Do Internet Filters Work for Kids?

In a report out this week titled Ofcom Report on Internet Safety Measures, UK telecom regulator Ofcom sheds some new light on how parents should be thinking about internet filters and inappropriate content. The UK has been early to move on efforts to help parents shield children from adult internet content, but the effort to date has had mixed results at best, so this study comes at an opportune time.

While we at ThirdParent have nothing against internet filters as a means of protecting kids from content that is or may be inappropriate, we have cautioned parents that kids have a way of finding their way around roadblocks if they’re inclined to do or see something. The results of the Ofcom study appear to dovetail nicely with our view.

The report is one of the most extensive we’ve seen in terms of parent/child interaction about internet use, and we wanted to point out some of the highlights.

On the (perhaps?) positive side of the ledger, the majority of parents trust their kids to use the internet safely; 52% of parents of 3-4s, 72% of parents of 5-7s, 83% of parents of 8-11s and 89% of parents of 12-15s.

Notwithstanding the fact that:

“Most parents of 5-15s who go online at home… feel that the benefits of the internet outweigh the risks (70%)”

it is very telling that parents, while concerned about their kids’ internet safety, admit that their kids as they get older eclipse them in terms of internet savvy:

“Overall, half of parents of 5-15s agree that their child knows more about the internet than they do but this also varies by the age of the child – from 14% of parents of 3-4s up to 63% of parents of 12-15s. “

Regarding the use and effectiveness of internet parental controls and filters, the BBC does a great summary, the highlights of which are as follows:

  • 18% of 12-15s know how to disable internet filters
  • Almost half of 12-15s know how to delete their internet browsing history

If kids both know more about the internet than parents, and at least some of them know how to dodge parental supervision or control, parents are behind the eight ball. Whether you agree with the above results or not, to our mind they highlight the fact that a lots of parents have their fingers crossed, and that there is no silver bullet when it comes to keeping kids safe and ensuring appropriate conduct online. If you have installed filters, they do not replace the need for genuine and frequent parent-child interaction about internet use from a very early age. Informed, involved parents are the most effective weapon in ensuring safe and proper internet use.

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.

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