Virgin Media has launched its Web Safe system that will give new and existing customers the ability to switch on network level (DNS based) parental controls. New customers from today will be offered to switch on or off the new controls when their connection is installed and it will be available to all existing customers, with Virgin Media proactively contacting existing customers to make sure they are aware of the option over the course of 2014.
The control currently blocks web sites that are categorised as:
The system is currently not as nuanced as some of the network level systems other providers offer, as currently it is just the above categories that are all blocked or not depending on what the responsible person for the connection decides. For parents wanting to lock down individual computers with more control then the F-Secure software product e.g. blocking social media.
There is no system to allow end-users to create their own whitelist (allow) or blacklist (block) at this time, but if a site is thought to be blocked by being in the wrong category the email address to contain the Virgin team is firstname.lastname@example.org. In case you are wondering who is behind the category list Virgin Media is using the same provider Nominum as they use on their public Wi-Fi network.
While the parental controls look slightly less useful than the other providers, they do provide an important function for parents and more flexibility is promised over time.
For sensitive categories like suicide and self-harming the level of concern with over-blocking is high, and an overall whitelist is apparently in place to ensure that support sites for those using the Internet to reach out and seek help will not be blocked.
The roll-out of the controls by Virgin Media means that around 93% of broadband connections in the UK have the option to use or not use network level parental controls.