Parental control programs perform poorly with Web 2.0 sites

An EU survey has raised concerns about keeping children safe online

A survey by the European Commission has found that parental control programs aimed at keeping children safe online do not function well with Web 2.0 sites, smartphones or games consoles.

Although 84 per cent of the software programs tested worked well with traditional home computers, they do not efficiently filter Internet content via mobile phones or games consoles -- this at a time when 31 per cent of European youngsters access the Internet on their mobile phones and 26 per cent go online via game consoles. In addition, content from Web 2.0 sources like social-networking sites, forums, blogs and instant messaging also frequently slipped through the safety net.

The study, published on Thursday, analyzed 26 parental control tools for PCs, three for games consoles and two for mobile phones. It also found that while software is good at filtering adult online content, there is still a one-in-five chance that unsuitable content, including sites promoting anorexia, suicide or self-mutilation, could pass through their filters.

Meanwhile a separate Commission-funded survey by EUKIdsOnline found that only a quarter of European parents use parental control software to monitor, track or filter what their children can do online. However, there are significant differences from country to country, ranging from 54 per cent in the U.K. to just nine per cent in Romania.

This may be the result of limited language options. The survey found that although there are many programs available in English, the choice of tools for other languages is limited.

The tools were tested according to four criteria: functionality, security, effectiveness and usability. The study interviewed 25,142 children aged 9-16 who use the Internet, plus one of their parents.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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Tags internetonline safetyeuropean commission

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Jennifer Baker

IDG News Service
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