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Internet age ratings may be an option

New web safeguards considered by government

Child at a computer

Websites may be given film-style age ratings to protect children from harmful internet content such as violent web video clips according to a BBC Online article published on 27 December 2008.

In an interview with the BBC, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said that some internet content was unacceptable, that new standards of decency were needed, and that the government were considering a variety of new internet protections.

Online confusion

Speaking to the BBC, the Culture Secretary said: ‘The internet is becoming a more and more pervasive entity in all our lives and yet the content standards online are not as clear as we’ve all been used in traditional media.

‘I think we do need to have a debate now about clearer signposting and labelling online because it can be quite a confusing world, particularly for parents who are trying to ensure their children are only accessing appropriate stuff.’

Mr Burnham made it clear that plans for internet age ratings are not intended to prevent freedom of expression online, but instead are about ‘clearer signposting, more information, so people know where they’re working.’

NSPCC response to website age rating plans

Diana Sutton, head of policy and public affairs at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), told the BBC News website she welcomed Mr Burnham’s suggestions, but raised queries about how the internet age ratings would work in practice.

The NSPCC spokeswoman told the BBC: ‘It’s one thing to have a political commitment, but it’s much harder to actually enforce it. We want these ideas to have teeth.

‘And these mechanisms on their own aren’t enough. They’ve got to be combined with greater parental awareness. Most parents have no clue what their children are up to online.’

She added that warnings about content, such as on social networking websites like Facebook and MySpace, must be displayed more prominently.

‘What I think is missing from these proposals is that it’s not just about what sites children might see, it’s about who they might meet online,’ she added.

An NSPCC survey carried out in October revealed that three out of four children have seen internet images that disturbed them, according to a poll on the NSPCC children’s website, There4me.com.

Which? online security advice

Child safety/parental control software can help manage your children’s computer and internet use in a way that’s appropriate to their age group. The Which? online guide to security software includes ratings of the parental software available with each paid for or free internet security package under review – including McAfee Internet Security and Which? Best Buy Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009. 

Plus if you want to find out more about Bebo, Facebook, MySpace and other online social networking sites, use the Which? review of social networking sites to get started.

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