With Internet use increasing in schools the UK government has taken the decision to make school web filters mandatory. The government has previously recommended that schools implement web filtering solutions, although many schools have not taken action to curb and monitor Internet use in classrooms. Consequently, children are still able to access adult and other potentially damaging content.
The government is now going to get tougher on schools and will introduce legislation to force primary and secondary schools to filter online content. From September 2016, primary and secondary school children must also be educated about online safety.
How School Web Filters Make the Internet Safer for Kids
The main aim of mandatory school web filters is to prevent them from accessing online pornography at school and other potentially damaging content. The move will make it harder for religious extremists to radicalize children and it is hoped that the implementation of school web filters will help to reduce instances of cyber-bullying.
Some evidence has emerged that shows UK school children who have tried to leave the country, or have travelled to Syria, have been able to access information about Daesh/IS from school computers. Ministers believe that action must be taken to prevent such material from being viewed at school, but to also identify individuals who are attempting to access such material. Greater efforts can then be made to tackle the issue before it is too late. Children must also be educated more about how to stay safe when using social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram.
Proposals were published last week on the introduction of new measures to curb Internet usage in schools, which will include school web filters but also monitoring systems to identify individuals who are attempting to access illegal, dangerous, or inappropriate content. There is also concern that individuals will try to access the same material at home. To tackle that issue, the Department of Education has drafted new guidance for parents to help them keep their children safe at home.
School web filters will prevent all adult content from being accessed from any computer connected to a school network. Websites known to promote IS could also be blocked, along with other potentially harmful content. Children must be allowed Internet access at school as it is now an essential part of their education, but they must only be permitted to use the Internet responsibly. Greater efforts must be made to prevent children from being exploited, radicalized, groomed or recruited by extremists.
The new proposals are to be discussed over the next two months and a consultation will take place, after which the proposals will go to the vote. If adopted, enforcing school web filters will come under the remit of Ofsted.
Sky Implements Automatic Web Filtering to Block Online Pornography
School web filters are only one measure that is required to keep children safe. Protecting minors at home is another matter. Guidance can be given to parents, but that does not mean that all parents will read that information and take action to prevent inappropriate Internet usage at home. Sky Broadband is now planning to do its bit. From 2016, all new customers will be automatically prevented from accessing online pornography at home. New customers will be required to opt in rather than opt out if they want to view pornography. Any content with a rating of 13 years or above will also be automatically blocked until 9pm. At present, new customers are prompted to pick which elements of the Internet will be blocked by Sky web filters when they first access the internet.
Sky will also be backdating this new measure. A statement issued by Sky Broadband indicated this will be applied to all customers who have “joined since November 2013 and have not turned on Sky Broadband Shield”. According to Ofcom, only 30-40 percent of Sky customers have activated its web filter. Other broadband providers are being urged to follow suit. Currently only 6% of BT Broadband customers have implemented parental controls.