The UK’s top four ISPs – BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media – today published a Code of Practice that outlines a core set of commitments that will see ISPs better inform and educate parents about the options available to empower them to control access to online content.
The Code of Practice – which is founded on the commitment to present parents with an "active choice" over content controls – was developed following an ongoing dialogue between ISPs, Government, NGOs, and parents’ and childrens’ groups. It implements the Bailey Review recommendation that ISPs should make “it easier for parents to block access to adult and
age restricted material"i.
The Code of Practice, which had received the support of David Cameron1 and Reg Bailey, is
the first step in an ongoing commitment by the top four ISPs to work with each other and other interested parties to explore new technologies that will give parents the ability to better control
the online content accessed by their children.
The Code presents a number of measures that can be implemented quickly to help parents take control over the content their children consume online. They will provide a clear foundation on which to build over time, and the Code includes a commitment from the ISPs to continue to innovate in this area.
Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said: "I am pleased to see industry is taking action to help parents protect their children online. The new code of conduct is a real, practical step to ensure households make a choice about parental controls when opening a new internet account. I look forward to continuing to work with the ISPs and the rest of the industry to help children enjoy the benefits of the internet safely."
Children’s Minister Tim Loughton added: "Parents are quite rightly concerned about their children accessing harmful or inappropriate content online. But many parents don’t always know how to activate parental controls at home. That’s why it’s important they are asked to make a choice at the point of purchase over whether they want parental controls switched on or off. I welcome the commitment by the four major internet service providers today and I would like to see their code of practice adopted widely. Parental controls are one part of a wider range of internet safety tools. Through the UK Council for Child Internet Safety we are working with industry and charities to educate and inform parents and children to help keep them safe online."
Minister for Crime and Security James Brokenshire added: "We all have a responsibility to protect children from the harmful parts of the internet and bring criminals operating online to justice. I welcome this new code of practice which will help keep children safe and reassure parents. To boost online safety and tackle crime we must all work closely together – government, industry, the police, and the public – to ensure an effective response."
The objectives set out within the Code include commitments to:
- Increase awareness of the availability of parental controls.
- Present new customers with an enforced choice as to whether or not to use the tools (network or PC-based controls) provided by their ISP free of charge to filter access to the internet ("Active Choice") at the point of purchase or installation/activation of their internet service.
- Provide all customers with regular reminders (at least annually) linking to help or advice on using parental controls through a wide range of customer communications channels.
- Make it easier for NGOs, schools, child protection groups and others to educate parents on internet safety, by being clearer about tools available for free from each ISP.
- Promote clear, easily accessible channels for parents to report problems with parental controls to the associated ISPs.
- Work together to produce customer research that provides Government, Parliament and policy makers with a deeper insight into customer awareness and perception of the tools available to families to tailor their online experience.
- Work closely with the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) to promote clear, accessible channels for parents to report a suspected incident of abuse or inappropriate online behavior.
- Assess emerging technologies and parental control solutions with wider stakeholders and provide regular updates to UKCCIS about the relative merits of these developments.
- Publish an annual update against the measures outlined in this Code, with the first report being made in October 2012.
Implementation of the Code by each ISP will begin immediately, with technical developments expected to be announced through the course of the next twelve months, alongside a commitment to drive greater awareness of the issue through each ISP’s established communication channels.
The objectives set out in the Code will be subject to transparent independent review, providing Government, policymakers, NGOs, parents’ and childrens’ groups with evidence as to whether ‘Active Choice’ is improving awareness and take-up of parental controls.
A copy of the Code of Practice can be downloaded here.
Notes to Editors
i Bailey Review
Reg Bailey, Chief Executive of the Mother’s Union, carried out an independent review looking at the pressures on children to grow up too quickly as the request of the Government. “Letting Children be Children: the Report of an Independent Review of the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood” was published on 6 June 2011.
The Bailey Review made the following recommendation for the internet industry:
Recommendation 5: Making it easier for parents to block adult and age-restricted material from the internet. To provide a consistent level of protection across all media, as a matter of urgency, the internet industry should ensure that customers must make an active choice over what sort of content they want to allow their children to access. To facilitate this, the internet industry must act decisively to develop and introduce effective parental controls, with Government regulation if voluntary action is not forthcoming within a reasonable timescale.
A copy of his report can be found at: