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PG grade Internet on the way to Sky customers who do nothing
Wednesday 21 January 2015 13:00:59 by Andrew Ferguson

Parental Controls are a topic that tends to be devicisve since people view any external influence on how they use their broadband connection as an invasion of their privacy. Sky launched its parental controls back in 2013, with new broadband customers since they being given the choice of whether to turn them on or off or pick from a variety of levels, i.e. PG, 13, 18 or custom. A new blog from Sky has indicated that for all existing Sky customers that also have access to the controls and have not made an active decision to turn them on or off yet then the controls will default to the PG level during daytime hours.

A default setting of On, seems to go against some of the things said during the last few years, but the messaging has been so mixed that it is difficult to truly know what the real policy was, and as the policies have been driven by campaigns and letters from the Prime Ministers office there has not been the same degree of oversight that would be possible if legislation was enacted. The broadband providers have generally preferred to act and avoid the legislation as the view of many is that legislation would be even more onerous.

The Sky parental controls do make it clear if you are using a web browser and a page is blocked, but there are concerns over how this will work with services like Xbox Live and tablet and phone apps which will simply see data requests refused and may confuse a household where the account holder is not at home. There is the potential scenario that if an account holder is out of contact when the new controls switch to safe mode that others in a home may find themselves unable to access sites with no way to nuance the control level.

Parental controls are a very useful tool for parents, but we hope that parents are not going to rely on them as a replacement for parenting, particularly as the controls do not catch every scenario and for households with children of various ages frustration is likely to see older children rapidly learning how to bypass the filters.

The worry now for online businesses is how is their site categorised, and if an online retailer that is mis-categorised and sees sales drop who do they appeal to. Alternatively a site that has a mixture of PG/13/18 articles will they see the number of visitors drop and affect advertising income. It is important to realise that a PG safe Internet does not just mean blocking pornography, but includes online gaming and social networking.

It will be interesting to see how the public reacts, and also how Sky handle the roll-out of the default on and the various mistakes that seem almost inevitable.

Update Friday 23rd January After some further dissection of the blog article, we believe that the actual blocking by default will be at the 13 age level, but if the person browsing in this default state visits a 13 rated site they will be asked to review their Sky Shield settings before being allowed to visit the site, though access will be blocked to 18+ rated sites unless you change the settings in the portal. If people are browsing to a PG rated site then there will be no pestering at all.

Comments

Posted by doowles about 1 year ago
I think its a great idea. All broadband suppliers should do it. It takes 2mins to ring them up and remove the block. This has been done for years on mobile phones and no one has complained. Keeping kids safe online should be the absolute priority.
Posted by GrahamM242 about 1 year ago
Personally, I don't think it's a great idea, but due to subtle details in implementation. Automated systems so far have failed, as it's usually pretty easy to work around the filter because of how they work. That just encourages kids to find ways around them, while the parents think their kids are safe.

Personally, I think accountability would be better - parents can be sent a list of sites that have been visited and how often. That would tend to have far more of a dampening effect than an automated filter that's waiting to be worked around.
Posted by GeeTee about 1 year ago
Having recently signed up with Sky, it's really not onerous at all. No need for a phone call as suggested by doowles. Just log in to the online account and choose a filtering level (or off completely, or even "custom") and time of day settings.

Personally, I went with the 18+ option and to just block sites known to be serving phishing / malware crud.
Posted by AndrueC about 1 year ago
Keeping kids safe online should be the absolute priority.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qh2sWSVRrmo

Education and parental responsibility is better than censorship by default.
Posted by AndyS about 1 year ago
"Keeping kids safe online should be the absolute priority" - doowles.

What is it about filters that you think is going to make the Internet child safe? If anything it might even make the problem worse since parents may be lulled into a false sense of security and reduce the amount of supervision given to children.
Posted by otester about 1 year ago
As long as they don't block VPN's, everything will be fine.
Posted by johnmiles101 about 1 year ago
I've been running with Sky site filtering enabled for the last 6-9 months and have not had any problems with mis-categorised sites. Setting the categories is very easy and seems to take effect in minute or less, so I really don't see that there is a problem. If you don't want it, then just turn it off.
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