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 number10.gov.uk 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.