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Ofcom climbs on Byron bandwagon

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Ofcom has declared it is parents who are going to have to take responsibility for how their children consume digital media, but admits they're going to need help.

The regulator has backed several recommendations in yesterday's Byron Review review, entitled Safer Children in a Digital World, including the setting up of a new government body tasked with educating parents about the digital world and how their children are using it.

Ofcom's own figures show a startling disparity in parental knowledge. While half of parents have installed some form of content blocking, and 80 per cent of them believe it works, 67 per cent of kids reckon they can walk right through it and get any content they want - and with 24 per cent of teenagers having a computer in their bedroom parents aren't going to be able to see what they're doing.

Most parents simply trust their children not to visit the darker side of the internet, though few children say they would tell their parents even if they strayed there by accident.

Tanya Byron wants to see computers in communal areas, so the parents can see what's going on, but not every home has the space for such an arrangement. With portable computers becoming prevalent, the recommendation may be a pointless one.

Ofcom reckons content filtering is the answer, and wants to see a British Standard kite mark on content-filtering packages. The regulator also sees a future in harnessing the wisdom of the crowds to tag inappropriate content uploaded to user-generated content sites like YouTube and its ilk.

Ofcom's response (pdf) is largely concerned with explaining why, and how, the industry should be left alone to regulate itself. An educational body to help parents, and awarding a few kite marks to effective filters, is as far as Ofcom believes it is necessary to go. More authoritarian measures are unlikely to work anyway, the internet being such a chaotic environment, but Ofcom may have its work cut out convincing MPs of that reality. ®

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