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    Parents call on operators to help protect their children from harmful content on mobile phones


    Nearly three quarters (72%) of British internet users are concerned that children are accessing harmful content online through their mobile phones, according to recent research commissioned by Mott MacDonald Schema – a UK-based independent management consultancy advising the technology, media and telecommunications industries.

    Of the users that participated in the YouGov survey, 71% believed operators should be accountable for monitoring and addressing harmful content over mobile devices. When asked about ways to stop children from accessing harmful content on their mobiles, over half (58%) of respondents agreed that barring sites and content according to the age of the phone owner would be effective.

    Tom Allen, head of Mott MacDonald's information, communications and media business said: "The internet was developed to share information, but we must be sensible about what younger generations can access. As the internet becomes more accessible due to new delivery platforms such as mobile phones and games consoles, it's increasingly important we find ways to protect our children from inappropriate content."

    According to the research, another preferred method would be to provide individual users with a pin code that reflects the user's age and limits the type of content children can access. Alternatively, respondents agreed with implementing an SMS warning system that would send a message to a nominated ‘Parent phone' when a child accesses a harmful site. Both these measures had 46% approval of the participants.

    "The mobile internet has made it much harder for parents to monitor what their children are viewing – they simply cannot be everywhere or looking over their children's shoulders all the time. As such, mobile operators have a moral obligation to provide safeguards that limit the access of children. Operators should consider self regulation and their social responsibility, as regulators may soon demand that operators implement methods to protect children", Allen continued.

    However, despite their concerns, people may not be willing to share the type of personal data, such as age, that is needed for operators to provide this security. According to the research conducted by Mott MacDonald Schema in December 2008, more than one in three people would be unwilling to reveal personal data to their internet service providers for security purposes whiles online.