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UK leads Europe in parental control use
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A Europe-wide survey published today shows that parents in the UK lead their European peers in using parental controls to filter what their kids access online. According to the survey – EUKidsOnline, led by the London School of Economics – the EU average is roughly a quarter: 28% of parents block or filter websites while 24% track the websites visited by their children. There are significant differences between member states ranging from 54% in the UK to 9% in Romania (see table in Annex).

In addition to the use of parental controls, 70% of parents surveyed said that they talk to their children about what they do on the Internet. 58% of parents claim that they stay nearby their children when they use the Internet.

Another study released simultaneously assesses the effectiveness of the tools used. It shows that while a healthy 84% of the software programs tested enable parents to block access to certain websites, they are less efficient at filtering so-called web 2.0 content such as social networking sites or blogs. In addition, only a few products on the market are able to filter web content accessed via mobile phones or game consoles, at a time when one child out of four in Europe goes online in this way.

This second study analysed 26 parental control tools for PCs, 3 for games consoles and 2 for mobile phones. It found that the existing software is good at filtering adult online content, but there is still at least a 20% chance that sites with unsuitable material for children and especially those encouraging youngsters to self harm (sites promoting anorexia, suicide or self-mutilation) could pass through their filters. At the same time, other sites that include content specifically for children are blocked.

As far as parental controls for smart phones and game consoles are concerned, not all products on the market are able to filter web content although 31% of children in Europe access the Internet via their mobile phones and 26% go online via game consoles.

English is the most common language for the parental control tools, while the choice of tools for other languages is limited.

    Background

    The EUKidsOnline survey was conducted in 25 countries with more than 25 000 children and one of their parents between April and August 2010. The survey is part of the EUKidsOnline II project, funded by the Safer Internet Programme and coordinated by the London School of Economics and Political Science. Initial findings were released in October 2010 (see IP/10/1368).

    The "Benchmarking of parental control tools for the online protection of children" project has been funded by the EU's Safer Internet Programme since 2006.

    The tools included in this project were analysed with settings for two age groups: 10 year olds and younger and 11+ year olds in English, French, German, Italian, Polish and Spanish between September and October 2010. The tools were tested according to 4 criteria:

    -        Functionality: is the tool compatible with the operating systems (e.g. Windows, Linux, Mac OS)? Can it filter web content according to keywords, topics, URLs? Can it block or monitor access to the Internet, emails, chats, instant messaging tools?

    -        Security: can the tool be easily disabled or by-passed by technology-savvy youngsters?

    -        Effectiveness: can the tool fully block websites with unsuitable material for children or can these sites still be accessed? Does it also block good content for children? Is it available in languages users are confident with? Can it properly filter blogs, forums, and social networking sites?

    -        Usability: Can both beginner and advanced users install the tool on their computer? Is the installation process too complex? Is it easy for the parent and child to understand when a website was blocked?

     

     For more information, figures and graphics, please contact the London press office on 020 7973 1971.

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    Last update: 18/01/2011  |Top