortable".

The Kids Channel will include television, music and films, news and sport, homework help and access to qualified teachers. It is designed to offer different levels of access depending on age, "Kids Only" is for under- 12s, "Teen" for 13- to 15-year-olds, and "Young adults" for 16- to 17- year-olds.

"Kids Only is like a walled garden with all the excitement of an adventure playground - so kids can still explore the Internet, but without the risks of unfiltered access," said Alan Griffin, of AOL.

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