(Reuters Health) – Parents often rely on filtering software to block children’s online contact with bullies, predators, pornography and other inappropriate material, but a new study casts doubt on the effectiveness of these tools.
Researchers conducted 1,030 in-home interviews with 515 British parents and their adolescent children. Overall, children with filtering software on their home computers were less likely to report negative online experiences, the analysis found.
They report in the Journal of Pediatrics March 14 that 17 percent of youngsters with filters and 22 percent of those without reported negative online experiences.
“Internet filtering, on its own, does not appear effective for shielding adolescents from things that they find aversive online,” lead author Andrew Przybylski said in an email. A psychologist, Przybylski is a senior research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford in England.
“Parents may feel reassured in knowing they have internet filters in their home, but our results suggest that such filters do not safeguard against young people seeing things that may frighten or upset them,” he said.
“As young people grow into adults, there has to be a degree of risk tolerance as they build their own resilience. Keeping open lines of communication is key,” he said.
Michele Ybarra, president and research director for the Center for Innovative Public Health Research in San Clemente, California, said the study underscores the need for parents to discuss their concerns about the web with their children.
“Network-level filtering doesn’t necessarily keep our children safe from unwanted exposures online,” Ybarra, who was not involved in the study, said in a phone interview.
“It’s really important to talk to your kids about how to keep their information safe online,” she said. Read More …