Broadband parental controls and internet safety for children

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Online activity can be monitored via your broadband provider to ensure that your child stays safe on the internet.

Talking to your child about staying safe online and using broadband parental controls should help you feel confident that your children are using the internet safely.


 Key points


If you're searching for ways to protect your kids online, your internet service provider (ISP) is the first place to go, as many provide parental controls for free. Parental controls are sometimes included with security suites like Norton Antivirus, so check your system carefully before you install anything new - you may have the functionality you need already.


What are broadband parental controls?

Parental controls can help you decide what your child can access online whilst allowing you to monitor their activity. You should talk to your children before implementing these powerful tools .

It's important to openly communicate with your children about their internet usage and experiences. For hints and guidance on how to approach this, visit the NSPCC's website and the UK Safer Internet Centre.


What do broadband parental controls not cover?

As well as the home computer, remember that smartphones, tablets, games consoles and other devices that connect to the internet will have settings to activate parental controls too.

If your child goes online away from home, the same controls might not be in place at other people's houses or on public Wi-Fi.  Therefore, agree with your child about how they will use public Wi-Fi, or let other parents know what your child is or isn't allowed to do online.

Securing your network and ensuring online security is the first step in protecting your children online, but using different software to block sites, set time limits and monitor their usage may be necessary.


What features do parental controls typically offer?

The features and tools for parental controls vary depending on your ISP or software provider. Here’s what’s usually included:

Content filters

Content filters are a tool typically included in parental control software. Filters aim to reduce the chances of children coming across inappropriate content while surfing the web.

All major broadband providers, including Virgin, Sky, BT and TalkTalk, all offer content filters as standard.

Some filters allow parents to set different levels of access for different children, meaning younger children can be exposed to less. 

Be aware that a common problem with filters is over-blocking, meaning material that is potentially suitable for your children actually ends up being hidden from them. Under-blocking can also be an issue, meaning content not suitable for children could slip through the net.


Website-specific controls

On particular websites and internet platforms like Google and YouTube, you can switch on a family-friendly filter. Doing so will block any content deemed unsuitable for children, which is a great functionality to use alongside other parental controls. This is aimed more so for younger children, as a lot of older children will be able to navigate their way around this.

Time access and monitoring

Whether your children are addicted to playing games, watching their favourite TV show or chatting to friends on social media, some parental control programs allow you to set times for them to be online. After this point,  the internet will be turned off. You can also restrict access to certain websites at certain times of the day.

Monitoring does what its name suggests – it lets you see which sites your children have been using and what they’ve been doing on them. If you suspect your child has been exposed to something that’s not age-appropriate, monitoring can be handy for double-checking whether a site has suitable content or not.  

However, according to Ofcom, in 2019 45% of 12 to 15-year-olds knew how to delete their browsing history, which means you wouldn’t be able to check it.


Government filtering

In 2013 the UK government introduced mandatory web filters, designed to block access to 'adult' sites by default. These blocks are opt-in or opt-out, which means you can either turn on these parental filters (which turns them on for the whole household) or tell your ISP that you want full access to the internet.

In 2020 the government announced that Ofcom are to become the UK regulator for internet censorship, which would give them the power to force companies and social media platforms to remove “harmful” content from their websites.


Mobile parental controls

UK mobile operators also provide free parental control software. Some of this is set up by default, but contact your mobile operator to find out whether your children are protected while using the internet on their mobile phone.

Things to consider about broadband parental controls

Putting controls in place is a great way to put your mind at ease when it comes to your child and their safety online, but it’s important to educate your child on internet safety and keep up an open communication with them. Here are a few things to consider:


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