Broadband News

Will new computers soon ask you about enabling parental controls?

If the quotes and coverage at the Daily Mail are correct, then anyone buying a computer or starting a new internet service will be asked whether they have children, and if they reply that they do they will be offered the opportunity to apply filtering.

This is all apparently as a result of intervention from the Prime Minister David Cameron, though there is no news on this on the website, or direct quotes only a short quote from an unnamed senior No 10 source.

After the consultation on parental controls earlier this year we are expecting further news on the subject, but until Downing Street officially announces changes it would appear the current coverage is possibly speculation or an attempt to assess public reaction to one of several options.

Mobile providers have for some years had default blocking of adult content, requiring a visit to a high street store or phone call presenting credit card information as proof of age. The major broadband providers have stepped up the visibility of options for parental controls, and assuming parents read the national newspapers they should all be aware of the issues.

We looked at the parental controls provided free by Microsoft earlier this year, and with the filters set to be suitable for a young child, you effectively restricted the Internet to a cluster of a dozen websites. There was a very big side-effect as even when we turned off the filters, the software was still working and actually caused problems with accessing some router hardware we were reviewing, only a total removal of the software fixed the problem. This illustrates some the problems that may arise once parents are given what look like simple choices, in that the limitless permutations of internet provider, broadband hardware and computer hardware mean that the less technically aware may end up with lots of things not working as expected.

Another issue is that some computer platforms do not have built-in parental controls or very limited ones, e.g. Android and iOS devices. There are Android tablets aimed at children that have a parental control system added to them, but these are generally targeted at younger children and not teenagers. The need to add this functionality may add to the cost of hardware in the UK, as manufacturers will view this as a custom requirement for the UK market.

Update 1:45pm: iOS does have restrictions available that can do things like disable the camera and Safari, for content delivered via the iTunes store there is greater control. Turning off the browser seems a very drastic measure.

There may be one industry that welcomes a move towards the Internet having better parental controls, and that is the Adult DVD industry (believed to be worth around £1bn in 2006) which has suffered due to the rise of Internet in a similar way to the traditional music/film industries.


iOS has pretty good restrictions - you can easily limit the age of movies and previews watched from the iTunes store and you can stop individual apps being used including the browser.

  • jchamier
  • over 7 years ago

So you can disable the web browser or enable it?

Will article though.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • over 7 years ago

turning off web browser isn't so drastic on a device that most people will have an "app" for the functionality that you'd get on the web. e.g. there is even a google app (but you'd have to disable that too!).

However the capability is there for parents/guardians to be responsible if giving an internet device to a minor. If they use it is up to them!

  • jchamier
  • over 7 years ago

I'm all for giving people unvarnished information about the options available.

I'm concerned that the information coming central government paints an unrealistic picture of filtering and parental controls.
Unfortunately explaining things would probably be deemed either "not to be a vote winner" or "too complicated for our core message".

  • prlzx
  • over 7 years ago

The simplest ways I can put it.

1) Automated filters currently can't think like people so there will be measurable false postivie and negative matches.

2) Think of the internet as A, B and C can all see each other. Something at A cannot be sure of blocking access to B without also blocking C.
Logical conclusion - to be sure of blocking even one site you have to block the whole internet.

  • prlzx
  • over 7 years ago

3) It's common for controls will include proxies - they won't know them all.

4) Any SSH server or VPN can trivially act as a proxy. These are important tools for internet security and should never be blocked. Some VPNs run using HTTPS which no ISP would block universally.

  • prlzx
  • over 7 years ago

Personally, I believe it should be left to the parents to decide how they wish to approach the issue of restraining their kids. I already have one installed called Qustodio and I use it to block bad content as also watch who my son talks to on Facebook. It shows me the profile pictures of accounts that he interacts with. With measures such as these, I hope I can keep him away from such nasty stuff. You can Google for it.

  • markmiller77e
  • over 7 years ago

When I first got TalkTalk I tried to access info on "sexing Silkie chicks", which is notoriously difficult. TalkTalk's little pop-up asked if I wanted "Adult Content" on my PC. Well - No! Even funnier was an e-mail provider. I emailed my husband's cousin in the USA, asking how her husband was as he had been ill. His name is Dick - not Richard - but the email wouldn't go until I rehashed his name as D-i-c-k. Automated filters are a big no-no.

  • dragon1945
  • over 7 years ago

If you need full parental control that watches everything children do on the internet (such as Facebook) , and filters nasty websites, and does linguistic analysis detect dangerous behavior -
such as internet predators or cyberbullys -
check out McGruff SafeGuard's Parental Control system:

McGruff "Take A Bite Out of Crime" is famous in the USA for family safety since 1979.

For FREE iPad/iPhone parental control, check out

  • marty9999
  • over 7 years ago

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