Children may not seek out inappropriate content online but may come across content while undertaking online searches. They may also access this content following peer influence. Children with smartphones may discover content that may be blocked by home and school internet filters.
Offensive content includes
- Footage of real or simulated violence, criminal activity or accidents, from video clips, games or films
- Sexually explicit and can include illegal images of child sexual abuse
- Extreme political view which could lead to radicalization of vulnerable members of the community
- Any content that promotes hatred towards individuals or groups, on the basis of race, religion, sexual preference or other social/cultural factors
- Any content that instructs or promotes crime, violence or unsafe behaviour, like bomb or weapon making, drug use, gaining unauthorised access to computers, fraud or terrorist activities
- Online advertising which promotes adult content.
How do children access inappropriate content?
Children may be exposed to such content through otherwise normal activities, such as:
- Unexpected results from online searches
- Clicking on unknown links within websites or emails
- Incorrectly typing a web address or clicking on a pop-up
- Clicking on online game content or prize offers.
Sometimes adolescents deliberately access inappropriate material either out of curiosity or to share with peers for the ‘shock value’ of the content. Inappropriate content could expose children to concepts that they may not be ready to manage and may breach social and cultural norms. Some content could be distressing for children and they may not report it to parents or teachers as they may be ashamed of what they have seen particularly if they sought it out.
Limiting children’s exposure to inappropriate content
Parents can enable filters and safe zones to reduce children’s risk of exposure to unsuitable or illegal sites. Parents should also set time limits for internet access. Based on your upbringing and the level of protection you would want to administer, parents can decide the level of guidance needed from you and balance this against your children’s ages and the range of content they may need to access.
PC filters are computer software programs that offer a range of different functions to block, screen or monitor inappropriate content. Many filters can also be used to suit the internet activities of each user.
Server-level filters block internet content before it reaches the home. These filters are most commonly provided by internet service providers (ISPs). Internet filters are not a complete substitute for parental guidance and supervision. No filtering tool can block all unsuitable material. With the constantly changing Internet, the list of blocked sites must be constantly updated for the filter to work effectively. Even after this, some undesirable sites may still slip through the filter.
Labelling tools attach descriptive tags to websites. Most browsers can read these labels and be programmed to block access to these sites or advise when sites are unsuitable for children. Labelling tools can be used along with the filters. Websites can be labeled based on how suitable they are for children or to identify the sort of material that they contain.
Safe zones are secure networks offering access to a range of sites specially designed for children and therefore with little risk of exposure to inappropriate content. Many safe zones are free of charge but some are subscription based, requiring a special login and password as they are protected from other areas on the internet.
Where do I go for help?
If you have concerns about your child’s negative digital reputation or online behaviors, discuss your concerns with them, or seek professional support for your child through the Online Helpline, provided by DMTI. The service provides free, confidential online counselling for children.
Related Resources for parents
DMTI for juniors has a range of age appropriate online information and related links to support parents in the education of themselves and their children. Resources are available for:
DMTI for juniors also delivers outreach programs which offers Internet Safety Awareness training programs for parents, students and teachers to encourage a consistent approach to cyber-safety education between school and home. These sessions are informative, non-technical and available to all schools. You can also call our helpline for any assistance.