Online Safety & Content filtering
This page provides you with information on issues relating to online safety, such as how to protect your children from inappropriate websites, and how to make sure your devices stay secure while connected to the Internet.
At Westnet, we’re proud to promote positive relations between Australians and the Internet Industry by encouraging awareness of the Internet Industry Codes of Practice.
Protecting your children when they are using the Internet
The best solution to keeping children safe on the Internet is to make sure they are ALWAYS supervised when online. The Internet is like a library where anyone can access, and insert, content anywhere at any time. Undesirable content can be accessed just as easily as content that is useful, so adult supervision can help children avoid or at least put into context any adult or undesirable material found.
Tips to protect your children when they are using the Internet:
Communicate regularly with your children about what they do online and to whom they talk to online. Online habits change over time, so it’s important to have the talk more than once.
Take computers out of children’s rooms and put them into communal areas of the home, such as the family room or living room.
Help your child choose an appropriate ‘screen name’, email address or instant messaging name.
Consider using technology, specifically software to help you protect your child.
Discuss online etiquette and acceptable behaviour with your child.
Rules you should set out for your children when using the Internet and social media:
Never reveal any details that could be used to physically trace them, such as their real name, address, phone number, school name or friends; names.
If something appears on the screen in front of them, and they find it disturbing, they should let you, teacher or friends know.
If they hear or see their friends not doing the right thing on social media, remind them of the potential dangers and how to do the right thing.
Remember that not everything they read in chats and social media is true and people may not be who they say they are. Be smart and make decisions for themselves on what they think is right and wrong.
Let you know when they have made a new friend online.
Family Friendly Filters
What are filters?
Filters are generally computer programs that allow parents and system administrators to control a list of permitted and blocked websites and programs.
More information about filters and staying safe online can be obtained from the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.
What are “Family Friendly Filter” programs?
With a large number of filters available on the internet, the Communication Alliance has created the Family Friendly Filter program list to assist you with choosing the filter program to suit your family.
To qualify for Family Friendly Filter status, these filters are subjected to rigorous independent testing to ensure that it meets the criteria as set out in the relevant Industry Code.
Classes of accredited Family Friendly Filters
There are 4 levels of classification for certified filters:
These filters block websites on the eSafety Commissioner’s Prohibited URL Filter (PUF) list, and are recommended for 18+ years of age
Class 1: Recommended for children over 15 years of age
Class 2: Recommended for children between 10 and 15 years of age
Class 3: Recommended for children under 10 years of age
Certified Family Friendly Filters
For more information, please visit Communications Alliance’s Friendly Family Filters page.
About Filtering Software
Consumers should be aware that no filtering solution is foolproof. The main advantage filtering software offers is that it tends to make it harder to access adult material on the Internet, although some of the applications available have other really useful features as well (e.g. Restricting access to the computer to certain times).
What you may wish to keep in mind when choosing a solution is that there are other online services around other than the WWW (sites with an address like //www.xxxxxx.com). All kinds of content can be accessed through FTP, IRC, Instant Messaging, Email, Newsgroups and File Sharing, among others. Also remember that Adult Content is not the only concern when accessing the Internet - children should also be warned about 'stranger danger'. The links at the end of this article provide detailed discussion on how to deal with these issues.
All filtering software works with one or a combination of the following three methods:
This is the most useful of the filtering software applications provided for children. A White List is a list of 'safe' sites, sites that are thoroughly checked and deemed safe for the majority of the population to view. These sites should never have any adult material of any kind on them and generally consist of entertainment and education related sites.
The disadvantages of white lists are is that the range of content accessible is severely limited. They are definitely useful, as children can safely plunder the approved sites, but the types of sites are so restricted that users miss out on a lot of the interesting and informative content that makes the Internet so popular. It also helps to know that the filtering software companies are not guaranteed to be impartial, and have been known to allow access to certain companies while restricting access to others that provide similar content.
Black Lists are the exact opposite of White Lists. They prevent access to a list of sites that contain content that is not deemed appropriate by the creator of the list. These Lists are usually well maintained (often weekly, although this varies) with adult content/themes that have been discovered by the maintainers of the filtering software regularly being added. Each software package generally keeps their black list secret (so their competitors can't use them) so there can be any number of sites blocked. Also, most software packages categorise their blocked sites under common themes, so you can choose which type of content you wish to block.
Black Lists are very popular, but for the purposes of safeguarding children are unfortunately close to useless. There are many ways to get around them, and the Internet is so vast and develops so rapidly that there is no guaranteed way to block all of the Adult Material available. Also, filtering companies can be very quick to black list any sites that offend them, especially sites that criticise their software or practices.
These days Black Lists are generally used in combination with Keyword Filtering (see below), with well-known offensive sites banned by default.
Software that uses Keyword Filtering reads each page as it is downloaded and searches for a list of 'key' words that the software maintainers have banned. Some programs will not display a page that contains any of the key words, and some programs just strip the word from the page. The major advantage to Keyword Filtering is that it can scan -any- site as needed, not relying on lists of sites compiled by the filtering software developers.
Sadly, the disadvantages of this technique are many.
There is no way for the software to understand the context of a word, so many sites are blocked although their content is not actually offensive. For example, one software package blocks sites that use such words as blonde, explosive, barely and amateur - these do regularly appear on Adult sites, but there are far more that use these words in a neutral manner (this page simply discussing the software would be blocked).
Some software will remove only the 'offensive' words from the page. . .but will still display any images on the site, this technique often causes the meaning of sentences to be completely altered as key words are missing.
The other alternative for the software is to restrict access to the page entirely. Some software will display a reason why the page has been blocked, some just display a blank page instead of the offending content. Dealing with this latter technique can be fairly frustrating as you have no idea why the page has been censored.
Stay Smart Online is an Australian Government Initiative designed to provide all Australian online users with practical tips and advice on e-security. This website contains basic information on how to secure your computer, best practice tips for smart transacting online, and information on keeping young people safe online.
Office of the eSafety Commissioner provides a range of information, tools and educational material for parents and schools.
Offensive or illegal online content can be reported via the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.
If you are unable to submit your complaint using this form, and you are an Australian resident, you may be able to make a complaint by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. In your email, please provide specific URL information and the reasons why you believe the content should be prohibited.
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