How is Child Safety Applied to Online Children’s Media in the Uk?
As the Internet has popularised and more and more media is published upon it for children, the issue of child safety online has come to the forefront of both consumers and policy maker’s attention. Unlike moderating children’s consumption of television, children’s relationship with the Internet is dynamic and interactive, and therefore has the potential to be much more problematic to patrol. There is no watershed, no guarantee that Internet experiences will be private or safeguard that content consumption will always be restricted to a healthy amount of time by parents.
As a result policy makers, advisory bodies and content producers themselves have had to create and implement various means of ensuring the safest environment possible is available to children online in the UK.
Parent controls are a popular device promoted by policy makers for regulating child safety when browsing the open web. Used by parents for filtering content and managing usage time, these controls are set with the service provider and monitor the length of internet sessions and ensure that only age appropriate content is served to specific users. However, while these provide effective means of protecting children from being served adult content or over exposure to the Internet as a whole, they do nothing to prevent situations from occurring within children’s media online.
Games, virtual worlds and chat functions within children’s content can create dangerous situations for children simply by exposing them to social situations with others that they do not know in person. It is in these environments that children are most vulnerable from bullying and abuse online. These issues must be moderated and tackled in a completely different manner, online and inside the media that children consume.
Club Penguin is a popular children’s online environment that have had to ensure safety onsite as they operate an online multiplayer game where avatars can not only physically interact with each other but can instant message. This has been achieved by mixing a variety of pre, post and live moderation techniques in game. For example, the instant messaging can be activated in one of two modes. Ultra Safe Chat allows penguins to post but by choosing from a list of pre-defined questions and responses. Aimed at younger children who may not know when they are initially being targeted or bulled, this enables safe interaction exclusively between penguins operating on ultra safe chat. This provides a perfect way of introducing younger users to this functionality with no risk. For older users, this can be downgraded to Safe Chat which allows free typing but that is monitored by sophisticated chat filters that detect obscenity or the sharing of personal data like addresses or phone numbers.
In addition, Club Penguin’s online world is patrolled by moderators that can be called at any moment to regulate behaviour. With the power to suspend or withdrawn accounts from problem users, these moderators set the tone of behaviour in game and act as guardians for younger children inhabiting the online space against bullying or unfair treatment.
Links to supporting arguments and relevant sites:
Childsnet International’s KidSMART site:
Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center’s Think You Know site
Chat Danger (run by Childsnet International)
How is child safety governed
Educational resources for teaching children about internet safety: