Warning: This post contains pornographic words

Apparently few things matter more to David Cameron than protecting children on the internet. Perhaps he’s planning to increase the funding available to tackle online child abuse, which would be useful. Apparently not, which is a pity because Jim Gamble, chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, sounds like he knows what he’s talking about.


So what is David going to do to protect children on the internet? Nothing very useful as far as I can tell. In fact, probably the opposite. The internet, like life, is complicated. In the simplest terms I can think of, the internet is not safe for children, but actually that’s ok, and is no different to a lot of other things.

You wouldn’t expect young children to be using a chainsaw on their own, but you would also find it pretty difficult to cut a tree down with plastic safety scissors. You wouldn’t expect older children to use a band saw on their own, but it would be ok if they were supervised while learning to use one safely.

I would agree with the suggestion that parents aren’t given enough help, but a ‘one click’ on/off filter on a shared internet connection is really really not the answer. You need lots of tools; maybe playpens for the very young, corner protectors when they can walk, right up to an idiots guide to the internet for older politicians!

Aside from the fact that blocking and filtering just tend to annoy people who are trying to access perfectly legitimate content, and MPs haven’t even really defined what they want to block, there are downsides to creating a UK intranet. There are already more than enough places with over zealous filters, like O2 and Orange, or libraries, and there can already be real financial implications to manipulating search engine results with no transparency or oversight.

Perhaps even this post/blog has been blocked. Ok, the world wouldn’t be much worse off in that case, but I am more concerned about other sites which are likely to be blocked unintentionally, especially now that I have a child. You see, it’s not quite as simple as the Prime Minister makes out. I may face some very tricky conversations as my child grows up, and they would be more difficult if they and I aren’t able to search for information and support. I had naively assumed that banning rape porn would be one simple thing that everyone would agree with, but even that subject isn’t quite as straight forward as you would hope. I hope that reading challenging articles about difficult subjects will prepare me for being a better parent. I know that a web filter won’t.

I’ll be holding on to unfiltered internet access as long as possible.

(Of course the internet isn’t the only place children might see porn. I assume they’ll be announcing a filtered version of the Sun tomorrow…)

Photo © Anne Petersen (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


20 is plenty

I’ve been meaning to post about road safety outside schools for a while and a rare sighting of common sense yesterday has provided a nice photo to illustrate the way I’ve long thought speed limits outside schools should work. There is a school at the end of the road I live in which provides plenty of entertainment as parents cause utter mayhem and chaos at the start and end of the school day. So far the council has mostly resisted the cries of, “Won’t Someone Please Think of the Children?” with pointless pinch points and a couple of “20 is plenty” signs rather than some of the more ridiculous options I’ve seen. I’m convinced that some of the crazier road schemes actually make things more dangerous for the children who do walk to school.

So what’s the answer? Well, driving more slowly when there are mad parents driving 4x4s badly does seem like a good idea (also good if there are children running about the place) however a permanent 20 mph speed limit is over the top for the short times at the start and end of school that it is intended for. Then there’s the school holiday. The answer is so blindingly obvious that I’ve been wondering for years why it hasn’t already been done but I’m happy to say that it has already been done, outside schools near Bath:

20 When Lights Flash

Simple and clear. The lights are already there and a sensible sign like that won’t cost any more than daft efforts with snails on. Enforcing it would help of course, especially to begin with, preferably with a real person who could assist parents with not driving quite so dangerously at the same time. Might send this photo to Eastleigh council to see whether they want to try it.

The next huge improvement for safety would be for schools to admit that most parents drive their children to school and make proper provision for cars to drop off and collect children safely with staff on hand, on school grounds! (The space would be free the rest of the day as a playground.) Getting rid of all the cars parked where children want to cross the road would help wouldn’t it? Maybe that’s a little too crazy!