Protecting children from inappropriate content in the digital world is something Sky has always taken extremely seriously. In the connected world, it’s never been easier to access a wealth of information and entertainment, but, at the same time, it’s also presented a number of challenges in terms of providing a safe and enjoyable environment for kids. It’s an issue which parents are understandably concerned about and which has quite rightly taken its place high up the political agenda.
Back in September of last year I outlined on this blog some of the positive steps Sky had taken to give parents more tools to better control the content their children could access both in and out of home.
This includes adding PIN protection to Sky TV, so certain programmes and even entire genres of channels can be locked behind a PIN, or even hidden from the electronic programme guide altogether. Online, we offer free parental controls where certain types of websites can be blocked so that kids don’t accidentally stumble across unsuitable content while surfing the web. And last year, we began presenting customers with an automatic - or ‘active’ - choice to install parental controls when they first access the internet through their Sky Broadband connection.
In fact, Sky went even further, becoming the first broadband provider to pre-tick the ‘yes’ button - in other words, setting up parental controls became the default option, only avoidable if a customer actively chose not to use them. We also became the first public WiFi provider to filter out access to adult websites as standard across our more than 16,000 WiFi zones. So whether in cafes, shopping centres or train stations – places where parental supervision can’t be assumed – we’ve made sure children can’t inadvertently access inappropriate content over Sky’s public network.
But back in September, I made the point that technology and online behaviours don’t stand still, and neither, therefore, could our efforts to keep innovating to help Sky families ensure they feel safe when enjoying our broadband service.
So while computer-based parental controls are important tools for parents, on their own they are not sufficient in protecting kids who are accessing the net through a growing range of devices such as games consoles, tablets and smartphones.
That’s why we’ve been investigating ways to help provide a ‘whole-home’ solution in which web content can be filtered out not by a particular device, but at a household-level so that parents can define the type of access they want blocked and the filtering will apply across all connected devices in the home.
And I’m delighted to be able to confirm that Sky has committed to offering a whole-home solution to all of our more than 4 million broadband customers. We will also introduce reporting tools to parents so they will know each and every time any changes have been made to the settings they’ve applied, to ensure they are happy with the settings at all times. We will roll out this technology later on this year. This is a significant step and one which will give parents even more power to keep their kids safe online. I’m particularly pleased to be able to make this commitment on Safer Internet Day, which is an initiative that Sky fully supports.
Alongside the technical tools I’ve outlined above, we’re also working hard on helping educate our customers and give them the information they need to ensure they are safe online. My colleague Daniella Vega has outlined some our other projects, such as Sky Skills studio, which teaches school kids how to protect themselves on social media networks. You can read more here.