TalkTalk yesterday launched a network-level security service which is designed in particular to help parents protect their children from harmful content on the Internet such as viruses. Unlike anti-virus or parental control software on individual machines, this tool protects anyone using the same Internet connection, and thus helps to block inappropriate content even if it’s being browsed from a games console, mobile phone or tablet.
Soon after I started using computers, I found myself knowing more about how they worked than my parents, yet the Internet was still something only used in universities. This asymmetry of knowledge is even more prevalent today with younger generations who have never known a world without the Internet. When kids know more about technology than their parents, it can become difficult for parents to ensure their use of the Internet is appropriate and safe, and there is no magic button to fix this problem.
TalkTalk’s service goes some way to helping parents by providing a simple way to limit access and protect their family, and their efforts should be praised. My only concern is that this approach may unintentionally make parents complacent, feeling that they are now protected.
Whilst network-level anti-virus and filtering does add a tremendous layer of protection, it does not replace parental responsibility for educating children, nor does it stop all viruses. It does not stop kids from using mobile phones which don’t use the home broadband connection to access content; it doesn’t tackle viruses which may be delivered over encrypted connections (be their VPNs, possibly even TOR or other proxy solutions), nor the spread of infections over USB sticks. I therefore feel it’s important users should still install anti-virus software on family computers where possible.
There is no doubt this tool will empower parents to protect their children, but it is only one part of a wider solution, something TalkTalk themselves very responsibly acknowledge. Parents should remember that kids will find ways around blocks, so education remains the most important part of keeping children safe online.