Microsoft: There are ways besides blocking sites to keep online porn from kids

Earlier this week, UK prime minister David Cameron announced that online pornography will be blocked by default in that part of the world by the end of 2013. Internet customers in the UK will have to contact their ISP to remove the "porn block".  Naturally, Cameron said that these steps were being taken to protect children from seeing and being influenced by online porn.

Today, Microsoft's Chief Online Safety Officer indicated that their research showed there were other ways to keep online adult content away from children other than just blocking those sites. In a blog post, Microsoft's Jacqueline Beauchere did not directly address the UK online porn ban but did say:

Instead of blocking adult content from the view of anyone under age 18, many parents have adopted other approaches, particularly for older kids.  These include first monitoring what teenagers see and do online, before resorting to outright blocking of certain sites and activities.

Beauchere also addressed other ways people are making their online activities safer, including better spam filters with email clients and more advanced ways to combat malware and virus attacks. However, there are newer online issues to consider, such as cyber-bullying, the threat of having one's online reputation tarnished and sharing too much personal information.

Beauchere says that Microsoft will continue to work with a number of organizations and programs to improve online safety and will also make some proactive efforts on its own. She states:

For instance, we’re arming parents with useful tools so they can know how often, with what, and with whom their children are interacting online.  We’re developing new technologies to help combat online child exploitation, and working to put behind bars those who would do our children and others harm.

Microsoft's Safety and Security Center has more information on the company's efforts in that area.

Source: Microsoft
Online Security image via Shutterstock

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39 Comments

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internet was made for porn, buts its just a faction of some the stuff on the internet that can really do your childs head in (rotten sites, death sites, other people lol) what they going to do about stuff like that, ban the whole internet?

The lads growing up today have this idea of "personal space and freedom". When I was growing up, it was my parents house, they paid the mortgage, they fed me, they had a right to know everything that was going on under their roof. You can have your personal space when you are on the crapper or in the shower. Committed parents is really the answer here. Parents with follow through.

Yup. There's so much obsession with absolute, inalienable privacy lately, and no room for discussion on the issue. People think they have the right to be invisible and that's that.

Ian William said,
Parental Controls in Windows Vista, or Family Safety in Windows 8, anyone?

parents are too lazy to set those up and would rather the government take care of their children

Nazmus Shakib Khandaker said,
Porn needs to die completely from the Internet. It should be banned and destroyed.

Yes sex needs to die off and I hope that includes people like you reproducing?

Spicoli said,
And go back to magazines? It would be like the stone age.

I remember those heady days when discarded porn waited to be discovered in a hedge by inquisitive adolescents (me included; my lucky find was a Playboy with Pamela Sue Martin as the featured centrefold). Good times.

Of course! Talking about and teaching things people might not know well enough themselves (therefore learning is required) is time consuming, tiring and complicated.

brianshapiro said,
Is spying on everything your kids are doing really a good solution?

You might view it as spying but depending on the age of your kids then many others wouldn't think of it as spying at all. After a point though, even as a parent, unless you're close minded, do you care if your kid might be online viewing porn? Like if they're 16 or so? I wouldn't TBH, now if they're 6? Then that's a different story, so yeah, some could see it as spying and some could just as well view it as monitoring.

Spying no, but putting up the proper blocks and educating your children is the best answer. The internet is not your child's babysitter.

Today, parents have forgotten how to be parents and are too busy trying to be their children's best friend.

If you're dealing with a 6 year old would you prefer the porn sites be blocked or to spy on all sites they're visiting just to make sure there isn't a porn site there?

16 year old, a parent definitely shouldn't be watching everything they do. Wouldn't say that porn wouldn't be a problem, some people get addicted. But there should be warning signs if that happens, and you don't need to be seeing every site they visit just to be a good parent.

brianshapiro said,
Is spying on everything your kids are doing really a good solution?
I will be spying on everything my twin boys does online, their phones etc. Do I believe they have some right to privacy? Absolutely not. I won't be militant but being aware is a huge deal as a parent. I expect them to look at porn etc... but having no idea what they're doing is absolute stupidity these days.

As far as "seeing every site to be a good parent." I believe making the attempt makes you a good parent. Kids are morons up until their 20's.

I find it hilarious how people think that with the internet what it is today that education and "talking to your child" is defense enough. Kids at 14, 15, 16 are not ready to watch chicks bang horses, watch people be beheaded, see a motorcyclist run over by a dump truck, etc. etc. To think you're parenting them well by just saying not to look at those things etc. is insane.

Honestly, when I was a kid I got to see Pamela Anderson's tits on AOL at like 200x200. What a kid can stumble into today is insane.

MrHumpty said,
I find it hilarious how people think that with the internet what it is today that education and "talking to your child" is defense enough. Kids at 14, 15, 16 are not ready to watch chicks bang horses, watch people be beheaded, see a motorcyclist run over by a dump truck, etc. etc. To think you're parenting them well by just saying not to look at those things etc. is insane.

No I don't think its healthy if your kid is watching all those things. But why is spying on them a better solution than blocking porn? Just tell your kid you don't want porn in your house, don't make it more complicated than that.

If its a matter of porn filters failing, maybe it would be a better solution for the software to flag everything it finds suspicious, rather than report everything.

It seems to me thta Humpty's quote answers the question about blocking porn. Because the porn filter doesn't block the beheading, violent, bloody, skinhead, hate speech - it just blocks porn, which is some percentage of things you don't want your kids to see, but far from all of it.

The issue isn't spying, it's supervision. Presumably kids would know you're supervising their activities, letting them know what you view as inappropriate, etc - not that you're waiting until they're asleep and checking their history, or keylogging them. Just as you want to meet their friends before they stay overnight there, you want to know the kinds of sites they're visiting, and that they're avoiding sites you don't approve of, just as they don't drink or smoke pot because they know you don't approve of that.

DNick said,
It seems to me thta Humpty's quote answers the question about blocking porn. Because the porn filter doesn't block the beheading, violent, bloody, skinhead, hate speech - it just blocks porn, which is some percentage of things you don't want your kids to see, but far from all of it.

Parental controls have more categories than porn, they have categories for hate speech and violence and so on.

brianshapiro said,
If you're dealing with a 6 year old would you prefer the porn sites be blocked or to spy on all sites they're visiting just to make sure there isn't a porn site there?

16 year old, a parent definitely shouldn't be watching everything they do. Wouldn't say that porn wouldn't be a problem, some people get addicted. But there should be warning signs if that happens, and you don't need to be seeing every site they visit just to be a good parent.

Why should it be taken out of the parents hands and handled by a 3rd party? Why should all bad sites, be it porn or something else be banned, blocked by the government when the job of what your little kid does on the PC should be yours as the parent?

I think banning everything, nation wide, is not the answer to it, but giving parents the tools to do a better job, if they want to that is, is a better option.

Why block it for all homes in the UK? What if I don't have kids in my house?

If one freaking reads every message, then it's some sort of mental sickness, true. But generally you can't expect people to teach kids how to safely use internets if they themselves do not understand it (and themselves are looking for smut, let's not forget)

brianshapiro said,
Parental controls have more categories than porn, they have categories for hate speech and violence and so on.
Parental controls miss a lot on the net. More importantly, they can be circumvented in many ways if you have a kid smart enough. I plan on using them, but watching what videos they are seeing as well as what they are doing in games is a big part of online activities.

Edit: I should note that I don't plan on blocking everything at first. Blocking, for me, will be a last line of defense. My kids will see porn, that much I know. Just as I know they'll drink. I will simply not approve and make sure they are mindful that I'm paying attention. If it gets out of hand then blocking will occur. The last thing I want to happen is them going off to college and drinking their first beer with strangers, and seeing their first bit of full on porn. That completely unmonitored first experience will go very wrong.

Edited by MrHumpty, Jul 24 2013, 9:52pm :

brianshapiro said,
No I don't think its healthy if your kid is watching all those things. But why is spying on them a better solution than blocking porn? Just tell your kid you don't want porn in your house, don't make it more complicated than that.

If its a matter of porn filters failing, maybe it would be a better solution for the software to flag everything it finds suspicious, rather than report everything.

Frankly, with kids, it's not spying. It's parenting w/o blinders. As far as reporting, I plan on that, but in order to report anything you have to record it. I plan on recording everything.

GP007 said,

Why block it for all homes in the UK? What if I don't have kids in my house?

The UK system lets you opt out .. but I'm not really talking about whats going on there; just whether parents should choose to block vs choose to monitor urls... which is the best approach. They could do either with client software.

brianshapiro said,
The UK system lets you opt out .. but I'm not really talking about whats going on there; just whether parents should choose to block vs choose to monitor urls... which is the best approach. They could do either with client software.
I may be wrongly informed, but I thought you had to opt in for porn As in you were, by default, going to be unable to get porn (through the way the government thinks you'll get it). The principle on your internet account (or w/e) will have to call and opt into porn.

primortal said,
Spying no, but putting up the proper blocks and educating your children is the best answer. The internet is not your child's babysitter.

Today, parents have forgotten how to be parents and are too busy trying to be their children's best friend.

Based on what evidence? What bad outcome comes from just letting your kid browse the web. No one ever controlled what I or any of my friends looked at online and I haven't observed any negative effects. Some of the kids at my school would go on terrible websites but were otherwise completely normal.

The only time I'd recommend putting blocks on would be if your kid is 5 or under and you're leaving them to browse the web alone for extended periods of time (which seems a bit strange for a 5 year old anyway). Even then, it wouldn't be porn that I'd be worried about them looking at.

M4x1mus said,

Based on what evidence? What bad outcome comes from just letting your kid browse the web. No one ever controlled what I or any of my friends looked at online and I haven't observed any negative effects. Some of the kids at my school would go on terrible websites but were otherwise completely normal.

The only time I'd recommend putting blocks on would be if your kid is 5 or under and you're leaving them to browse the web alone for extended periods of time (which seems a bit strange for a 5 year old anyway). Even then, it wouldn't be porn that I'd be worried about them looking at.


Me and my friends had unrestricted internet access. And its not good to have.
Not sure you did much on the internet then if roaming around unsupervised at <15years old and you never found **** you wish you didn't have?
Especially for girls it quickly goes wrong. I am raised unsupervised on the internet, although I have been thought whats bad from wrong from an early age. I still think it might've been better if I was supervised. And for many people around me, I'm positive they should've been supervised.

From my experience on this unsupervised internetting by young ones changed my view, I will be monitoring my children once I have them. On the internet, through cell phones. Anywhere, until they are 18+ or they prove they can handle it themselves.
Children don't have privacy from their parents, they never had in the past, they never have in the future.
Or wasn't it so that children were on supervision in the old days?

M4x1mus said,

Based on what evidence? What bad outcome comes from just letting your kid browse the web. No one ever controlled what I or any of my friends looked at online and I haven't observed any negative effects. Some of the kids at my school would go on terrible websites but were otherwise completely normal.

The only time I'd recommend putting blocks on would be if your kid is 5 or under and you're leaving them to browse the web alone for extended periods of time (which seems a bit strange for a 5 year old anyway). Even then, it wouldn't be porn that I'd be worried about them looking at.

How can you tell if there is anything wrong by observing yourself? Do you watch your friends 24x7 to see if they are completely 'normal'? Oh and the definition of 'normal' varies from one person to another. What one does in the company of others doesn't necessarily dictate how they act when you are not around. How do you know they don't abuse their partners behind closed doors based what they seen on the internet?

M4x1mus said,
Based on what evidence? What bad outcome comes from just letting your kid browse the web. No one ever controlled what I or any of my friends looked at online and I haven't observed any negative effects. Some of the kids at my school would go on terrible websites but were otherwise completely normal.

The only time I'd recommend putting blocks on would be if your kid is 5 or under and you're leaving them to browse the web alone for extended periods of time (which seems a bit strange for a 5 year old anyway). Even then, it wouldn't be porn that I'd be worried about them looking at.

One parent to another (assuming you are one). There are a lot of things you can let your 6 year old have unfettered access to and they have some probability of coming out unscathed. However, you're taking a risk. That risk, imo is severely uncalculated or at best driven by your own anecdotal evidence. I'm no advocate of helicopter parenting or wrapping your kid in bubble wrap, but the internet is a brave new world as far as available content. The pluses are indisputable... but so are the minuses.

Probably.
That said, when I was a kid, I found some porn and I loved it. I don't see what the big deal is, quite frankly.

Skwerl said,
Probably.
That said, when I was a kid, I found some porn and I loved it. I don't see what the big deal is, quite frankly.

Porn isn't the issue for me personally, this seems a major issue in the US and some countries like UK, france etc.
Its the internet dickwads to protect your children from.

Skwerl said,
Probably.
That said, when I was a kid, I found some porn and I loved it. I don't see what the big deal is, quite frankly.
Yes, old playboys found in under someone's dad's bed is the same as what you find on the net now.