January 13, 2011

Web Filters Not Foolproof

A new study released this week states that web filters are not 100 percent foolproof against harmful sites.

According to the study, released by the European Commission on Thursday, a solid 84 percent of programs restrict access to websites like porn pages. However, they still leave a 20 percent chance for sites with content unsuitable for children to escape the filters.

The study also found that few Internet filters can block "Web 2.0" content including blogs, forums and social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter.

For parents whose children use smartphones or video game consoles to access the Internet, not all products on the market provide parental control options.

Computers are no longer the only way to go online.  The study also found that 31 percent of children access the Internet with their phones and a quarter through platforms like the Nintendo Wii or Sony's PlayStation.

A survey released in relation to the European Commission's study found that only a quarter of parents in the European Union (EU) use parental control software to monitor, track or filter online content.

The use of software varies widely among parents in the 27-nation EU, from 54 percent in Britain to nine percent in Romania.

The EUKidsOnline survey was conducted in 25 countries with over 25,000 children and one of their parents between April and August 2010.

The study on filtering software analyzed 26 parental control tools for PCs, three for game consoles and two for mobile phones.

Jonathan Todd, spokesman for European digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes, told AFP that the goal is to give parents an "objective view" of which software is the most effective.

"Protecting children from unsuitable content on the internet is of course an important issue," he said.

"We want people in general, parents and children, to feel confident when they use the Internet," he said.

The EU's Safer Internet Program, which is an initiative with the goal of informing parents and children about the Web's potential risks, funded the study.

The 2009 through 2013 program has a budget of $73 million and will fund a review of parental control software every six months until the end of 2012.

The program's website provides two lists ranking the effectiveness of the 26 software programs for children 10 years old and younger and those over 11 years old.

Apple's Mac OS X topped both lists of being effective, while rival Microsoft's Windows Vista was the second for children under 10 and in ninth place for those over the age of 10.


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