26.09.2017

Myths & demonising “Parental Control” software…

I read with interest an article on the SWGfl website (a not-for-profit charitable trust) http://swgfl.org.uk/magazine/I-Spy

The premise of the article is that parents should talk to their children and help to educate them about staying safe online and no parental control software can replace an honest conversation. I completely agree with part of their premise which is honest open conversation is a key part of helping our children to have a positive digital footprint; However I wholeheartedly disagree with the area of the article that demonises parental control software as corporate money makers who are not interested in safeguarding the children as much as they are in making money!

I believe the article however has a fundamental flaw. It assumes that parents who use parental control software do not talk to their children and it also propagates the myth about filtering software in that parents want to use it to “spy” on their children. While this may be true of some parents, the majority of parents we talk to want to understand the technology their children use and ensure that they are safe online.

The article states –

“By trying to ensure they cannot access any “upsetting” content, do not get turned into “digital zombies”, have no-one saying anything offensive to them, and making sure they not approached by strangers, we also risk seriously impacting on their rights.”

Would a responsible parent send their children out on their bikes without a helmet because we have had a sensible conversation about road safety? No!

Would we leave 18 rated material in magazines and movies and games freely available and hope that the sensible conversation we have had with our children stop them from looking or reading material they cannot understand or have the emotional maturity to process? No!

Access to the internet is the same, there is evidence to show that children do accidently view online pornography and without filters can have a long term detrimental impact on the mental health of a child.

The article also states –

“Child safety apps are not the solution to keeping your children safe online.”

I agree they are not the only solution but they must be part of the solution. Honest and open conversation is the core part of any parenting but where the internet is concerned as with many other areas of safeguarding our children other tools need to be used hand in hand.

Statements that demonise companies that are trying to educate parents and children are unhelpful and only serve to confuse parents who are trying to understand the technology that their children use.

iNet Guardian for example allows parents to block pornography sites whilst still allowing access to sites on sexual health, sex education and gender issues. We encourage parents to talk to their children, to share their digital experiences and discuss and encourage the positive use of technology and the internet. A healthy relationship between parents and children is a balance between protection and creating an environment where choices can be made safely and this is something iNet Guardian always promotes through our online presence and talks in local communities.

Responsible technology companies like iNet Guardian ensure that children are kept safe as well as well educated.

A recent article in the Guardian stated that children as young as nine are being exposed to online pornography at sleepovers. Children should feel confident enough and know that they will have the support of their parents to know that this type of behaviour is wrong and could be potentially damaging.

Later in the article statements such as this :

“We should also ask ourselves why these private companies develop these apps. It’s probably not down to altruism as much as it is a way of making money from preying on our fears and desire to protect our children.”

Only serve to demonise all technology companies and confuse parents about how technology can be used in a positive way.

I would love the Internet to be such a safe place for children that iNet Guardian would not be needed however as a parent with a 4 year old and a 6 year old my wife and I started the service to help and inform non-technical parents on how they can share a positive experience online with their children.

We try and inform parents as much as possible on what new trends and technologies are available but also encourage parents to have conversations with their children about staying safe online and about their digital footprint.

We term our software Parental Guidance, not Parental Control as it’s not about the parent being in control, it’s about guiding and educating their children as we do so often with other topics.