Google: Parents, not legislation, must protect kids online

The debate over who is ultimately responsible for protecting children online continues to rage. Last week, we reported on the latest developments in a story that we first covered back in October 2011 – that of a plan by the United Kingdom Government to force British web users to ‘opt in’ to viewing adult content, by demanding that internet service providers introduce network-level filters that would block such content, unless customers specifically request that the content be made available to them.

That idea remains alive and well, and retains the full support of Prime Minister David Cameron, as well as many other Members of Parliament. But the ISPs aren’t at all happy about being burdened with the responsibility of curating content – and they’re not the only ones to oppose such moves.

This week, at a child welfare summit, Google weighed in on the debate, offering its views to conference delegates about the need to strike an intelligent balance, rather than blundering in with the “blunt instrument” of legislation. The Telegraph reports that Naomi Gummer, a public policy analyst for Google, told the conference that when it comes to these matters, “the idea that laws can adequately protect young people is a myth. Technology is moving so fast that legislation is a blunt tool for addressing these challenges.”

Her comments went further, as she accused parents of being “complicit” in allowing their children to join and use social networking sites, despite being too young to do so. She added that the influence upon children of online sexual content had been exaggerated: “25% of kids have seen sexual images,” she said, “but only 14% saw them online. Of that, 4% say they were upset by the images; 2% of those images are hard-core and violent; and the rest is nudity in the same way as perhaps seen in the offline world.”


Many believe that parents must do more to monitor their children's online activities,
and to educate their children in what is, and is not, appropriate for them.

A cross-party Inquiry, set up by the Government, reported that many parents simply don’t understand how to properly manage their home computers and devices, to restrict and control the content that their children are able to access. Miss Gummer said that there is a need to focus on “education, not using legislative levers” in addressing this problem.

Her comments will no doubt be supported by Nicholas Lansman of the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA), who stated last week that “parents should choose how they restrict access to content, be it on the device- or network-level, with the tools provided”.

The only major UK ISP to have partially adopted the new proposals so far, TalkTalk, reported that one in three new subscribers have so far opted to maintain the adult content block on their accounts, from which it can be inferred that two-thirds of new customers have been inconvenienced by the new practice. Yet an online poll by the Telegraph indicated that almost 88% of users (at time of writing) believed that the responsibility for protecting children from adult content lies primarily with parents.

But despite popular opinion appearing to be against them, the proposals remain very much in play. Fiona Mactaggart MP, who helped to establish the proposals, commented on Miss Gummer’s assertions: “Internet companies make so much money out of online pornography that it is not surprising that they would say this. They can’t argue that their industry should uniquely rest outside [of] regulation for the public good. I accept it is not the whole answer, but you can’t say we’re not going to use one of the most powerful tools in the box just because the big players don’t like it.”

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Phouchg said,
"Nobody cares about your children. I speak for everyone. I've been appointed by the rest of the group to inform you we don't care about your children - that's why they're your children, so you can care about them and we don't have to bother."
- Georgie, the old f*

the late George Carlin, right?

Jerid said,

the late George Carlin, right?

Yeah. I hear his soul has gone up on the roof and got stuck there. He's gonna be late...

I setup OpenDNS on my router at home to keep the kiddoes off of Facebook and porn. With DD-WRT firmware I was able to specifically block their devices. They would have to spoof their MAC or use a proxy to get around it. DD-WRT iptables forces their MAC address to use OpenDNS (even if they setup a static IP address). Works really really well.

Not that I don't trust them... but my fiance's ex-husband has trust issues with his kids so it is easier for us to just say "they are block from that stuff".

That being said, my setup is pretty non-trivial. The basic router firmwares that I've seen do not have any kind of per-device blocking. I imagine a very small minority would know how to flash their router firmware and setup iptables to do what I'm doing (*pats myself on the back*).

Edited by Shadrack, Apr 25 2012, 7:28pm :

Shadrack said,
I setup OpenDNS on my router at home to keep the kiddoes off of Facebook and porn. With DD-WRT firmware I was able to specifically block their devices. They would have to spoof their MAC or use a proxy to get around it. DD-WRT iptables forces their MAC address to use OpenDNS (even if they setup a static IP address). Works really really well.

Not that I don't trust them... but my fiance's ex-husband has trust issues with his kids so it is easier for us to just say "they are block from that stuff".

That being said, my setup is pretty non-trivial. The basic router firmwares that I've seen do not have any kind of per-device blocking. I imagine a very small minority would know how to flash their router firmware and setup iptables to do what I'm doing (*pats myself on the back*).

That's the point, YOU chose to do that and that's how it should stay. All of a sudden the Government wants to protect your children? Yeah, something's up with that.

funkydude said,

That's the point, YOU chose to do that and that's how it should stay. All of a sudden the Government wants to protect your children? Yeah, something's up with that.


legislation should be made to help parents- you can cum on the web as you want to, but i myself setup a high standard to my internet-acess-points- but i know the workarounds- why is there so much stupidity to vote against filters setup by isps if parent want to????

Shadrack said,
I setup OpenDNS on my router at home to keep the kiddoes off of Facebook and porn. With DD-WRT firmware I was able to specifically block their devices. They would have to spoof their MAC or use a proxy to get around it. DD-WRT iptables forces their MAC address to use OpenDNS (even if they setup a static IP address). Works really really well.

Not that I don't trust them... but my fiance's ex-husband has trust issues with his kids so it is easier for us to just say "they are block from that stuff".

That being said, my setup is pretty non-trivial. The basic router firmwares that I've seen do not have any kind of per-device blocking. I imagine a very small minority would know how to flash their router firmware and setup iptables to do what I'm doing (*pats myself on the back*).


Don't worry, they'll see porn anyway the day they want to see it.

Aethec said,

Don't worry, they'll see porn anyway the day they want to see it.

Yes, I know they will. The setup is more-or-less a cover-our-ass setup due to sticky situations made by their father whom I have a low opinion of.

"Your kids use Google to search for porn, that's why we oppose this legislation".

Seriously though I don't think most parents have a clue how to control what their kids see. In fact off the top of my head neither can I.
I don't mind this legislation however make the filter be off by default rather than on!

SK[ said,]"Your kids use Google to search for porn, that's why we oppose this legislation".

Seriously though I don't think most parents have a clue how to control what their kids see. In fact off the top of my head neither can I.
I don't mind this legislation however make the filter be off by default rather than on!

the problem is, once a framework is in place, its there to be abused. History shows this to be true.

That is the truth! Parents really don't know what to do and can't be expected to watch everything that their child does on a computer. The best advice is to not have the computer in your child's room and instead have it in a very open, easy to see the screen type place. But even then, you can't watch what they do 24/7.

Kids will be kids and of course they are curious as all hell about pornography. It like putting a bottle of Jack Daniels out in the middle of the kitchen table of an alcoholic and telling them not to touch it... its near impossible.

When I was a kid we had to work for our porn. I'm talking downloading each Usenet article piece of a binary, running a script to string all the multi-part binary messages together and then use zdownload to get the image through Procomm Plus to view in my DOS image viewer. Talk about a lot of effort to get an image! Now its just search google for "xxx" and you get all kinds of filth at your fingerprints. I love the age we live in.

SK[ said,]"Your kids use Google to search for porn, that's why we oppose this legislation".

Seriously though I don't think most parents have a clue how to control what their kids see. In fact off the top of my head neither can I.
I don't mind this legislation however make the filter be off by default rather than on!

Possibly because these parents don't either ask other people or have the brains to use Google to find a solution. There are plenty of websites out there that offer advice, as well as schools who offer guidance to help parents protect their children from the evils of the internet.

There is no excuse to 'not knowing where to look' these days.

SK[ said,]"Your kids use Google to search for porn, that's why we oppose this legislation".

Seriously though I don't think most parents have a clue how to control what their kids see. In fact off the top of my head neither can I.
I don't mind this legislation however make the filter be off by default rather than on!

Seems like you problem - not mine or anyone elses. Just because you don't know how to fix your daughters flat tire doesn't mean the government should prevent me from owing a car.

It's YOUR JOB as a PARENT to figure these things out. You read, research, learn, and practice. Ask for help from those in the know. Buy things that do it for you. Be a parent and teach/raise your children properly. It's laziness otherwise, bad parenting. There are no excuses.

I was asked the other day in a discussion why there are more fat kids these days than at any other time in history. My answer: bad and lazy parenting.

I was laughed at, some got angry, and other just blew it off. All the problems our kids are having are the parents fault. Parents need to start being parents again. Not friends, caregivers, or siblings. Just parents.

Most parents still act like kids so that won't happen. My solution has always been to make abortion mandatory for some people.

no-sweat said,
Most parents still act like kids so that won't happen. My solution has always been to make abortion mandatory for some people.

and for some people taking on their brain should be mandatory- replicate yourself 3 times and then discuss again!

no-sweat said,
Most parents still act like kids so that won't happen. My solution has always been to make abortion mandatory for some people.

yeah it was hard to do, not presented in easy way as nowadays

no-sweat said,
Most parents still act like kids so that won't happen. My solution has always been to make abortion mandatory for some people.

I agree. Some people should be denied the privilege of bringing children into the world. But mandatory abortion, in my opinion is a bit draconian. I suppose mandatory denial can be applied to career criminals, drop outs, mentally challenged folks, etc.

Parents are responsible. But if content is presented to you hyper-easy, How should parents protect kids if everywhere nude people are shown in newpapaers at the tram-station or alcohol on google-main-page here in europe? Should i cut off eyes , nose and ears off my kids?? I am pro an opt in model for porn and drugs!

Sebastian Hoffmann said,
Parents are responsible. But if content is presented to you hyper-easy, How should parents protect kids if everywhere nude people are shown in newpapaers at the tram-station or alcohol on google-main-page here in europe? Should i cut off eyes , nose and ears off my kids?? I am pro an opt in model for porn and drugs!
Maybe talk to them about those things. Teach them about it.

It's been proven over and over that the more taboo you make something the more likely kids - even adults want it. That's the main part of the issue here in America with guns, drugs, and alcohol. It's portrayed as this cool, underworld lifestyle. Who wouldn't want to be the smoking, drinking, gun-slinging bada**? Or some powerful a**hole? It's cool and sounds fun. So they do those things thinking it will be cool or fun. It's quite the opposite when you look at someone exposed to these things at a young age in a controlled manner (eg. firearms).

Then again, this should all be common sense and no proof of it's validity is necessary.

“Internet companies make so much money out of online pornography that it is not surprising that they would say this.”

Did anyone else read this as if Mactaggart just suggested that ISP's and Google are porn studios?

My understanding is that government should only be legislating laws when people and institutions cannot adequately subdue the issues (online porn in this case) that are before them. Protecting your children from the less desirable elements in life are things that most parents are well capable of doing.

It is my opinion that legislation like this one only use the guise of "protecting children" to mask the real issue, and that is the expansion of government power.

LunarShad0vv said,
My understanding is that government should only be legislating laws when people and institutions cannot adequately subdue the issues (online porn in this case) that are before them. Protecting your children from the less desirable elements in life are things that most parents are well capable of doing.

It is my opinion that legislation like this one only use the guise of "protecting children" to mask the real issue, and that is the expansion of government power.

Tell that to all the soccer moms out there. They have no idea. All they see is the headline screaming "think about the children!"

And as with so many other debates/issues, each side has their own interests at heart -- not yours. Google's goal is undeniably to make more profit to benefit their shareholders -- that's it. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, as that's their sole function. Everything else is just a sales pitch of one sort or another, intended to make you more inclined to use Google products/services thereby increasing their bottom line.

Politicians are harder to understand because they have several goals, many masters. A politician worries about being (re)elected, worries about gaining more power while retaining what power they have, wants to provide for themselves & their family, wants to leave a legacy behind, and often has their own ideological agenda to boot, so when all is said & done their ego is hopefully satisfied with the great contributions they made to the world.

So Google along with effected ISPs would rather there were no changes that didn't put more money in their pockets. Mactaggart etc. believe the proposed regs would benefit them, possibly through their constituents -- if they really believed a majority of *their* public opposed the rules, unless there's a hidden payoff somewhere, they'd abandon the whole thing. Trying to elevate Google to some Knight in Shining Armor role, in this case at least, is simply a sign that Google's marketing works. Unless you're aware of some way politicians like Mactaggart would personally benefit, imagining some darker motivation only makes Google's & any effected ISP's marketing tasks easier.

Truth is from what the article says this whole thing is of so little importance -- having some nanny filter turned on that you can then easily turn off -- that Google etc. can't be bothered figuring out how to get in front & monetize it.

Why doesnt the government make a website educating parents on how to set up firewalls to protect their kids? SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper than any other option they could come up with, and doesnt regulate the hell out of business, thus inhibiting employment, innovation, etc.

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