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FEATURE ARTICLE 2: CHILDREN AND CYBER SAFETY
The most common Internet activity undertaken by children accessing the Internet at home in the ACT was education related (86%), followed by playing online games (74%), an increase of 80% in the number of children playing online games from 2003. Watching or downloading audio visual content was significantly higher than the national average (39% compared with 29% respectively).
During 2008-09, 95% of the children who accessed the Internet reported they had not experienced a personal safety or security problem with the Internet. All other states and territories had similar findings between 95% and 97%. The most common problem experienced nation-wide by the 2.2 million children who used the internet was accessing inappropriate material (33,000). Having the highest rate of Internet connectivity in Australia, the majority of ACT households have taken steps to protect their children's personal safety while using the Internet at home, from passive methods such as educating children about safe and appropriate use of the Internet (88%) to installing Internet content filters (58%) and supervising and monitoring children's use of the Internet (93%).
The Australian Government has recently proposed to make Internet content filtering mandatory and take it one step further to the Internet Service Provider (ISP) level to lessen the responsibility on households. Subject to legislative processes, it could become a requirement for all ISPs to block overseas hosted Refused Classification (RC) material and ISPs would be encouraged to offer additional ISP level filtering to subscribers to block potentially harmful material such as X18+ and gambling websites. The RC Content list will be based on complaints to the Australia Communications and Media Authority and also include lists compiled from highly reputable overseas organisations. (ISP filtering, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy)
Concerns have been raised from the Internet community over ISP level filtering in Australia. Although the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) acknowledges that it is possible to circumvent the filter (ISP filtering - frequently asked questions, DBCDE), it is a key component of the Australian Government’s cyber-safety plan.
"Filtering of online material at the ISP level reflects the view that ISPs should take some responsibility for enabling the blocking of such content on the internet". This is consistent with the recent child online protection guidelines issued by the International Telecommunications Union. The guidelines state that the strategic objective for the internet industry for child internet safety should be to reduce the availability of, and restrict access to, harmful or illegal content and conduct. ISP-level content filtering is already occurring in other countries, including Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom". (ISP filtering, DBCDE)
After the introduction of Canada's voluntary ISP filtering in 2006, the number of Canadians aged 16 years and over who were concerned with Internet privacy decreased by 1.5% between 2005 and 2007 (Statistics Canada, CANSIM, table 358-0128). With plans of mandatory filtering and a considerably wider scope than that of Canada's, it is unknown what impact it will have in Australia.
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