House of Lords report on Growing up with the Internet
The information revolution started in earnest when the first printing press was created, but the creation of the Internet and subsequent invention of the World Wide Web has accelerated that pace significantly. Into this rapidly changing environment there are those that worry about the impact on children and the House of Lords has published a lengthy report on 'Growing up with the Internet' (full 100 page PDF document).
There are various recommendations in the report, but one that is likely to draw the ire of many adults is a recommendation that parental control filters be made mandatory for ALL Internet Service Providers and any service/website/application that is likely to appeal to children should be designed specifically for the younger audience.
ISPA has issued its response and while we usually just quote a paragraph, we felt the full text was a good summary as an industry response.
"Online safety is a priority for the Internet industry and our members have long been committed to providing advice, tools and support to help parents and carers protect children on the Internet.
We believe that self-regulation is the right approach to dealing with this complex and challenging area and so disagree with some of the report’s conclusions. The current self-regulatory regime has led to the UK being a world leader in online safety, with up to 95% of consumer customers having free access to a parental control filter, the virtual eradication of child images hosted in the UK via the Internet Watch Foundation and an industry-funded public awareness campaign and one stop shop advisory site. ISPA is further committed to raising awareness of online safety with its members, including a guide for its smaller members and information at sign up on parental control filters.
However, filters are not a panacea and are only part of a solution that includes digital literacy and sensible policymaking. We therefore agree with the report’s recommendations to improve digital literacy’s standing in the curriculum, commission further research to inform policy and see a joined-up policy from Government that we hope a new Internet Safety Strategy will deliver.
Unfortunately, the report has not understood the full breadth of the ISP market. It would be disproportionate to mandate filters for ISPs providing services to business or machine-to-machine services or those who make it clear that they offer an unfiltered service.
In response to today’s report, ISPA Chair, James Blessing said: “The Internet industry has long been committed to keeping children safe online and the UK is regarded as a world leader in this area. We believe the most effective response is a joint approach based on education, raising awareness and technical tools. The Internet industry is constantly reviewing how it helps customers manage online safety and so look forward to being part of the discussions to inform the new Internet Safety Strategy”.SPA response to House of Lords Report on Growing up with the Internet: Industry self-regulation has led to the UK being a world leader in online safety
A lot of responses in the report seem to revolve around the concept that children are automatically digital natives and that they are somehow different from the millions of people for whom their lives already are lived in a digital world. The author of this news item has been using the Internet long enough to remember when the WWW appeared and compiling C code when the JPEG standard emerged, and thus has seen things evolve rapidly and whereas the worry of his parents was the violence of kids comics and the number of hours spent watching TV late at night, parents now are worrying about the hours children spend with their phones and tablets.
Looking at the online world as a whole, if we as adults want to demonstrate to the next generation that we are responsible guardians perhaps we need to consider how we ourselves are using the Internet and how the last 12 months or so has it would seem seen a large shift in how adults interact online, the rise of the troll and the politics of fighting it out online without the safety net of the curated press to temper an individuals vitriol.
Many of the tools for ensuring that online social media does not become a drunken corner of a local bar with all the problems that brings are more critically needed in the adult world than the world of those under the age of 18. Or put another way, if children grow up in a world where we adults and those in charge are setting the example of being tolerant, responsible and respectful then children will have the role models to aspire to and emulate, thus ensuring we avoid a dystopian future.