Feeds

Aus gov dredges up cuter panic-button for kids online

Flipper fights predatory paedophiles

Security for virtualized datacentres

Salvation for children who feel threatened, harassed or bullied on the internet may be close at hand, in the shape of a user-friendly dolphin-shaped "panic button".

That appears to be the upshot of discussions now taking place in the Australian Federal Government’s consultative working group on cyber safety. While their approach does have its detractors down under, this solution appears to circumvent a number of political difficulties that the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) has encountered in the UK.

The idea is to create a button that parents can download and install on their children's computers: if they then encounter serious trouble online, one click on the button would instantly connect them to police or child protection groups.

According to Hetty Johnson, chief executive of Bravehearts, a support organisation for survivors of child sexual assault: "The decision hasn't been made - it's still in the discussion stage - but I think we're getting pretty close.

"There seems to be a consensus of opinion that this is going to be very good."

One candidate strongly in the running to provide the technology is Hector's World, a non-profit group from New Zealand dedicated to providing interactive educational resources for children, as well as helping them to stay safe online.

While the UK's CEOP makes use of Hector's World in its offering to younger children, its overall approach is quite different. It provides a similar "panic button" facility (see top right on their home page), which not only has the ability to link any user instantly to advice and support from CEOP, but also offers direct links to a total of ten different sources of help ranging from Childline to Beatbullying.

Unlike the Aussie cuddly animal approach, CEOP has opted for an abstract and slightly sinister combo featuring a stick figure and a Sauronic all-seeing eye motif. It has had difficulty persuading social networking sites to incorporate the button into their screens - while Bebo has agreed to do so, Facebook and MySpace remain pointedly absent from the party.

They argue that the panic button sends users away from the sites and their internal safety teams. A spokesman for MySpace UK was recently reported as saying: "It's crucial that social networking sites can monitor activity on their platforms so they can review and improve safety procedures."

Clearly there are issues with both approaches. Any solution that requires parental support is likely to fall foul of the fact that in many households, the tech-savviest individuals are also often the youngest.

However, relying on large corporate social networkers – especially those based outside the UK – to amend their offering to comply with UK laws may be a slow process. Moreover, a site-based solution will do little to provide support or protection where a new form of interaction or a new site becomes suddenly fashionable among younger people.

The best approach for those who believe in a technological fix for the evils of the internet would be a belt and braces one, as recommended by the Byron Review, which would see parents and site owners as just two groups involved in coming up with solutions, along with other stakeholders.

We asked CEOP why it had not yet devised a downloadable application approach, seeing as its site-based button was available in 2006. A spokeswoman stated that CEOP's energies to date had been focused on social networking sites, but it was now actively looking into the creation of a downloadable application.

More fundamental criticisms of this approach are levelled by sites such as slashdot, which questions whether the degree of nastiness out on the internet is as great as those who are part of the victim support industry like to claim. Similar questions have been raised in the UK, particularly in relation to assertions made by Beatbullying as to the scale and the definition of online bullying in the UK.

However, in talking to El Reg today, a spokeswoman for that organisation confirmed that there ought not to be any difficulty in making available the figures that underpin their recent report on cyberbullying. ®

Bootnote

Flipper was an American television programme about the adventures of a highly intelligent and protective dolphin broadcast in the mid-Sixties. Flipper's friends included a pelican named Pete and a dog called Spray. The voice of Flipper the dolphin was over-dubbed using a recording of an Australian kookaburra bird.

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Why Oracle CEO Larry Ellison had to go ... Except he hasn't
Silicon Valley's veteran seadog in piratical Putin impression
Big Content Australia just blew a big hole in its credibility
AHEDA's research on average content prices did not expose methodology, so appears less than rigourous
Bono: Apple will sort out monetising music where the labels failed
Remastered so hard it would be difficult or impossible to master it again
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.