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Parents clueless about cyberspace

Children left vulnerable by adults' inability to police their use of the net

Parents are still falling behind when it comes to monitoring their children's media consumption. Most are fine when it comes to TV, but many still have no idea what controls to impose when it comes to the internet.

A survey, released by the BSC (Broadcasting Standards Commission) and the ITC (Independent Television Commission), monitored the patterns of 500 parents throughout November and December of last year, examining how they controlled what their children viewed.

While most parents were happy with the watershed and allocated time slots for TV programmes, they were concerned that the internet offered no such controls.

"The internet is so vast that it is difficult to control, but we can see that over the last five years companies and organisations have come together to try to offer some reassurance to parents," said a spokesman at Icra (the Internet Content Ratings Association), which runs its own filter system.

But even those parents who did control internet usage employed informal controls, such as placing the PC where they could see it and allocating children time slots.

Many felt the technical tools available for controlling their children's use of the internet were too complex.

"It's not enough for parents to blame the complexities of protective software and their lack of IT skills, they must develop their skills in this area and talk to their children about what they are looking at," added Icra's spokesman.

Surprisingly, one in 10 parents felt there was no need to monitor the sites their children visited, which left kids vulnerable to dangers such as accessing inappropriate chatrooms and pornographic sites.

The report concluded that the majority of parents want simpler labelling, such as the classification standards adopted by films, and easy-to-use filter systems.

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