(Gawkwire.com) With parents’ growing concerns about their children’s safety when accessing the web, compounded recently by Ofcom reporting that a quarter of primary school age children have profiles on social networking sites such as Facebook and Bebo, a new report published yesterday by Professor Tanya Byron calls for better mobile phone internet controls. Whilst Byron’s recommendations are a step in the right direction, AdaptiveMobile, the mobile security specialist, believes that many more comprehensive measures could be taken to protect children against the complete set of risks they face.
 
Simeon Coney, VP Business development, AdaptiveMobile, comments; “Whilst measures such as an easy-to-use panic button can go a long way to helping social networks to identify and stop threats as early as possible, parents are still calling for more visibility and increased control.
 
“One issue which is making this battle even tougher is the growing trend toward accessing web content via mobile phones. With it becoming the norm for children under 10 to have their first mobile phone, many parents are finding it more and more difficult to keep track of what their children are accessing or with whom they are communicating. Without suitable parental controls in place, children are potentially subject to harassment, unsolicited messaging and inappropriate content. For example, data from AdaptiveMobile highlights that peak mobile usage for children late evening – peaking between 9:00pm and 11:00pm, just after bedtime. Unlike a PC however, which may be in a shared room of the house, it’s much more difficult to monitor what a child is accessing when they’re doing it from a mobile handset in their own rooms.
 
“The challenges that exist are primarily parental education and the availability of appropriate and effective controls – with parent being unaware of when their child is at risk – for example by responding to fraudulent messages, visiting web content inappropriate to their age or receiving undesirable incoming contact.
 
“The parental controls largely in use today provide protection to the parents’ wallets against unwanted charges by setting spend limits – not deciding who can contact their child. Where content controls are available it is primarily a coarse decision of adult content  – equivalent to only having an 18 or old cinema rating, versus the grading of content to U, PG and 15 or older that we have today for film, TV and game content.
 
“In a bid to protect the most vulnerable subscribers, some mobile network operators have seized the initiative in protecting their mobile users most at risk –by putting in place flexible controls for parents to select what content their children are able access & when, and with whom they can communicate. Parents can be alerted when their child had been protected from risk, enabling them to properly discuss the risks of the digital world.
 
“This means that, for example, social networking sites can be categorised together and with one click, parents can block a child’s access to all sites within that category and also against phishing, fraud and malware sites – rather than parents needing to configure each site individually, and to keep their child’s handset constantly updated with the latest social or phishing sites.
 
“With operators becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to using their data intelligently, flexible controls can enable parents to regain autonomy for pro-actively protecting their children when online. This guards them against harassment and inappropriate content but still gives children the freedom to use their phone safely.”



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