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Safer Internet Day 2014: What families can do to stay safe online

Today is Safer Internet Day, a day devoted to increasing awareness about the potential dangers of online life and how families can stay safe. 

While Safer Internet Day is a great opportunity to discuss the issues surrounding online family safety it goes without saying that staying safe requires constant vigilance and tailoring things to better suit your family. 

All of the UK’s leading ISPs, BT, Sky, Virgin Media, TalkTalk and EE, are making it easier to families to stay safe

Last November, Sky launched Broadband Shield, a free customisable software solution that’s available to new and existing customers. Director of Sky Broadband Lyssa McGowan said: 
“Last year on Safer Internet Day we made a commitment to introduce a whole-home parental controls solution. Reflecting a year later, we have successfully introduced Sky Broadband Shield, which is available completely free of charge to all of our 5 million Sky Broadband customers, and which offers a really simple tool that uses familiar age-ratings, to help manage how much of the web people let into their homes.”

Sky’s Broadband Shield is a network-level filter. All devices using to the Sky Broadband connection, whether it’s a phone connected via WiFi or a desktop PC, will be subjected to the same parental controls. 

In December, BT launched Parental Controls, another network-level filter. Parental Controls from BT lets families pick from a number of predefined block lists which can be customised. Additionally, BT has said that its Parental Controls have been designed to combat well-known content filter workarounds

TalkTalk set the bar for whole-home filtering back in 2012 with the launch of HomeSafe, the first major UK ISP to provide a customisable filtering solution. 

Virgin Media, which is planning on launching a network-level filter soon, currently offers subscribers free security software provided by F-Secure, which can be applied to three PCs or laptops in the home. For homes with more devices, extra coverage can be bought for an extra £2.50/month. 

Similarly, EE offers customers large discounts on McAfee’s Multi Access and Family Protection software suites. Worth over £100 together, these are bundled free for the first year and are offered at the reduced price of £45 for the second year. 

As well as making use of the tools and software ISPs provide, parents should also be aware of the free family controls already available to them. We’ve written guides to the default parental controls available on Windows 8 and Mac OS X, as well as a guide for people using older machines running the last-gen Windows 7

iPhones and iPads have built-in safety features which parents can make use of while those with Android phones can make use of apps such as McAfee Family Protection, MM Guardian and Norton Family

TalkTalk Mobile customers can also make use of MobileSafe, a free Android app that lets parents block access to websites, locate lost phones and remotely wipe any sensitive data. Watch our hands-on demo of MobileSafe below.

All of the UK’s mobile networks have adult content filters in place by default and they can only be removed by people aged 18 or above. WiFi networks such as The Cloud block adult content by default, although venues such as pubs and bars with free public WiFi may remove these. 

While there are many safeguards, filters, apps and programs at parents disposal, none of these can ever provide 100 per cent protection. 

Trade group ISPA, the Internet Services Providers’ Association, fully supports Safer Internet Day and advises parents, teachers and guardians to encourage creative responsible use of the Internet. 

ISPA secretary general Nicholas Lansman said: “the Internet gives young people today incredible opportunities, but parents can’t treat being safe online differently from any other area of life. 

“I urge parents and teachers to look at the Safer Internet Day website for advice, and a number of ISPA members are taking part in Safer Internet Day events up and down the country.”

The official Safer Internet Day site can be found here. You can join in discussions on Twitter today using the #SID2014 hashtag. 


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