Evaluation of Models of Good Practice and Guidance for the Internet Industry on Chat Services, Instant Messaging and

Web Based Services

Lorraine Sheridan and Julian Boon

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Index

Key findings Summary and recommendations Chapter 1: Chapter 2: Chapter 3: Chapter 4: Chapter 5: Chapter 6: Introduction and methodology User perspectives and experiences (i): online users User perspectives and experiences (ii): young people, parents and teachers Internet Service Provider Senior Managers’ perspectives Moderators’ perspectives The objective picture: findings from the desk-based audit

References Appendices (additional tables and figures)

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Key findings • 93% of the online sample felt that the benefits of using the Internet outweighed any potential dangers • Zero teachers and 7% of parents felt that the Internet had become more dangerous for children during 2003 • Under 12% of frequent users of chat, IM and web pages felt that safety levels had decreased between January 2003 and January 2004 • The majority of regular chatters (82%) felt that safety tools and advice were clearer, more widespread and more accessible compared with 2003, whilst just 42% of regular IM users felt this was the case for IM–specific items • Regular chat and IM users were generally found to be utilising safety tools recommended by the Models and finding them helpful • Ignore and block features were the most familiar safety tool for parents and children • Under half of parents and teachers felt their knowledge of the Internet had increased between 2003 and 2004, compared with 62% of childen • The online sample indicated IM as the service least likely to culminate in uncomfortable incidents (15%), and chat as the most likely (40%) • Half the sample of Moderators had suspected potential child abusers of being on their sites. Difficulties in ascertaining intent of over-age chatters was also highlighted • Results of a desk-based audit of ISPs indicated generally high levels of concordance with Model specific recommendations • Safety tools and advice were most widely available within IM services (96% of majority positive recordings) followed by chat services (74%)

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The desk-based audit also noted a significant lack of safety information and tools offered by connectivity and hosting providers (25%)

Quantitative data obtained from the interviews with ISP Senior Managers indicated a high level of baseline concordance with Model recommendations (67%) and this was highest with regards to the Model on chat (78%). Despite this Model impact was still moderate (18%) and appeared to have most influence on IM services (28%)

A minority of children (9%) self-reported that they had been made to feel threatened, uncomfortable or vulnerable while using chat rooms

Parents tended to make lower estimates of their children’s usage of Internet services than did their children, whilst teachers tended to make higher estimates

A majority of parents (65%) believed their children to possess higher than average Internet skills

Children used safety tools and features more frequently than their parents estimations, and the vast majority of young people viewed the tools positively

Parents did not possess high levels of Internet safety knowledge and rarely helped their children use web safety tools and features. They also requested safety tools and features that were already commonplace, underlining a need for education

Children demonstrated sound safety knowledge, advising that other children should enjoy using the Internet but exercise caution

Parents gleaned most of their safety information from the media and believed their children to obtain theirs from school. In contrast, children reported receiving most of their knowledge from parents and the media

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Online users, ISP Senior Managers and Moderators all saw education and increasing awareness as the most effective and enduring means of promoting safe Internet usage, particularly via the media and in schools

Generally, a lack of education and parental responsibility was felt to be the primary cause of child Internet safety problems

• • •

The majority of ISP Senior Managers sampled were aware of the Guidelines Resistance to Model recommendations among the Managers was low Whilst some Managers acknowledged the costs associated with implementing the Models, none felt that the net effects on business were negative

Concerns were raised regarding dissemination: Managers felt that some of the companies not involved in their development may have not seen the Models

The majority of Managers familiar with the Models viewed their impact as having been mainly positive - striking a 'reasonable' to 'perfect' balance between industry and user needs

Managers reported the primary positive consequence of the Models to be an increased public and industry awareness

Inhibiting factors identified included lack of familiarity with the Guidelines, financial constraints, and an opinion that the Models were sometimes too specific or irrelevant to the services offered

• •

Moderator familiarity with the Models was generally lacking Baseline concordance with the recommendation to screen Moderators was low but it did appear that the Models were aiding a shift towards screening

Moderators in general perceived that user access to Internet safety advice improved during 2003, as had user and Moderator safety awareness

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Summary and recommendations

The aim of this research was to evaluate the Models of Good Practice and Guidance for the Internet Industry on Chat Services, Instant Messaging and Web Based Services. The Models – developed by the Home Office Task Force for Child Protection and published in January 2003 – were designed to establish recommended practice for the protection of children and other potentially vulnerable users of the Internet. In evaluating their success and utility for achieving this, the Models were assessed with regard to their impact on a range of principal criteria. Specifically the criteria concerned were:

Establishing the extent to which Model-consistent practices have been implemented since their publication

Evaluating the functional utility of the Models in terms of making the use of the Internet safer – with particular reference to the perspective of children

Identifying the Models’ successes in achieving their objectives without impeding the innovative benefits which accrue from commercial competition

Evaluating the Models’ successes in attaining their objectives without curtailing the highly beneficial educative and social potential of Internet usage

Establishing the degree to which the Framework of good practice has strengthened public confidence by delivering a safer and better service for users

Establishing the degree to which the publication of the Models has led to ensuring clarity of information relating to safety advice, warnings and safety features

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The data sources were selected to provide a composite picture of the experiences of users of Internet services, ranging from the professionals involved in the provision and administration of the services through to the users themselves. Accordingly four data collection methods were employed, comprising:

An online questionnaire designed to measure awareness and perceptions of Internet safety among regular users

A traditional questionnaire study of the Internet experiences and perceptions of young people, their parents and their teachers

In-depth interview data exploring the views and perceptions of Internet Service Provider (ISP) Senior Managers and chat room Moderators

A desk-based audit conducted with the aim of providing an objective picture of currently available safety features and tools

This current section will provide an overview of the findings from each of these four datasets, followed by recommendations for good practice generated by the research, as well as suggestions as to how good practice may be monitored. The Internet is a rapidly evolving medium and this must be recognised by any future safety initiatives. This issue will be discussed prior to the presentation of key findings from the research. The online questionnaire study The online questionnaire was set up to collect data throughout February 2004 – one year on from the dissemination of the Guidelines. Links to the questionnaire featured on the sites of two Internet organisations – one a magazine-style page and the other on 7

the front page of the ISP’s chat services. The bulk of the questionnaire took the form of pull-down menus for respondents to check responses to questions that ranged from their general thoughts on web pages and safety on the Internet, through to more specific questions that concentrated on chat rooms, public profiles and Instant Messaging. In addition a final section was included to allow respondents the opportunity to provide free-text qualitative feedback. Overall the questionnaire was designed to gather a broad picture of the views and perceptions of regular Internet users. In so doing it tapped into the users’ main sources of Internet safety information, their perceptions of Internet safety issues, the degree to which users’ believed the Internet had improved since the introduction of the Models, the users’ frequency of usage with respect to chat rooms, Instant Messaging, and web pages in general, the degree to which they had ever felt uncomfortable, threatened or vulnerable while using any of these services, the frequencies with which the users had noted the existence and made use of safety features/tools, and the degree to which they regarded these features/tools as being helpful. It must be noted that the sample was unlikely to be representative of all online users, and may have been biased towards those individuals who had had a negative online experience. In all two hundred and sixty-six participants completed the online questionnaire – twenty-six of which were discarded due to missing or inconsistent data. The remaining two hundred and forty participants’ responses revealed both positive and negative aspects of personal and child Internet safety. On the positive side, this sample overwhelmingly (93%) considered the benefits of Internet usage to outweigh the potential dangers and only 12% reported that they felt safety levels had decreased in the period between January 2003 and January 2004. For chat services, the majority of regular chatters judged that there was

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sufficient safety advice provided and that tools and advice were clearer, more accessible and more prevalent as compared with 2003. In general too, regular chat and IM users were found to be utilizing the safety tools recommended by the Models and to be finding them helpful. On a less positive note, one third of regular chatters reported that they had experienced an uncomfortable situation that had made them feel threatened with one half of these people reporting the individual(s) who caused them to feel that way. Those chatters who did report such experiences tended to find the ISP’s to be helpful but Moderators to be unhelpful. In other circumstances though Moderators were rated as being predominantly helpful in the provision of generic advice. A mixed picture emerged too with regard to chat and IM usage. Users were far more likely to have experienced an uncomfortable incident while using chat as opposed to IM presumably because of the markedly greater probability of encountering a stranger in the former. Furthermore, the regular users perceived the safety features of chat services in a more positive light than their counterparts in IM – again presumably because they had greater need to have recourse to the former. In addition to a significant proportion of the sample having experienced a negative episode while using chat almost threequarters of the sample considered that they were receiving more unwanted, unsolicited material such as spam e-mail, pop-ups and adult material. In terms of their general views almost one-third of the on-line sample reported that their primary source of Internet safety was the media and their qualitative data cited the media as the most effective means of promoting public awareness about such issues. In particular the research found that regular users believed that education for both parents and children was the single most important safety measure available. This view was further highlighted with another emergent theme which showed regular

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users to believe that a lack of education was the primary cause of child Internet safety problems. Overall therefore the online sample judged that the Internet was a positive entity, that in some areas there had been improvements since the introduction of the Models in January 2003, that education was the single most important means of promoting safety, and that currently the media plays the predominant role in disseminating safety awareness among the public. User perspectives and experiences: Young people, parents and teachers Three questionnaires were developed and piloted for distribution among parents, children (between 9 and 15 years of age) and teachers in order to assess awareness, experience and understanding of the Internet and various safety tools and features. The questionnaires included both quantitative and qualitative sections which were designed to elicit participants’ comments and views on: Internet safety; nature and frequencies of negative experiences; available assistance in relation to negative experiences; awareness, use of and familiarity with safety tools and features; perceptions of change since January 2003; and general comments and opinions regarding the Internet. One secondary and three primary schools in the Midlands assisted and data from 305 children, 174 parents and 33 teachers were analysed by the current work. Analyses of the three groups’ responses revealed differences in perceptions particularly relating to the amount of time children spent on the Internet and where they acquired information about online safety. Relative to the children’s own estimates, their parents tended to underestimate the time their child spent on the Internet. By contrast the teachers, making estimates of a ‘typical child’, tended to over-estimate the time children spent using Internet services. Similarly parents,

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children and teachers tended to have different perceptions as to where they sourced their information about the Internet with children reporting that their knowledge came principally from the media and their parents. This is a potentially important finding since parents did not exhibit high levels of Internet knowledge and rarely helped their children use web safety tools and features and were not therefore well placed to inform children. The problem is also compounded by the fact that parents also tended to misperceive their children as having gleaned most of their Internet knowledge from school. More than a third of parents (35%) cited school as the primary source of Internet knowledge for their children as compared with only 18% of the children rating themselves and 12.5% of the teachers when rating a typical child. In addition the majority of parents believed that their children possessed higher than average Internet skills again demonstrating a lack of awareness of issues relating to their children’s Internet usage. Only 7% of parents and none of the teachers took the view that the Internet had become a more dangerous environment for children during the course of 2003. Furthermore although there were self-reported instances of children being made to feel threatened, uncomfortable or vulnerable while using the Internet services this was exceptional with most children not having had such negative experiences. Nevertheless one fifth of the teachers reported instances of having been concerned about the intentions of an individual communicating with children over the Internet. Children did however demonstrate sound safety knowledge and were capable of advising peers that they should enjoy using the Internet but exercise caution as they do so. Also children demonstrated that they could and did use safety tools and features and most viewed these positively. In terms of personal growth in Internet knowledge almost half the parents and the teachers felt that they did not know any more in 2004

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than they knew in 2003. This relatively static picture contrasted sharply with that for the children – most of who reported knowing a little more or much more than a year before. In summary this study’s findings for children are in tune with those for the regular users of the online study in that the majority of Internet use is seen as positive with exceptional instances of negative experiences. However, while in general the children did emerge as being Internet safety aware parents in particular tended to be misperceiving potentially important aspects of their children’s Internet usage. Specifically parents tended to be over-confident as to their children’s Internet skills, to overestimate the role of the school in teaching Internet knowledge, and to underestimate the degree to which the children look to them as a source of information. The professionals’ perspective

ISP Senior Managers A 137 item semi-structured interview was developed for use with senior ISP Managers. Designed to collect both quantitative and qualitative data it was divided into four sections that related to: General information, awareness of the Models, implementation of the Models, and general feelings relating to the Models. Fifteen ISP managers were interviewed in-depth with this instrument, their companies representing a sample of large, medium and small operators who offered a range of online communication and Internet services to which the Task Force Guidelines would be applicable. See page 29 in the full report for further details of the methodology.

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While analyses of the Managers’ responses revealed very disparate views and perspectives on a number of issues pockets of general consensus did emerge. In line with the findings from both the online and schools studies, Managers were very clear that responsible use of the Internet brought benefits that far outweighed the potential negative aspects. In addition there was broad consensus that education plays a key part as an effective and enduring means of promoting safe Internet usage. While this again to some extent echoes the findings of the previous two studies the Managers placed greater emphasis on the need for education not only of children but also of parents. This tied in with a third strand of broad consensus among Managers that personal responsibility, common sense and parental supervision (cf: differing perception of parents above) were very important in fostering children’s safety while using the Internet. The majority of Managers felt that although parents should have prime responsibility for their children’s usage of Internet services there was still a secondary educational role to be played by schools. However there were divergent views as to the degree to which they considered that this should definitely be implemented, with five Managers suggesting that such Internet safety training be covered in school. With regard to awareness of the Models and the degree to which they had been implemented the Managers’ responses revealed widespread differences. Of the fifteen Managers interviewed twelve had been aware of the Models prior to being contacted by the project team. Of the twelve who were familiar with the Guidelines five reported having made changes to policy, practice and/or operating structures since their publication. A further five companies felt that there was no need to make changes as many measures were already in place prior to the publication of the Models and the remaining two companies were aware that they were generally not

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complying with the Guidelines and had no plans to make any changes. This mixed picture is reflected in the perceptions of Managers in terms of the commercial and financial costs of implementing the Guidelines which ranged from readily implementable through to the exact opposite. Where inhibiting factors were identified they tended to be associated with a lack of familiarity with the Guidelines, financial constraints, and/or a view that at times the Models were too specific for or irrelevant to the services offered. Again reflecting our sample, there was concern expressed among Managers regarding the Models’ dissemination and the possibility that some companies may not be aware of their existence. Overall though resistance to the idea of introducing the Models’ was low in the sample and the majority of the Managers regarded their impact as having been mainly positive, and to have struck a ‘reasonable’ to ‘perfect’ balance between industry and user needs. Moderators Separate semi-structured interview protocols were devised for chat room and forum Moderators aimed at determining the level of their familiarity with the Guidelines, the impact that the Models had had on their roles, recruitment and training, and to provide an opportunity to express general opinions relating to the Models. Ten Moderators were interviewed using this instrument, the sample being selected from differing backgrounds including: full and part-timers, those working in the commercial sector and in the non-profit making sector, and paid and volunteer workers. The sample of Moderators showed that awareness of the Models was generally lacking, with only three being familiar with them prior to being contacted by the research team. All three of the Moderators familiar with the Models felt that they had had a positive impact on Internet safety. In addition the majority of those unfamiliar

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with the Models judged that user access to Internet safety advice had improved during 2003. Likewise the majority judged that both user and Moderator safety awareness had been noticeably enhanced during 2003. In terms of their perception of their role, most of the sample saw it as being primarily protective in nature, helping to ensure a safe environment for the users. The large majority of Moderators reported having identified inappropriate material, such as sexually explicit material, abusive and/or threatening material, or racist material. Some Moderators reported difficulties with classifying material as being offensive, for example it possibly being intended in a humorous way. Some Moderators though indicated that they had taken steps to identify suspect perpetrators and had either warned them via e-mail to desist or summarily banned them from the room concerned. Finally most of the ten Moderators held the view that increasing awareness was the single most important method of promoting safe Internet usage with five identifying schools as a suitable place to deliver this information. Desk-based audit To obtain an objective picture of safety tools and features 25 companies were audited with a desk-based procedure. The companies variously provided one, some or all of the following services: chat, IM, connectivity and hosting. Those companies (N = 15) that offered chat services were audited with a nineteen-point schedule and the findings showed that in general the recommended safety tools and features were in place – (73.9% of the time). However, there were patches where safety measures were not ideal from the perspective of children. For example, more than half of the eligible companies audited did not provide safety messages tailor-made to the specific needs of children. Likewise safety advice was inconsistently delivered with regard to

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registration and setting up public profiles. Practices varied from explicitly explaining the use and purpose of providing personal information to providing no information at all. Similarly some companies actively encouraged children not to post personal information on chat sites while others gave no information about public profile data. The emergent picture for IM was better than for chat with a 95.5% recorded presence of safety features and advice. Of the eight companies audited, all provided information regarding the services offered. In addition all but one of the IM companies provided information on how to keep safe while using the service. Also all eight companies had ignore or block features in place together with information on how to deal with unwanted instant messages. However, as with chat services there were weaker areas such as only half the companies providing warning messages when a user is about to add a new person to their buddy list. Also only one of the companies provided safety information on both the IM client itself and the home page for downloading this service. The picture for web services was markedly less positive with the connectivity and hosting providers providing information on safety and safety tools only 25% of the time. Some features were well supported such as all the connectivity providers giving explicit statements as to the boundaries of acceptable online behaviour. However, fewer than half the companies audited provided other important information that parents could have utilized in order to educate their children regarding potential risks. Likewise, hosting providers all gave information regarding acceptable behaviour but only two out of the ten audited gave safety advice for home users who wanted to create web pages, or provided guidance and advice specifically tailored to users who are young people.

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Overall IM followed by chat services emerged as having safety tools and advice widely available. There was however by contrast a deficiency in the provision of these facilities for connectivity and hosting providers. For all four types of service there appeared to be greater scope for the provision of advice which is tailor-made for the needs of young people and their parents.

Recommendations for good practice The present research has produced a number of key recommendations relating to education, awareness, issues relating to Internet Service Providers, and ways in which further links between industry and Government might be fostered. Although ensuring accessibility to safety tools is a prime concern of the Internet industry, increasing the level of public – particularly parent – knowledge regarding Internet safety would provide a more enduring and user-active means of protection. It is thus recommended that promoting awareness of available resources might be the most important long-term recommendation arising from the present findings. Users need to be made aware of the realities of the various risks associated with Internet use, the tools and measures that can help combat these risks, and children in particular must be encouraged to adopt safe online practices. Given that the mass media were perceived to be the primary source of Internet safety knowledge for both regular and infrequent users, it is suggested that a media campaign would represent the most appropriate vehicle to promote safe Internet use. One apparent obstacle to promoting child online safety may be perceived locus of responsibility. The present work has identified that the largest proportion of parents believed their child was taught safe Internet practice at school. Children however said that most of their safety information was gleaned from their parents and from the media.

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Our (small) sample of teachers did not tend to possess a detailed knowledge of Internet safety tools, features and practice. Comments made by regular users and by ISP Senior Managers revealed that these groups believed that parents accepted little responsibility for child Internet safety. A media and/or leaflet campaign targeted at promoting parental guidance would provide an effective means of dissemination to parents who may not otherwise have access to such information. A further possible way of advancing child protection on the Internet would be to incorporate Internet safety practice into the National Curriculum and, in addition, into teacher training programmes. Further, existing agencies such as the Internet Watch Foundation might be promoted more widely and their roles clarified. Measures such as these would allow for parents’ apparent reliance upon teachers to provide children with up-to-date information concerning Internet safety. Such measures would also however require regular re-training of teachers as the Internet develops. Although education is seen as being an essential long-term investment, ensuring that safety tools, advice and related facilities are in place is also key to Internet safety. Chat and IM tools and advice should be consistently monitored; connectivity and hosting providers must address the lack of safety information identified by the current research. It is noteworthy that online child protection is not limited to online communication, but also to the protection of young people from certain websites or material available on the Internet. Whilst the potential benefits of a system via which users and providers can label the content of their sites are obvious, present results suggest that the Model recommendations regarding site labelling saw the least compliance. It should also be noted that we would expect low levels of compliance with labelling measures among those web materials that target children for dubious purposes.

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Central to the development of Internet safety campaigns is the relationship between the Service Providers and the Government. It is recommended that this relationship be further improved by disseminating the Guidelines more widely, for instance, with advertisements placed in the computer press.

On-going monitoring of good practice Once effective safety features and policies are in place procedures are required to prevent their attrition. Data from the present research would suggest that the ease of monitoring varies according to size and nature of the ISP with larger user numbers presenting greater challenges. Hosting providers have more problems monitoring user-generated content compared with (for instance) moderated chat sites. The ongoing monitoring of good practice must not only respond to, but also, anticipate change due to the rapidly developing nature of the Internet. Encouragingly, interviews with ISP Senior Managers in the present research revealed that all those Managers familiar with the Guidelines had structures in place for regularly assessing safety policies and practice. Problems associated with the dissemination of the Home Office Models disclosed a need to develop further effective and dynamic links between the Internet industry and Government. Further, success in monitoring good practice might be affected by the production of safety measures applicable only to the UK. A substantial degree of unsolicited mail originates from other countries and the Internet is a worldwide phenomenon. It is therefore suggested that on-going monitoring of Internet safety might need to be designed globally – with links between countries being every bit as important as links within them.

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The introduction of comprehensive educational programmes into the National Curriculum and teacher training would enable straightforward monitoring of Internet safety awareness and knowledge in the school system.

Responding to social and technological change Although the Internet and its multi-faceted services are relatively recent phenomena, it has had a direct impact on the lives of many people, particularly younger persons. Information Technology skills are important in today’s job market, and a large proportion of young people communicate, study, purchase goods and meet new people via the world wide web. Internet related technology is growing at an exponential rate and our findings would suggest that a substantial section of parents have been unable to keep abreast of major developments that have occurred to improve online safety. In the present work, children knew more about Internet safety tools and features than did many of their parents and teachers. Although children may know more about Internet safety than their parents, this does not necessarily imply that young people should use the Internet unsupervised. Children may still be naïve to the more serious social dangers associated with Internet usage. Once again, education may be cited as the greatest potential tool that individuals have to improve children’s safety online. Although the children in the current work regarded safety tools as beneficial, the functional utility of such tools is ephemeral, whereas education and awareness are long term and enduring. In terms of responding directly to technological developments, any future versions of the Guidelines would need to extend the current Models’ recommendations to include safety guidelines for Internet services received via mobile telephones. The results of a survey published in 2002 (Hayward, Alty, Pearson & Martin, 2002) reported that 92% of households owned a mobile phone and that 21% of households owned a WAP/3G phone

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(able to connect to the Internet). A more recent study suggested that a quarter of British children aged between seven and 10 owned mobile phones (Mintel, 2004). Further, chat associated with online multiplayer gaming is not covered by the Guidelines, nor is interactive digital television. Concerns have been raised about abuses of Bluetooth technology (an innovation that allows any device with a Bluetooth chip to communicate by radio instead of cables). ‘Bluesnarfing’, which is the theft of information from a wireless device through a Bluetooth connection, can be very difficult to detect and can result in the copying of an individual’s contact lists, calendar and any multimedia objects associated with these. E-mail systems are not currently covered by the Task Force Guidelines and examples of new developments not currently covered will undoubtedly arrive imminently. One particular concern raised by both regular Internet users and by ISP Senior Managers involved negative material initiated from overseas. Spam, pop-ups (with or without adult content), junk e-mail and text messages, unsolicited pornographic material and more, are not simply a public nuisance but may also upset vulnerable users and seriously inconvenience UK businesses (e.g. Potter & Beard, 2004). Increasingly, spam blocking is viewed as one of the services a good ISP should provide and future Guidelines could offer a Model recommending spam reduction measures.

Primary findings

Broad consensus among the professionals that the introduction of the Models has been a positive exercise

For professionals and users alike, negative experiences of Internet usage were not found to be common place and the overall perceptions of the web were positive

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Levels of understanding and knowledge of safety tools and features were found to be widely varied in all groups

• •

Children demonstrated sound safety knowledge Agreement was found among parents, regular users and the Internet professionals that education and awareness are the most effective and enduring means of promoting safe Internet use

A contingent need was identified – with broad agreement from the professionals – for greater Internet safety awareness education for parents

Mass media was recognised as an important influence on Internet safety knowledge

Sections of the Industry, regular Internet users and parents identified a need for Internet Safety awareness education to be formally incorporated into the National Curriculum

Key points for future action • Apparent inconsistencies among parents, children and teachers as to where children currently source their knowledge of the Internet • Parents tended to be limited in their understanding and knowledge of the Internet yet children tended to look upon parents as a main source of knowledge and advice • Parents tended to underestimate their role as providers of Internet knowledge to their children, and over-estimate both the current role of the schools in teaching Internet safety and the level of their children’s Internet skills

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Chapter 1: Project overview

Introduction and background to the project This research aimed to evaluate the Home Office Task Force on Child Protection on the Internet Models of Good Practice and Guidance for the Internet Industry. These Models included three detailed sections and provided comprehensive safety recommendations with regards to Chat Services, Instant Messaging and Web based services. The primary concerns of the current evaluation were fivefold, namely:

Establishing the extent to which Model-consistent practices have been implemented since their publication in January 2003

• •

Evaluating the functional utility of the Models in terms of their making the use of the Internet safer, particularly from the perspective of children Identifying the Models’ successes in achieving their objectives without hampering the innovative benefits to services which are gained through commercial competition

Evaluating the Models’ successes in attaining their objectives and establishing how these have been achieved without curtailing the highly beneficial educative and social potential of Internet usage

Evaluating the impact of the four Key Objectives of the Models

Specifically these four Key Objectives were to: • • provide a framework of good practice to deliver a safer and better service for users help the industry to empower children and other users to make well-informed decisions e.g. about disclosure of personal details whenever they enter services or move between them • • ensure clarity of information, warning and advice strengthen public confidence in the services offered

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The present study constitutes a detailed appraisal of whether the Internet industry has implemented recommendations from the Models and whether the Models have provided a vehicle to increase public awareness and uptake of safety measures. Findings were obtained from seven assessments that were conducted by means of an online survey, traditional questionnaire based assessments, structured interviews, and an objective desk-based audit.

Background to the Models The Office of National Statistics reported that in 2003, 11.9 million UK households (48%) were able to access the Internet from home. Between 1998 and 2003, Internet usage increased dramatically by 9.6 million (ONS, 2003). Further, it has been estimated that the proportion of young people accessing the Internet rose from 73% in 2001 to 84% in 2002 (Hayward, Alty, Pearson & Martin, 2002). Hayward et al. found the number of young people accessing the Internet from home also rose during this period from 45% to 56%. In light of the significant increase of Internet access in residential homes, and following concerns for the safety of children who use the Internet, a means of ensuring safe use for the online community was required. The Home Office Task Force on Child Protection on the Internet was assembled in March 2001 as a response to widespread concern about the safety of the Internet for children. In particular, it was concerned with increasing the supervision in chat rooms, and providing clearer safety messages to online users. The Task Force’s key aims are:

To make the UK the best and safest place in the world for children to use the Internet

To help protect children the world over from abuse fuelled by criminal misuse of new technologies

The Task Force published the Good Practice Models and Guidance for the Internet Industry on Chat Services, Instant Messaging and Web Based Services in January 2003, providing separate recommendations and guidance on safety features and tools for each of these three services. The Models were primarily aimed at the UK Internet Industry and were collaborative in nature, the Task Force consisting of representatives of the Internet industry, Government and main opposition parties, as well as law enforcement and Child Welfare Organisations. Recognising that the Internet is a vast and important educative and social tool, and that it is a preferred source of 24

information and day to day communication for millions of UK citizens, the Task Force’s publication was produced as a means of informing business with realistic, workable safety recommendations. A Task Force-led media campaign highlighting safety issues directed at parents/carers and children ran between December 2001 and Spring 2002 and a similar campaign accompanying the Models launch occurred early in 2003. The most recent public awareness campaign was in January 2004 and included “Keep your child safe on the Internet” leaflets and website updates. Previous Research Research on Internet safety and methods to increase Internet awareness has been conducted mainly during the last four years, in response to the swift rise of ‘Internet Culture’. The Cyberspace Research Unit (CRU) based at the University of Central Lancashire has conducted much of this research. The CRU was developed in 2000 and aimed to provide research in order to “empower children and young people with the tools, knowledge and skills they need to navigate safely in cyberspace” (http://www.uclan.ac.uk/host/cru/about.htm). The Unit was also concerned with the investigation of criminal behaviour on the Internet. Research undertaken both before and after the Task Force Models were published in 2003 has found that although fewer children now become regular chatters than in the past, and although general risk awareness is relatively prevalent, more children have reported that they have attended face-to-face meetings with persons they met online. Further, generally fewer children are aware of specific safety features than before, especially chatters (O’Connell, Price & Barrow, 2004). It has also been established that although educational structures that target Internet child protection issues are in existence, they might not be reaching everyone given that schools do not allow children to use chat and Instant Messaging services (O’Connell, Barrow & Sange, 2002). These findings emphasise the need to evaluate the availability of specific safety features (e.g. alert features, advice on abusive chatters) to children and the general public when using chat, Instant Messaging, and web based services in their home environment. Part of the current report will consider the extent of awareness and experience of safety tools and other safety features among primary and secondary school children, as well as among their parents and teachers.

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Methodology This section will detail the methodologies employed by the current research. Four diverse data types were collected: data obtained via an online questionnaire, traditionally gathered questionnaire data, structured interview data, and objective data on the frequency of safety features collected via a desk-based audit exercise. Accordingly, the current section is split into four sub-sections, each describing the data collection processes associated with individual data collection methods.

1.

Online questionnaire data

The online questionnaire was designed to obtain data on the experiences and views of Internet users. The questionnaire explored: the users’ main source of Internet safety information, their perceptions of Internet safety and whether they believed it had improved since the publication of the Models, the frequency with which they used chat rooms, Instant Messaging and web pages in general, whether or not the user had ever felt uncomfortable, threatened or vulnerable whilst using any of the above services (and if so how frequently), how helpful various individuals or agencies had been in such an event, how frequently users had observed and used various safety tools, how well the participants understood these various safety features, and how helpful they found them to be. Respondents were also given an opportunity to provide general comments regarding Internet safety. The questionnaire took the form of a web page with drop-down menus for each item from which respondents selected their answers (except in the final section where respondents typed in qualitative comments). The questionnaire was divided into five sections: one to collect general information relating to the user (e.g. age, occupation etc.); one to gather the participants general thoughts; another on web pages and safety on the Internet in general; and the final three sections concentrated on chat rooms, public profiles and Instant Messaging respectively with the user given the option to skip through any or all of the sections if they never used these services. Two Internet companies agreed to provide a web link to the questionnaire, one from a computing magazine-style page and one from the front page of the ISP’s chat services. Data collection took place during February 2004. Two hundred and sixty six participants completed the online questionnaire. A majority (72.8%) of the sample were female, and the sample had a mean age of 27.5

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years (SD = 12.2). Data from 26 of the respondents were discarded due to inconsistent or missing data resulting in a final sample of 240.

2.

Traditional questionnaire data

Three questionnaires were devised for distribution among parents, children (under 16 years old) and teachers in order to assess awareness, experience and understanding of the Internet and various safety tools. The questionnaires included both quantitative and qualitative sections to allow participants to comment on various aspects of Internet safety, negative experiences, satisfaction with responses from various third parties where negative experiences did occur, awareness, use of and familiarity with various safety tools and features, and more general feelings regarding Internet safety. The parental and the child questionnaires were piloted using five parent and child matched pair groups. Children were aged between 9 and 14. Following completion, both children and their parents were invited to comment freely on the structure of the questionnaire and its ease of understanding. Three of the child questions were simplified and the child questionnaire was reformatted to make it appear more inviting. The parental questionnaire was not revised as a result of piloting. Thirteen schools were approached in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland and thee primary and one secondary school agreed to participate in the research. The other nine schools explained that time constraints would not allow then to participate. It must be noted that four schools from a relatively small geographical area are unlikely to represent all UK schools. Time and financial limitations meant that a convenience sample was chosen, as opposed to a more representative selection of schools. The child questionnaires were administered simultaneously in a classroom environment. At least one researcher or teacher was on hand to respond to questions. Children were informed that not all young people had used the Internet, that they should answer honestly and that it was normal for many children not to understand chat rooms, Instant Messaging and web pages. Numerous queries were answered by the researchers and teachers in order to maximise useable data. Children were given an envelope containing a correspondingly coded parental questionnaire with a covering letter that explained to parents the purpose and objectives of the research.

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Anonymity was assured. Parents were asked to refer to one child whilst responding to the questionnaire, namely the child who had brought the questionnaire home from school, and parent and child questionnaires were coded with identifiers so that parentchild groups could be matched. Teachers were asked to think about the ‘typical’ child in their school whilst answering the questions. The four schools represented a mix of inner city and county schools, and expected demographics of children and parents varied accordingly. One school, based in the centre of Leicester, had a high level of immigrant and refugee children, many of whom did not have English as a first language (teachers took these children through the questionnaire item by item), whilst the Rutland school recruited from a catchment area of a large nearby Army base and from local villages. The remaining primary school and the secondary school recruited pupils from a small and a large town in Leicestershire respectively. Once the four schools had agreed to participate, particular classes were selected to ensure a roughly equal gender mix, and to meet age group criteria. The minimum age for inclusion in the study was nine years, with a maximum of 15 years. Three hundred and forty six children completed the children’s questionnaire, constituting a 100% response rate. However, due to inconsistent data and/or incomplete data, 41 questionnaires were discarded, leaving a final child sample of 305. Reponses from 183 parents were received but nine were excluded from the analysis due to high levels of missing data or because of inconsistent data. Given that more children completed and returned useable questionnaires than did their parents, additional data files were created and these contained only the matched responses from 165 children and their parents. Where responses between children and their parents are compared, these data files are used. The parental respose rate was 53%. Thirty three teachers completed a questionnaire and all these were judged to be useable. Again, teachers were asked similar questions to children and parents, allowing three-way comparison data to be computed. The teacher response rate was 43%. For all three sets of questionnaire, some data are missing. This is because respondents were asked to leave blank any questions that they did not understand. Throughout the report, missing data are dealt with in a consistent manner unless otherwise stated. That is, given that ‘don’t know’ and ‘not applicable’ input options

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were usually available, averages have been computed based only on the data present. All data presented in this report were analysed using SPSS for Windows v.11.01 TM. 3. Semi-structured interviews

Senior Managers from a range of Internet Service Providers and providers of chat services were contacted in order to explore how successfully the Models had been implemented and disseminated across the Internet industry since their publication in January 2003. The main aims of these interviews included identification of the degree of implementation of safety tools and features, assessment of the impact the Models had on business, and examination of general views and opinions of the Models within the industry. Given that a key section of the Models document focused on the important role that chat room Moderators might play in Internet safety, Moderators were also interviewed. The chief aims of these interviews were to determine Moderator familiarity with the Guidelines, the impact that the Models had on their roles, recruitment and training, and again to explore general opinions regarding the Models. Separate semi-structured interview protocols were devised for both ISP Senior Managers and Moderators, and these were conducted via the telephone. The research protocols were in part based directly on the Models themselves, enabling the research to record whether specific recommendations had been followed. For

recommendation-specific questions, interviewees were offered five possible responses: ‘in place pre-Models’, ‘introduced or changed in response to Models’, ‘plan to introduce’, ‘no plans to introduce’ or ‘not applicable’. For the more general questions, fuller responses were expected. On a few occasions interviewees felt unable to respond appropriately to a closed question by selecting one of the five available responses, either because more contextual information was required or because they could not recall (for instance) whether a feature had been introduced as a response to the Models or was in place pre-Models. In the former cases, a more detailed, qualitative response was recorded and data were coded with added comments, whilst in the latter example data was coded as ‘missing’. The ISP Interview was divided into four sections and comprised one hundred and thirty-seven questions: general information (9 questions), Awareness of the Models (four questions), Implementation of specific aspects of the Models (100 questions) and general feelings in relation to the Models (24 questions). The

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Moderator Interview was divided into five sections and comprised seventy-three questions: general information (four questions), recruitment and training (14 questions), the Moderator’s role (9 questions), experiences (19 questions), and the impact of the Models (27 questions). Pilot interviews were undertaken with an ISP Senior Manager and a chat room Moderator to identify any likely misunderstandings, and ascertain whether the research protocols were appropriately pitched. As a result of this exercise, several minor amendments were made to the Senior Manager interview schedule. All interviewees provided prior agreement that the interview be taped and transcription usually took place immediately after the interview. Few interviewees kept rigidly to the interview protocol, allowing the collection of rich qualitative data. Forty-two separate organisations were approached to try and recruit interviewees and ultimately 15 ISP Senior Managers and 10 Moderators were interviewed. Difficulties in obtaining compliant managers from different companies may have resulted in a filtering effect whereby managers from those companies more concerned with Internet safety and with higher levels of familiarity with the Models may have been more likely to agree to participate. A similar filtering effect may have occurred with regards to company size. Larger companies have more staff at their disposal to deal with policy related research as opposed to smaller companies whose staff may not be as able to donate time to non-operational matters. Further issues with the Senior Manager questionnaire arose due to the larger Internet companies often having different Managers for different areas of their services. This problem arose for two of the respondents: one interviewee could only comment on the chat services offered by the company and another respondent could comment on all aspects other than Instant Messaging. In the case of this second company a second interviewee was recruited to answer the questions relating specifically to Instant Messaging only (this participant was not counted as an additional interviewee). In most instances, contact details for the Moderator sample were provided by ISP Senior Managers who had already been interviewed. The duration of ISP Senior Manager interviews ranged between 18 and 90 minutes with an average duration of 41 minutes, whilst the Moderator interviews lasted between 18 and 45 minutes with an average length of 29 minutes. The Senior Manager interviews varied in length partially due to organisations offering differing

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levels of the services being explored (i.e. chat services, Instant Messaging, connectivity and web hosting) and both the Senior Manager and Moderator interviews varied significantly in duration with regards to the degree of interviewee familiarity with the Models.

4.

The objective exercise

Twenty-five Internet, chat and Instant Messaging Service Providers were independently assessed using an objective questionnaire developed from the recommendations stated in the Models document. The objective exercise research instrument was devised to independently assess the implementation of safety tools as suggested by the Models. The instrument comprised three sections: chat services (19 questions), Instant Messenger services (22 questions), and web services (connectivity and hosting providers, 16 questions) and was constructed to be as objective as possible and aimed to collect quantitative data on the basis of three possible responses: ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘not applicable’. Questions were answered ‘yes’ if features were reasonably easy to locate, given that the Models not only suggest that a safety feature be present, but also that it be easily accessed, identified, and readily interpretable. To further increase objectivity and internal validity, one Researcher completed all the assessments. Where she was in doubt as to whether a response should be coded ‘yes’ or ‘no’, two independent raters would separately provide ratings, and majority ratings were recorded. Companies were selected in order to identify a diverse range of large, mid-range and smaller companies specialising in different and combined aspects of the Models being evaluated. The Researchers attempted to match the responses of those interviewed via the structured interview protocols with their companies’ objectively assessed performance via the desk-based audits. This was achievable in 44% of cases in the audit sample (n = 11). Twenty-five assessments were completed. The following breakdown reflects the range and diversity of services on offer. Of the 25 companies, seven (28%) provided chat services only, one (4%) provided Instant Messaging only, 9 (36%) provided connectivity and web hosting, one (4%) provided connectivity, web hosting and chat, three (12%) provided connectivity, hosting, chat and Instant Messaging services and four (16%) provided chat and Instant Messaging services only. Due to companies providing different services, there will be sections of data that are not applicable as a result of the organisation not providing the service in question. 31

Structure of the Report • Chapter 2 details the perspectives and experiences of online users, obtained via an Internet based survey tool. Both quantitative and qualitative data are presented. • Chapter 3 examines the perspectives and experiences of young people (aged between 9 and 15 years), their parents and teachers, all of whom were recruited from four different schools in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. This section was facilitated by the use of traditional style questionnaires. Again, both quantitative and qualitative data are employed to interpret the findings. Together, Chapters 2 and 3 detail the impact of the Models in the community by measuring public awareness of and uptake of safety tools and features, as well as how useful these features are judged to be. • Chapters 4 and 5 contain detailed, primarily qualitative accounts, of the views of 15 Internet Service Provider Senior Managers and 10 chat service Moderators. Industry responses to and implications of the Models will be discussed. These findings derive from semi-structured interview protocols. • Finally, Chapter 6 discusses the results of an objective desk-based audit and assesses 25 Internet companies with regards to the degree to which recommendations featured in the Models are in place.

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Chapter 2: User perspectives and experiences (i): online users

This chapter first provides a quantitative overview of responses received from a survey of online users. Attitudes of regular chatters and Instant Messaging users are then investigated qualitatively, illustrating respondents’ opinions of the most and least helpful forms of safety tools and advice, as well as their general feelings regarding measures required to improve Internet safety.

The sample The mean age of the 240 participants who took part in the online survey was 27.2 years (SD = 11.8, range 14 to 80). However, just over half (50.2% n = 120) of the available sample was aged between 18-21 years. All were UK residents and 94.6% (n = 227) reported having a home Internet connection. The majority of respondents (74.1%) were female. The most frequent occupation was ‘student’, encompassing 57.1% of the sample, followed by ‘homemaker’ (4.6%), ‘professional’ and ‘other’ (both 4.2%) and ‘computer related’, ‘education/training’ and ‘sales/marketing’ (all 3.3%). The most commonly reported Internet Service Provider was BT (26.1%), followed by NTL and Tiscali (both 19.3%) and then by AOL and Freeserve (both 9.7%). Table 2.1 shows the respondents’ reported usage of chat, Instant Messaging and web pages in a typical week. Web pages were most frequently accessed, with 93.3% of the sample using these services at least three times in a typical week and 100% accessing them at least once each week.

Table 2.1. Respondents’ use of chat services, Instant Messenger services and web pages (In a typical week) Chat services Never Once or twice Three to five times At least once per day 59.2% (n = 142) 17.5% (n = 42) 5% (n = 12) 18.3% (n = 44)

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Instant Messenging Never Once or twice Three to five times At least once per day Web services Never Once or twice Three to five times At least once per day
N = 240

38.3% (n = 92) 21.7% (n = 52) 15% (n = 36) 25% (n = 60)

0% (n = 0) 6.7% (n = 16) 25.8% (n = 62) 67.5% (n = 162)

It must be noted that the sample was self-selecting in nature. Because of this, responses to some questions may produce artifically negative or positive responses. For instance, it may be that the current sample were less likely than a more representative sample of web users to state that they had experienced an unpleasant incident whilst using the Internet, as such experiences may have led to individuals abandoning use of the Internet. As such, generalisations to all UK users of chat, IM and web services may not be made.

Safety and the Internet The largest group of respondents (28.9%, n = 69) reported that their primary source of Internet safety information was the mass media, followed by friends (21.3%, n = 51), Internet Service Providers (18%, n = 43), the Internet itself (13%, n = 31), parents and family (8.8%, n = 21) and school (3.3%, n = 8). A small number (6.7%, n = 16) of the sample reported that they received their information from another source, the most commonly cited being ‘common sense’ and ‘experience’. Respondents were asked whether they felt that the benefits of using the Internet outweighed its risks and overwhelmingly, 93% of respondents reported that the benefits were greater than any potential dangers. The current section details respondents’ use of and opinions concerning various Internet safety features recommended by the Models. Separate analyses refer to chat services, IM and web pages. In order to assess uptake rates and views of users who were knowledgeable with regard to online communication, only those who 34

accessed chat or IM services at least once per week were included in the relevant analyses (all respondents accessed web pages at least once during a typical week). Similar findings from a more general sample may be viewed in Chapter 3, when findings from the young peoples’, parents’ and teachers’ questionnaires are assessed. In the present section, it is supposed that regular online users are a valuable source of information specifically regarding post-Model safety developments as a result of their high level of use and assumed high level of knowledge. Findings from chat users will be detailed first, followed by findings from users of IM services, and finally web pages.

Chat users Just over two fifths of the sample (40.8%, n = 98) reported using chat at least once per week. Of these 80.4% felt that sufficient clear chat room safety advice existed, whereas (19.6%) indicated a belief that satisfactory advice was lacking. Furthermore, 82.3% of the participants reported that advice on how to safely use chat rooms was clearer, more widespread and more accessible than it had been 12 months previously. Although the majority of participants reported that they had never felt uncomfortable, threatened or vulnerable while using chat services (60.2%, n = 59), more than a third responded positively to this question (39.8%, n = 39). Of those who had experienced a problem with another user or users, more than half (56.4%, n = 22) revealed that they had reported the incident. Table 2.2 indicates to whom these participants reported their problems and to what extent they found reporting to be beneficial.

Table 2.2. Chat Services users’ negative experiences: who users reported to and whether reporting was helpful People/institutions to whom a problem was reported Did not inform Did inform and found helpful Informed but did not find helpful

Internet Service Provider Moderator Police

40.9% (9) 31.8% (7) 95.5% (21)

40.9% (9) 13.6% (3) /

18.2% (4) 54.5% (12) 4.5% (1)

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Child Protection Agency Family member Teacher
N = 22

95.5% (21) 95.5% (21) 100% (22)

4.5% (1) 4.5% (1) /

/ / /

Table 2.2 indicates that respondents were most likely to report to Internet Service Providers and chat room Moderators, finding the former to be largely helpful and the latter to be largely unhelpful. Regular chatters were asked whether they had had contact with four safety features during their chat room experiences. They were also asked to rate whether they found each feature to be helpful or unhelpful, and to what extent they understood them. Table 2.3. presents the findings.

Table 2.3. Chat services users’ experiences, perceptions and understanding of safety features Chat room Moderators Ignore or block features User had never seen feature User had seen, but / not used, feature User employed feature User found feature 81% helpful User did not find feature helpful User understood feature User did not
N = 98

Alert features

Advice on handling abusive messengers

/

6.2% (6) 17.5% (17)

34.7% (34) 26.5% (26)

24.2% (23) 37.9% (36) 37.9% (36) 82.9% (29) 17.1% (6) 88.2% (52) 11.8% (7)

67% (63)

76.3% (74)

38.8% (38)

89.2% (66)

89.2% (33)

(47) 19% (11) 82.4% (75) 17.6% 10.8% (8) 87.2% (82) 6.4% (6)

10.8% (4) 59.8% (55) 40.2% (37)

understand feature (16)

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Those respondents who had encountered an abusive chatter were more likely to have employed advice on how to handle abusive chatters when compared with those who had not. Overall, table 2.3 would suggest that regular chatters are utilising the safety tools recommended by the Models, and are finding them to be helpful in terms of personal Internet safety. Increasing understanding of alert features (e.g. a panic button within a chat room to inform a Moderator or operator about abuse or discomfort) appears to be an outstanding issue, but some Moderators and ISP Senior Managers commented that this feature may be redundant in a competently moderated chat room; see Chapters 4 and 5). Although chatters who had experienced a specific problem with another user did not tend to find Moderators to be helpful, the vast majority of those chatters who had more mundane contact with Moderators viewed this contact positively. Instant messaging users One hundred and forty eight participants used Instant Messaging services at least once per week. Of these, 81 (55.5%) felt that clear and accessible safety advice was lacking. Slightly more (58.2%) felt that IM safety advice and access to it had not improved during the preceding year. These findings demonstrate that online users viewed chat services more positively than IM in terms of levels and accessibility of safety advice, and in terms of improving access to safety advice during 2003. Almost a sixth (14.9%) stated that they had felt uncomfortable, threatened or vulnerable at least once while using IM (this figure stood at 39.8% for chat services). Of those 22 participants who had reported feeling uncomfortable, just three (13.6%) stated that they had reported it to someone. Two of these reported to their ISP and found the experience to be helpful, whilst one reported to the police and stated that this had not been helpful. Like chatters, IM users were asked about their knowledge, use and experiences of various safety measures. Table 2.4 details the results.

Table 2.4. IM users’ experiences, perceptions and understanding of safety features Ignore or block features User had never seen feature 7.5% Advice on handling abusive messengers 52.4%

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(11) User had seen, but not used, feature User employed feature 26.5% (39) 66% (97) User found feature helpful 98% (95) User did not find feature helpful User understood feature 2% (2) 93.6% (134) User did not understand feature
N = 148

(77) 33.4% (49) 14.3% (21) 76.1% (16) 23.8% (5) 92.6% (50) 7.4% (4)

6.4% (9)

As with chatters, those who had experienced abuse from another user were more likely to have looked at advice on how to handle abusive messengers. Instant Messengers and chatters used ignore or block features and read safety advice at roughly similar levels.

Public profiles seen in chat or IM All 240 participants were asked if they had ever seen and used warning advice referring to the creation of public profiles, and if so, whether they found it helpful. The majority of the total sample reported they had never seen any warning advice on public profiles (n = 175, 72.9%); only 27.1% had ever come across and used these features. Of those 65 participants who had seen and used this advice, most (73.8%) felt that it was helpful. Web users All 240 participants who completed the online survey used web services at least once each week. The majority of these reported to have never felt uncomfortable, threatened or vulnerable while looking at web sites and web pages. Of the 17.5% (42) who said that they had, just five reported their experiences to someone else. Three reported to their ISP with two finding their ISP to be helpful, one reported to the

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police and did not find the police to be helpful, and one reported to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), finding this organisation to be helpful. Of course, the location of safety information may have had a large impact on who individuals reported their experiences to. Chatters were far more likely than IM and web page users to report negative experiences. This is likely due to clearer channels for reporting being in place for chat services, and because chatters are more likely to encounter strangers than are IM users. All online participants were asked about their experiences and opinion of online safety guides, contents ratings and filtering software. Table 2.5 displays the results.

Table 2.5. Web users’ experiences and perceptions of safety features Online safety guides User had never seen feature User had seen, but not used, feature User employed feature User found feature helpful User did not find feature helpful User understood feature 95.5% (63) Not available User did not understand feature
Maximum N = 240, *where applicable

Contents ratings Not available Not available 48.3% (100) 58.1% (57)

Filtering software (parental controls)* 65.4% (157) Not available

51.8% (118) 31.1% (71) 17.1% (39) 89.4% (34)

26.3% (56) 60.7% (34)

10.5% (4)

41.9% (41)

39.3% (22)

74% (154)

4.5% (3)

Not available

26% (54)

Again, users found the various safety features to be beneficial in the majority of cases. However, online safety guides were used by few people. Further, contents ratings and filtering software were not found to be helpful by around 40% of those participants who used them. 39

Web users were asked whether they received more or less spam (unsolicited emails) and pop-ups containing adult content than at the same time the previous year, and whether it was now easier or more difficult to access sites with adult content. The largest proportion (72.9%) felt there was more spam than a year previously, and just 13.8% felt that there was less (the remaining 13.3% viewed spam levels as remaining constant). Similarly, when asked if they felt that it was more or less easy to stumble across sites containing adult material (when not searching for this type of content) compared with a year ago, 47.3% felt that this was easier and 40.8% thought the chances were about the same. Only 11.9% of respondents felt that these sites are better cloaked than a year ago. When asked about the number of pop-ups containing adult material, 56.2% of respondents felt that there were more than there had been a year ago and 30% judged there to be the same number. Only 13.8% of respondents felt that the number of pop-ups containing adult material had decreased in frequency during 2003. Many measures are available to deal with spam and pop-ups (e.g. pop-up blockers, junk mail filters) and most major ISPs offer a variety of services. However, these problems represent a moving target in that to date, each technological measure put in place has eventually been circumvented. Further, the originators of spam, popups and junk mail are frequently from outside the UK, and ISPs, whilst able to provide personal filters and perform some central filtering, cannot safeguard against all sites, and nor can filters be effective if an adult content provider does not choose to label their site.

General improvements All online respondents were asked whether they felt that chat rooms, IM services and web sites were generally safer than they had been before the Models were introduced a year earlier. When thinking about web sites, participants were asked to consider whether sites now carry better descriptions of their content than they did a year before. Frequency data from these questions can be viewed in table 2.6 below:

Table 2.6. Online respondents’ judgements of whether the Internet was safer in January 2004 as compared with January 2003 Chat Services IM Services Web sites

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(n = 94) Much safer A little safer 13 (13.8%) 33 (35.1%)

(n = 142) 17 (12%) 46 (32.4%) 73 (51.4%) 2 (1.4%)

(n = 218) 5 (2.3%) 66 (30.3%) 129 (59.2%) 11 (5%)

About the same 37 (39.4%) A little less safe Much less safe
from these analyses

7 (7.5%)

4 (4.3%)

4 (2.8%)

7 (3.2%)

Participants who used a service less than once in a typical week were excluded

From the results shown in table 2.6 it can be seen that the majority of regular chatters, Instant Messagers and web surfers felt that safety had improved on or was the same as safety levels a year before the Models were introduced. For all three services, under 12% of online users felt that safety levels had decreased between January 2003 and January 2004. Attitudes towards safety tools and advice: A Qualitative Analysis. Online respondents were asked open ended questions in order to establish what they felt were the most and least useful safety tools and advice, and they were also invited to provide general comments concerning Internet safety issues. The current section will consider the opinions of those participants (n = 170) who used chat rooms or IM at least once per week, given that these individuals were those most likely to have knowledge and experience of Internet safety tools and advice.

(i) Perceptions of regular chatters or IM users

Most useful safety tools or advice Eight qualitative themes were derived from regular chat or IM users’ free text opinions concerning what they felt to be the most useful safety tools or advice. A majority (116 of the 170, 68.2% of this sub-sample) chose to respond to this openended question and table 2.7 displays the frequency of the primary themes from their responses. Themes were derived from fragmenting quotes into conceptual parts and then coding each fragment for meaning. Codings relating to similar meanings were then compounded to form sub-categories and then further to form themes.

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Table 2.7 Regular chat/IM users responses to free text question regarding most useful safety tools and advice Frequencies and percentages of themes per derived category Educational/awareness and advice User-related Controls/blocks (Parental) Block/Ignore features (User) and “Tools” in general Responsibility/Supervisory Web related security features Moderator Factors Limiting Access
N = 116

34 (29.3%)

28 (24.1%) 23 (19.8%) 19 (16.4%)

19 (16.4%) 12 (10.3%) 11 (9.5%) 3 (2.6%)

The most common themes associated with most useful safety tools and advice centred on education and awareness of Internet safety. This would suggest that regular users of chat and IM perceive user factors as most important in promoting safe Internet use. Participants referred frequently to the media in relation to increasing awareness (11 references). For instance:

“The most useful safety tools include advert campaigns increasing awareness of dangers for both parents, children and general users.”

Participants also cited Internet sites as being a primary source of safety advice (10 references), for example:

“The most useful safety advice is found on homepages such as [Internet Company X] and [Internet Company XX] as it caters for all Internet users.”

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“Information on websites - particularly before entering a chat area.”

Other factors mentioned were general education factors for parents, for children, by parents and from schools (8 references):

“Word of mouth advice from teachers, parents and other responsible adults.”

“Teaching use of the Internet in schools including the dangers and safe use.”

“Making people (children) fully realise the dangers, letting them know what can happen, let them watch the news so they can see for themselves that it does happen and talk to them about it to make them fully aware that the same thing could happen to them.”

Of user-related factors, the most frequently cited theme highlighted common sense (11 references) and references to cautionary advice when divulging personal information (17 references):

“Common sense. Don’t give out information about yourself over the Internet to someone no matter how much you think you ‘know’ them, if you’ve only got what they’ve told you about themselves to judge them by.”

Specific safety tools like ignore and block features, parental controls, filters and safety tools were also considered to be important. In particular, caregivers were perceived to have a responsibility for employing these tools on behalf of children (8 references):

“Parents being able to block sites from their children.”

“Parental controls.”

A theme associated with parental controls was observed as participants made comments relating to supervision, and responsibility-related factors. These comments were directed mainly towards parents or the caregiver and occasionally teachers (19 references): 43

“Parents taking responsibility for their children’s access to the Internet.”

“If you let your child use the Internet, make sure YOU know how it works! Make sure YOU can see what your child is doing.”

Linked with tools, chat room moderation and related factors were cited 11 times as the most useful form of safety tools or advice. References were also made to web related security features such as firewalls and anti-virus/anti-spam programmes (12 references). A final, relatively infrequent theme emerged from the data and related to participant opinions on limiting children’s access (three references). For instance:

“Children should have very limited use because we don’t know who else is out there.”

“Pupils should be barred access to chat rooms from school computers.”

These references might suggest a lack of understanding of the Internet, in particular a lack of awareness of the existence of safety features for children’s protection in chat rooms and an assumption that schools freely allow access to chat rooms and teach children about Internet safety.

Least useful safety features or advice Ten themes were derived from regular chat or IM users’ opinions concerning what they believed to be the least useful safety tools or advice. Seventy participants of the 170 (41.2% of this sub-sample) chose to respond to this open question, far fewer than those who provided comment on the most useful safety features. Table 2.8 displays the frequency of themes per derived group.

Table 2.8 Regular chat/IM users responses to open-ended question regarding least useful safety tools and advice

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Frequencies and percentages of themes per derived category Educational/awareness and advice Tools (Web related and general) Tools (Parental) Social factors Responsibility/Supervisory Moderator Factors All safety tools/advice are useful Chat rooms User-related
N = 70

21 (30%)

18 (25.7%) 7 (10%) 7 (10%) 4 (5.7%) 3 (4.3%) 3 (4.3%) 3 (4.3%) 2 (2.9%)

As when commenting on the most useful sources of Internet safety advice and tools, education and awareness were the most frequently mentioned issues. This time, participants commented on a lack of awareness and education concerning tools that are readily available. So, although participants believed education and awareness to be the most important issues impacting on Internet safety, they also believed that they were generally lacking. This (apparent) contradiction would seem to reveal a concern that although educative tools are, or have been there, campaigns might not last long enough, they might assume a certain level of knowledge which might exclude young children, or that they are not widely distributed (for example in schools):

“Lack of awareness of information about some of the tools mentioned in this questionnaire such as alert features etc.”

“Lack of teaching or understanding.”

There seemed to be particular concern regarding education on safety advice and tools for children, suggesting that guidance and advice so far provided would not seem appealing or informative to children and would result in young people not absorbing this advice:

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“Safety guides may be useful to adults but will almost certainly be ignored by vulnerable children.”

“Warnings…children would rarely pay attention to them.”

“Web pages going on about safety in chat rooms for children. Children won’t read them as they are boring.”

There was also a concern that education and advice given is not always clear or accessible (4 references):

“Safety advice in chat rooms is rarely clear enough.”

“Much safety advice is not accessible.”

There were 25 references to Internet tools as being the least useful form of safety measures. Web based tools, parental control tools and blocking/filtering/ignore tools were all considered to be of low utility by some respondents. References to web related tools included spam-control and filters, warnings and web blocks:

“Filters tend to be too clumsy. They can exclude legitimate material.”

“There is nowhere completely safe on the Internet. No amount of filtering can remove every problem.”

“Warnings on the websites. If you want to look at the site even if you’re under age the warnings won’t stop you.”

Similarly, comments about blocking mechanisms included concern that they block too much, or that they are not effective as a means to keep suspicious or unknown individuals away from the user.

“ Parental controls. The average child can probably outwit them by the time they are 12.” 46

“The parental blocks aren’t very useful because they can’t access many normal sites needed for school work.”

“Blocking tools on Instant Messengers. People can sign in with a different name and re-contact you.”

The theme of responsibility and supervision revealed concerns. This theme described problems with supervision, for example:

“Supervising your child seems to be an impossible task for many parents.”

It was also suggested that the media might be responsible for exaggerating the dangers, but emphasised that the parents were ultimately responsible for supervising their children:

“ The current level of safety scares is utterly ridiculous. It’s up to the parents to determine a child’s access to the Internet, not website owners.” General opinions of regular chatters and IM users regarding Internet safety The final question in the online survey aimed to identify general feelings regarding Internet safety. Again it was open-ended, designed to elicit as much unbiased qualitative information as possible. Thirty-eight participants chose to comment on general issues surrounding Internet safety and four major themes emerged. These covered: education and awareness (9 references), responsibility and supervisory issues (7), moderation (5) and media related issues (3). Issues surrounding education highlighted a belief that parental knowledge needed to be increased:

“Too often parents are not aware of parental blocks and other security measures since they are poorly advertised.”

“ We need to be web wise in the same way we are streetwise i.e. don’t open the door to strangers. My youngest son uses chat but I have talked to him

47

about the dangers and pitfalls in the same way as we talk about the dangers in all areas of life.” . Although parental responsibility for educating and protecting children online clearly emerged as an important factor, references were also made regarding schools (1), the Government (1), Internet Service Providers (1) and other authorities (4):

“Maybe safety information on the Internet should be incorporated into ICT lessons at primary school level.”

“The Government needs to target kids and teenagers. I know some younger friends and relatives have visited over 18 chat rooms and websites so so easily.”

“ISPs need a greater understanding of and interest in their chat rooms, if that isn’t possible they need to delegate it to the right people.”

“The public, overall, need better education about the Internet.”

Comments surrounding moderation were generally positive (5) but a need for Moderators to undergo criminal records bureau checks was noted as:

“after all they work with children.”

Mixed opinions were identified with regard to the media (3). One participant believed that media attention towards Internet safety was very positive:

“The media is doing the right thing by highlighting the dangers of chat rooms”,

whereas the other participants who commented on the media all felt that it had a generally negative effect:

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“In my experience I have found that the media “sex-up” the dangers to be found on the Internet… although paedophiles they may be there, they are also there in real life, but because of the ignorance that people have about the Internet it is so much easier to convince them that the majority of Internet users are perverts and sexual predators.”

Overall, the online sample have suggested that existing tools should be refined, and that people should use ‘common sense’ when using Internet services. The primary recommendation however concerns increasing education and awareness of existing tools and sources of advice. Respondents have suggested that parents in particular need to be educated about the risks that their children may face and how such risks may be avoided. A small number of participants recommended that certain sites should be banned completely but these were a minority:

“We need to find a way to prevent certain types of sites ever existing”.

“I took a stalker to court two years ago… I think there are too many sites which use electoral roll information and are too easily accessed by would be abusers. I personally think these sites should be illegal.”

Chapter summary • • • • • 93% of the sample reported that the benefits of using the Internet outweighed the potential dangers. Under 12% of frequent users of all three services felt that safety levels had decreased between January 2003 and January 2004 IM was the service least likely to culminate in uncomfortable incidents, whist chat was the most likely Regular chat and IM users were generally found to be utilising safety tools recommended by the Models and finding them helpful The majority of regular chatters felt that safety tools and advice was clearer, more widespread and more accessible compared with 2003, whilst over half of regular IM users did not feel this was the case for IM–specific items

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Almost three quarters of participants felt that compared with January 2003, they were receiving more spam and seeing more pop-ups and adult material

Key points for future action • • •

The mass media were considered to be the biggest influence on child and parent Internet safety Almost one third of the online sample reported that their primary source of information on Internet safety was the media Education for both parents and children was felt to be the most important safety measure available. Equally, a lack of education was felt to be the primary cause of child Internet safety problems

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Chapter 3: User perspectives and experiences (ii): young people, parents and teachers This chapter describes results obtained from the administration of three traditional style questionniares aimed at primary and secondary school children, their parents and teachers. Similar in content to the online survey, the questionnaires were designed to measure knowledge and awareness of Internet related safety features in chat room, Instant Messenger and web based environments. The questionnaires were also designed to assemble a selection of qualititative information regarding feelings about the Internet and associated safety issues. The current chapter first describes the quantitative data received from the three groups of participants followed by a evaluation of the qualitative data. This chapter will also discuss any noteworthy similarities and differences between the regular (online) Internet users discussed in Chapter 2 and the present samples.

The sample The final child sample numbered 305. Children’s ages ranged from nine to 15 years (mean age 10.7 years, SD 1.6). Roughly half (52.5%) were female. The largest proportion of parents completed the questionnaire referring to a female child (59.2%) aged between nine and 11 years (61.6%). Parents were asked to refer to one child whilst responding to the questionnaire, namely the child who had brought the questionnaire home from school. Where both parent and child responses were available a matched-groups data set was created, but as more parents of female children returned questionnaires than parents of male children there was a higher proportion of female children in this sub-group compared with the proportion of female children completing the questionnaire (59.2% to 52.5% respectively). The majority of parents who responded also reported that they had Internet access at home (90.8%). This factor, more than child gender, is likely to have motivated parents to respond. Some of the questions in the parents’ questionnaire matched questions included in the children’s questionnaire, and some questions were also shared with the teacher’s questionnaire. Given that more children (N = 305) completed and returned useable questionnaires than did their parents (N = 174), additional data files were created and these contained only the matched responses from 165 children and their parents. Where responses between children and their parents are compared, these data files are used.

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Thirty three teachers from three different primary and one secondary school based in Leicester, Leicestershire or Rutland completed a questionnaire. Fifteen teachers (45.5%) taught at secondary level and the remainder taught at primary level.

Connectivity details The majority of the total group of 305 children (75.1%, n = 229) said that they had home Internet services and most (81.9%, n = 136) said that this had been the case for two or more years. When the matched group children and parents were compared, this data corresponded to a high degree – 150 parents said that they had home Internet access, compared to 144 of their children and 83.7% of matched group parents said they had been connected for at least two years. Thus, it would be expected that the parent sample would be reasonably knowledgeable in regard to the Internet, and would demonstrate some awareness of Internet safety tools. As was the case with online participants, BT was the most commonly cited Internet Service Provider (25.8% of the sample had a BT home Internet connection, followed by AOL (17.6%), Freeserve (17%), and NTL (11.9%).

Child Internet use In 87.7% of cases (n = 143) parents in the matched group stated that in a typical week, their child never used chat services and 3.7% said that they were unsure of whether their child accessed chat rooms. Almost two thirds (64.2%) said that their child never used Instant Messaging in a typical week (4.3% were not sure). A minority of parents (13%) said that their child never viewed web pages in a typical week. With regards to web pages, the largest overall proportion of parents, 47.5%, said that their child looked at Internet sites once or twice during a typical week (2.5% were unsure). It may be concluded that the vast majority of parents felt that they had a good idea of how often their child used chat rooms, IM and web pages. The matched groups’ (N = 165) data were employed in these calculations and in table 3.1. below in order to provide a comparison between parental and child responses to questions regarding child Internet usage. Teachers estimates of child Internet use, based on the ‘average child’ who attended their school, are also included in table 3.1.

Table 3.1.

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Comparison of parents’, childrens’ and teachers’ estimates of children’s web use in a typical week Parent’s responses Chat services Instant Messaging Web sites Children’s responses Chat services Instant Messaging Web sites Teacher’s responses Chat services Instant Messaging Web sites Don’t know 3.7% 4.3% 2.5% Don’t know N/a N/a N/a Don’t know N/a N/a N/a Never 87.7% 64.2% 13% Never 75.6% 57% 10.4% Never 30% 27.6% 0 Once 6.1% 16% 47.5% Once 15.2% 22.2% 43.9% Once 33% 34.5% 22.6% 3-5 times 0.6% 8.6% 25.3% 3-5 times 3% 10.8% 24.4% 3-5 times 23.3% 17.2% 35.5% Daily 1.8% 6.8% 11.7% Daily 6.1% 10.1% 21.3% Daily 13.3% 20.7% 41.9%

Children N = 165, Parents N = 165, Teachers N = 33

The matched group data shows that children’s estimates of their usage of these services tended to be greater than estimates obtained from their parents. Perhaps children are using these services without their parents’ knowledge, for instance at a friend’s home or at school. Alternatively, some children may be over-estimating their own usage of these services or simply responding positively due to response bias. Almost one in ten of all parents (9%) said that their child had never used the Internet. One third of these parents also stated that they did not have a home Internet connection. Almost two thirds (65.3%) said that their child has been using the Internet for more than a year. Of those parents who said their child had used the Internet, 33.5% thought their child to be very proficient at using the Internet, 31.1% quite proficient, 26.2% average, and 9.1% did not think their child was very proficient. Thus, the majority of parents believed their child to possess above average Internet capabilities. Finally, in contrast to parents, teachers tended to over-estimate the degree and extent of children’s use of chat, IM and web sites. At least a proportion of this overestimation could possibly be explained by the nature of the questions. Children were

53

asked to answer about themselves, and parents about their own children, but teachers were asked to think of the average child who attended their school.

Child discomfort A large majority of parents in the matched group (86.5%) said that their child had never felt uncomfortable, threatened or vulnerable whilst using chat services. Presumably, much of this finding may be explained by most parents’ belief that their child never used chat rooms. Only four parents (2.8%) responded positively to this question, and 10.6% more were unsure. Of the four who said their child had had a negative experience whilst using chat services, one parent said that this only happened once and the other three were not sure of the frequency. Only one parent (0.8%) said that their child had felt uncomfortable, threatened or vulnerable whilst using IM, and this parent stated that this had happened “very often”. More parents (seven, or 4.6%) said that their child had felt uncomfortable, threatened or vulnerable whilst looking at web sites. Three felt that this had occurred on one occasion and four that this had happened “a few times”. Most parents (81%) believed that if their child felt uncomfortable, threatened or vulnerable whilst using the Internet, then the child would let them know. Although 7.2% said their child would not admit to a negative online experience, 11.8% more were unsure as to whether their child would tell them. Again, the table below displays differences in the parental and children’s estimates, and it is evident that children report higher levels of negative online experiences than are recorded by parents on their behalf.

Table 3.2. Comparison of parents’ and childrens’ frequency reports of children feeling uncomfortable, threatened or vulnerable whilst online Parents’ responses Chat services Instant Messaging Web sites Children’s responses Chat services Don’t know 10.6% 11.5% 6.6% Don’t know N/a Yes 2.8% 0.8% 4.6% Yes 7.9% No 86.5% 87.8% 88.8% No 92.1%

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Instant Messaging Web sites

N/a N/a

4.2% 12.1%

95.8% 87.9%

Children N = 165, Parents N = 165

All 305 children’s self reports concerning the frequency with which they felt threatened, uncomfortable or vulnerable whilst using Internet services are summarised in table 3.3.

Table 3.3. Children’s self-reports of feeling uncomfortable, threatened or vulnerable whilst online Never Chat services Instant Messaging Web sites
Children N = 305

Once 5.1% 4.8% 7.3%

A few times 2.1% 1.3% 4.7%

Regularly 0.3% 0 0.3%

Very often 1% 0 0.3%

91.4% 93.9% 87.4%

From table 3.3 it is evident that where children have been made to feel uncomfortable when using Internet services, the majority had only felt this way on one occasion. It is not known whether a single occasion of discomfort led these children to avoid future discomfort - for instance by avoiding services or taking additional safety precautions or whether abuse on such services is infrequent. Three of the 33 teachers stated that children had come to them and reported feeling uncomfortable, threatened or vulnerable whilst using chat rooms. One of these teachers reported that such reports were a weekly occurrence. Three teachers also reported that children had mentioned feeling threatened, uncomfortable or vulnerable whilst using IM, and three reported the same for web pages. The emergent overall picture therefore was that the large majority of children sampled did not feel uncomfortable, threatened or vulnerable while using chat services, IM or web sites. In addition where they did feel threatened and uncomfortable, such experiences were unusual rather than commonplace.

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Specific incidents Matched group parents were asked whether their child had ever communicated via the Internet with a person who was not honest with him or her. The largest proportion (59.5%) stated that their child did not communicate with others via the Internet. A similar number (57%) of matched groups children said that they did not use IM, whilst 75.6% said that they did not use chat rooms. Four parents (2.7%) said that their child had spoken on the Internet to an individual whom they felt had not been honest with him or her, and 10.8% more said that they did not know if their child has been deceived. Almost a fifth of the matched group children, however (18.8%), said that someone had told them lies (e.g. about their identity) over the Internet. It is not known whether the other individual was an adult or another child. Of the children who responded positively, 57.1% said that they had only been lied to once, 35.7% said that this had occurred a few times, 3.5% that it occurred regularly, and 3.5% that they had been lied to very often. The largest proportion of children who had been lied to (66.7%), said that they had told an adult about their experience(s). Of those who informed an adult, the largest proportion told a parent, and most of these children found telling a parent helpful. Table 3.4. summarises the findings.

Table 3.4. Frequencies of children reporting being lied as a function of whom they informed and how helpful they found the response Told If told, found helpful Parent Friend ISP Moderator Teacher Police Other
N = 31

17 7 3 2 2 1 3

12 7 3 0 2 1 2

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In all bar one cases, ‘other’ referred to pets. It must again be noted that 81% of parents (see previous section) believed that if their child was made to feel threatened, uncomfortable or vulnerable whilst using the Internet, then they would tell a parent. When children said they had been lied to on the Internet, 66.7% reported that he or she told a parent. In all, just four parents believed that their child had been lied to by another individual via the Internet, whilst 31 children said they were worried that someone had lied to them. Thus, the parent and child matched group figures clearly do not add up, and there are a number of possible explanations for this. The two most likely involve accuracy of reporting and definitions. Either parents or children may not have reported accurately, or, parents and children’s definitions of being lied to via the Internet may diverge considerably. The second explanation is the more probable, and children may have counted lies from a friend on their IM buddy list, whilst parents would have most likely restricted their responses to suspected ‘grooming’ episodes. In those four cases where parents believed another person had been dishonest with their child, two said that this occurred once and two more that it had occurred a few times. No parent stated that this had happened regularly or very often. Two of the parents reported their concerns and two did not. Two reported to a teacher and said that the teacher was helpful, and one reported to the police and found the police helpful. One reported to a chat room Moderator and found this experience to be helpful, and one to an Internet company, finding the ISP to be unhelpful. All talked to a friend or partner, and found positive support. A fifth of teachers (21.2%, n = 7) said that they had in the past been concerned about the intentions of an individual communicating over the Internet with a child. In two cases, teachers reported their suspicions, one to the relevant ISP and one to a parent. Both teachers found reporting to these sources to be helpful.

Knowledge and uptake of safety tools and features All parents (N = 174) were asked whether they were aware of six safety features recommended by the Models that may aid their child whilst using the Internet: chat room and IM ignore or blocking facilities, chat room Moderators, warning advice in relation to public profiles, alert features, advice on handling abusive chatters and links to online Internet safety guides. The most familiar feature was blocking facilities, 57

though still only 48.8% of parents said they were aware of tools that allowed their child to block unwanted chatters in a chat room or IM environment, and 32% more were unsure. The next most familiar feature was chat room Moderators, with 28.6% of parents stating that they were aware of Moderators as facilitators of safety, with 45.6% unsure. Levels of familiarity with the four other safety features were as follows: 25.9% of parents said they were familiar with links to online safety guides (44.9% unsure); 22.6% were familiar with warning advice on public profiles (49.7% unsure); 20.3% of parents were familiar with alert features (51.9% unsure); 15.2% were familiar with the location and content of advice on how to handle abusive chatters (52.5% unsure). The following table illustrates data collected with the aim of identifying whether parents were familiar with their child’s use of these safety features, whether their child had found them useful, and also whether parents had helped their child with the operation of these safety features. Where a parent had assisted their child, they were asked how useful they found each safety feature to be. As with all parentchild comparisons, only the parent and child matched groups data were included in these tabulated calculations.

Table 3.5. Comparison of parents’, children’s and teachers’ use of six safety tools and features Believe child Parents’ responses used Believe child found helpful, if used Ignore or block facilities Online safety guides Chat room Moderators Warning advice on 3.6% public profiles Alert features 3% 57.2% 6% 66.7% 75% 6% 80% 3.6% 50% 3% 40% 4.8% 71.4% 4.8% 80% 13.9% 81% Parent used to help child 12.7% Parent found helpful, if used 85%

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Advice on handling abusive chatters Children’s responses Ignore or block facilities Online safety guides Chat room Moderators

3%

60%

5.4%

75%

Child used

Child found helpful, if used

N/a

N/a

30.3%

98%

/

/

8.5%

92.9%

/

/

8.4%

78.6%

/

/

Warning advice on 20% public profiles Alert features Advice on handling abusive chatters Teachers’ responses Believe 16.9% 9.6%

84.4%

/

/

73.9% 81.3%

/ /

/ /

Believe average

N/a

N/a

average child child found used helpful, if used 100% / /

Ignore or block facilities Online safety guides Chat room Moderators

65%

40%

77.8%

/

/

61.9%

77.8%

/

/

Warning advice on 69.7% public profiles Alert features Advice on handling abusive chatters 65% 35%

88.9%

/

/

77.8% 77.8%

/ /

/ /

Children N = 165, Parents N = 165, Teachers N = 33

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The table shows that parents under-estimated the extent to which their children had used Internet safety tools. Also, parents rarely helped their child to use safety features, despite 90.9% of the matched group parents stating that they had access to the Internet at home. The minority of parents who did help their child to become familiar with safety tools almost always had home Internet access – just one did not. Where parents did help their children learn about safety features, most thought that the features were helpful. Only chat room Moderators were not viewed as helpful by a majority of parents. Children were even more likely than their parents to view all six safety features asked about as helpful. Ignore and block tools were the most commonly used by both parents and their children. Almost a third of children has utilised ignore or block tools, and a fifth had followed warning advice when creating their public profiles. Based on these results, it should be noted that there is a need for parents to receive or be aware of greater levels of information about Internet safety tools, and how they can use these tools to educate and support their child. However it should also be noted first that children seem to know about these safety tools and second that they are not only using them but generally they are also finding them helpful. Table 3.1. above shows that teachers over-estimated childrens’ Internet use. This may explain why teachers also over-estimated the typical child’s use of safety tools. Nearly half of all 305 children said they had seen safety tools whilst using the Internet. The results for the six safety tools/features are listed in Table 3.6.:

Table 3.6. Children’s self reports on whether they had seen various safety tools and features Yes Moderators Warning advice on public profiles Ignore or block features Alert features Advice on handling abusive chatters Links to online safety guides
N = 305

No 84.3% 78.4% 69.2% 83% 85.2% 85.9%

15.7% 21.6% 30.8% 17% 14.8% 14.1%

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Again, ignore and block features were the most commonly cited safety tool or feature. Warning advice on creating and managing public profiles was the next most commonly viewed safety feature, and Moderators were the least commonly viewed. This is most likely explained by the fact that not all of the children had used chat rooms. Children were also asked how far they understood these safety tools and features (regardless of whether or not they had seen them). Table 3.7. displays the results:

Table 3.7. Children’s self reports on how far they understood various safety tools and features Don’t understand Moderators 80.4% Understand a little 9.8% 10.2% Reasonable understanding 5.6% 9.2% Fully understand 4.3% 4.6%

Warning advice on 76.1% public profiles Ignore or block features Alert features Advice on handling abusive chatters Links to online safety guides
N = 305

68.8%

8.2%

9.8%

13.1%

89.9% 83.6%

4.6% 5.2%

3.6% 6.9%

2% 4.3%

83.6%

7.9%

3.6%

4.9%

Correlations were performed to test whether frequency of use of a safety tool or feature was related to understanding of same. As would be expected, positive significant relationships were identified for all tools and features. Table 3.8 provides the details.

Table 3.8. Statistical associations between children’s self reports on how frequently they had used and understood various R value

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safety tools and features Moderators (N = 102) Warning advice on public profiles (N = 113) Ignore or block features (N = 131) Alert features (N = 288) Advice on handling abusive chatters (N = 97)
**= p< .001

.466** .571** .717** .843** .481**

In light of these significant correlations it is unsurprising that ignore and block features had the highest levels of understanding given that they appeared to be the most commonly used tool). Alert features were the least well-understood safety feature and also the least commonly used tool. Teachers were asked about their awareness of the six Internet safety tools and features and table 3.9. provides a breakdown of the results.

Table 3.9. Teachers’ knowledge and understanding of the six safety tools/features Aware of Moderators Warning advice on public profiles Ignore or block features Alert features Advice on handling abusive chatters Links to online safety guides
N = 33

Fully understand 9.1% 0

Partly understand 39.4% 15.2%

Don’t understand 51.5% 84.8%

59.4% 28.1%

78.1% 46.9% 25%

15.6% 0 0

56.3% 46.9% 25%

28.1% 53.1% 75%

37.5%

15.2%

27.3%

57.5%

The levels of understanding of the six safety tools and features among the sample of 33 teachers was generally low. This is particularly interesting considering the feeling

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from the qualitative section of the online questionnaire that education is the most important issue impacting on child Internet safety.

Perceptions of knowledge and safety All 174 parents and the 33 teachers were asked whether they thought that chat rooms, IM and other Internet services were safer for children in January 2004 as compared with January 2003. The largest proportion of parents (46.7%) said that they were unsure, followed by 26% who said these services were no more or less safe than they had been a year before. Over a sixth (16.7%) believed these services to now be a little safer, followed by 5.3% who felt them to be a little less safe. The smallest proportions (3.3% and 2%) believed these services to be much more and much less safe respectively. Thus, only around 7% of parents felt that the Internet had become more dangerous for children during the year in which the Models were published. Like parents, the largest proportion of teachers (45.2%) were also unsure as to whether the Internet was safer for children in January 2004. One third (32.3%) believed the Internet to be a little safer, and 22.6% had observed no change. No teachers believed the Internet to have become less safe during this time period. Parents, children and teachers were all asked if they considered themselves to be more knowledgeable about Internet safety than they had been one year before. The largest group of parents (49.7%) said that their level of knowledge had not altered during the past year, but 32.9% believed themselves to be a little more knowledgeable. Twelve parents (7.7%) said that they were much more knowledgeable than they were a year ago, while 9.7% said that they now knew less than they had previously. Presumably, this latter sub-group of parents felt unable to remain up to date with Internet safety issues and developments. The matched groups data in the table below suggests parents’ perceptions of their own changing levels of knowledge largely matched with their judgments of their child’s growth of awareness over the previous year. Children’s judgments of their own knowledge are also included, revealing that children believe their own awareness to have increased at a greater rate than do their parents. The majority of teachers (68.8%) said that their knowledge of Internet safety neither increased nor decreased over the past year, while 28.1% felt that their knowledge had increased a little. No teachers believed that children’s awareness had decreased, but only 53.8% felt that children knew more about Internet safety than they had a year before. 63

Table 3.10. Comparison of parents’ teachers’ and children’s judgements of whether they know more or less about Internet safety than they did one year previously Parents on themselves Parents on their children Know much more Know a little more Know about the same Know a little less Know much less
Children N = 165, Parents N = 165, Teachers N = 33

Children on themselves

Teachers on themselves

Teachers on children

7.7%

13.4%

18.6%

3.1%

11.5%

32.9%

34.2%

43.4%

28.1%

42.3%

49.7%

47.7%

26.4%

68.8%

46.2%

4.5%

1.3%

8.5%

0

0

5.2%

3.4%

3.1%

0

0

All parties were asked from where they received the most information concerning Internet safety, and both the parent and teacher samples were asked to estimate where they felt children obtained most of their information from also. The table below presents these results:

Table 3.11. Comparison of parents’, children’s and teachers stated sources of knowledge regarding Internet

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Parents on themselves

Parents on Children on their children themselves

Teachers on themselves

Teachers on children

41.5% Media ISP Friends 15.6% 14.8%

16.2% 2.9% 13.2% 29.2% 1.5% 34.6% 0 2.2%

25.6% 6% 9.8% 33.1% 5.3% 18% 2.3% 0

61.3% 3.2% 3.2% 9.7% 3.2% 9.7% 9.7% 0

37.5% 0 28.1% 21.9% 0 12.5% 0 0

Family/partner 11.1% Internet School Other Don’t know 6.7% 6.7% 2.2% 1.5%

Children N = 165, Parents N = 165, Teachers N = 33

Table 3.11. would suggest that parents may be over-estimating the degree to which their children learn about Internet safety at school, while under-estimating the impact of the media. The results also suggest that teachers over-estimate the extent to which children’s information is gained from the media and there is a clear assumption that children get a lot of their information from their friends, when in fact children only reported this 9.8% of the time. Interestingly, teachers under-estimated how much information children report getting from school and from their parents. Teachers were asked if they had received any form of training concerning child safety on the Internet. A minority (13.3%) said that they had. Two said this took the form of a short seminar and two more said their training had taken place via distance learning. The lack of formal training with regard to Internet use and safety is perhaps reflected in the significant over and under-estimations provided by teachers when asked to assess aspects of Internet safety with regards to themselves, and the average child. Overall, it would seem that the importance and availablilty of teacher training with regards to the Internet is significantly absent in the educational system. Questionnaire data: A qualitative analysis In the last section of all three questionnaires, parents, children and teachers were invited to make their own comments or statements on aspects of the Internet and its

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safety for children. This section will discuss and provide examples of the major themes that emerged from this data. All parents and teachers were asked whether there were any additional safety measures relating to chat rooms, IM, and web sites that they would like to see implemented or addressed. Twenty-five parents (14.4%) and three teachers (9%) responded via free text. Two of the teachers talked about banning chat rooms, for instance:

“Chat rooms should be banned, children should have safe and limited access to the Internet and websites.”

One more demonstrated a lack of knowledge regarding Internet safety features:

“I believe the Local Education Authority screen out dodgy websites before the children can access the web.”

Parents From the parents’ responses, five themes were identified and these are summarised in Table 3.12. below:

Table 3.12. Themes derived from parents’ comments on safety issues they would like to see addressed Frequencies and percentages of themes per derived category (n = 25) Internet Service Provider-related Ban/Limit School-related Government Supervisory
N = 25

13 (52%) 7 (28%) 6 (24%) 4 (16.7%) 4 (16%)

Each theme will now be briefly discussed, beginning with the most dominant theme, that which related to issues surrounding ISPs and the provision of security features

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and information in all Internet services. Most concerns were aimed at chat rooms or forums with reference to registration issues and general safety features (five references):

“ I would like to see more safety features re: chat rooms in particular to stop paedophiles.”

“Chat room users should have to register to use this service and provide proof of who they are on registration.”

One parent felt that ISPs should be responsible policing their own services:

“More legislation forcing Internet Service Providers to self-police services.”

Another felt that ISPs did not provide sufficient printed information:

“I don’t feel that information is readily available to parents… Service Providers could produce some do’s and don’ts.”

Throughout the current section, it is clear that many parents are requesting mesasures that are already in place. This finding was mirrored in the results from the qualitative section of the online questionnaire. That is, regular users believed that education was the most beneficial tool for increasing child Internet safety, but that it was only useful if parents and others were actually accessed educative sources. Parents also voiced concerns about spam and pop-ups (three references), emphasising that too much unsolicited information appeared on the screens of their home computers. Concern was also mentioned with regards to spam containing sexual content. The reference below details this but again demonstrates that parents are not all IT proficient and that there is an assumption that lack of knowledge is inter-generational:

“SPAM or pop-ups are a menace and as a parent I find the ease of which they appear very worrying because they are sex-related. What defences can the suppliers of computers offer to whole generations of very basic IT users? A

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PC in our children’s bedroom is more of a concern than a TV. How bad is that?”

The second theme that was identified from parents’ views on child Internet safety concerned banning children from using the Internet or restricting their usage. Seven parents expressed the view that certain web based services should be either banned or that limitations should be made compulsory. These views ranged from comments relating to pornographic sites and adult material to more general prohibitive views, for instance:

“All pornography should be banned. Any information which could be used by extremist or unstable individuals should be banned… companies which …store such information should be prosecuted.”

“Children should be discouraged from using the Internet.”

“Abolish chat rooms - there will always be a way of breaking into them. They will never be safe.”

The third parental theme covers education via schools. Although a large proportion of parents (34.6%) stated that they thought most of their child’s knowledge of Internet safety came via school, six references were made regarding schools’ involvement in the educative process. Clearly, parents seem to be of the opinion that children will listen to their teachers but not to parents (four references):

“More talks within schools, children tend to listen to others rather than their parents.”

“Probably the issue should be addressed more in schools. Many children pay attention to what a teacher tells them than what a parent says! Internet safety could be incorporated into IT lessons from an early age so that children grow up aware of the dangers of surfing the Net and using chat rooms.”

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“ I think it would be really useful to have some sort of guide/leaflet available through schools. I would like to know more about these issues.”

Four more parents directed their comments towards perceived Government responsibility. One commented:

“The Government should persuade all parents to exercise sensible supervision.”

Another parent asked for Government help with regulation:

“Uniform system of regulation of chat rooms, web pages and web sites and sites to be vetted by organisation/body who is responsible/in charge and able to withdraw site if it is not suitable.”

The final parental theme involved parental supervision. That is, four parents emphasised that they supervise their children if they use the Internet and that they ensure their children use the Internet solely for educational purposes:

“My son only uses the Internet when he needs references for homework. We always supervise him.” Children All participating children were asked what safety advice they would offer to other children who use the Internet. Of the 305 children who took part in the study, almost one third (N = 101, 33.1%) chose to respond to this question and generally speaking, these children appeared to be knowledgeable of Internet safety issues. Four themes were apparent, and these are displayed in table 3.13.

Table 3.13. Themes derived from childrens’ comments on how to keep safe online

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Frequencies and percentages of themes per derived category Be careful Don’t use chat rooms Be supervised Avoid strangers
N = 101

85 (84.2%) 6 (5.9%) 4 (4%) 3 (3%)

The overwhelming theme of “be careful” comprised 84.2% of all comments made. Thus, the majority of children who responded to this question gave cautionary advice to their peers with regard to using the Internet and demostrated that children are aware that the Internet can be a dangerous place. This advice included the understanding that they should not give out any of their details online (13 references):

“I would say that if you use chat rooms you should keep it between people you know and you should never give your name age or address and you should always use safety panels and should tell someone if you think they are lying.”

“I would say that the main piece of advice is to never give out any information about yourself to anybody on the Internet. People aren’t always who they say they are so you shouldn’t tell them anything.”

There were also references to never meeting up with any individual first contacted via the Internet (9 references):

“Don’t meet them unless you really know who they are.”

“Don’t meet people you met on a chat room without a grown-up.”

One child warned of what might happen should someone meet or make a “date” with a stranger that they had met on the Internet:

“You mustn’t make blind dates. You never know who you’re dealing with. You think you know someone but you could wake up the next morning in a shack in 70

Japan missing a kidney. These people are called Internet felons…[they] say they’re someone that they’re not.”

The remaining references within this theme included telling or asking parents (or a suitable adult) about anything threatening that has happened when using the Internet, references to exercising caution if talking to strangers and advice not to enter adultrelated sites.

“If somebody if abusing you via the Internet, you should alert the Moderator of the site or service as they can be really helpful.”

“Don’t go onto rude websites and don’t look at rude pictures.”

Within the second child theme, six children expressed the view that young children should not use chat rooms. Those who explained why referred to strangers not telling the truth:

“Do not use chat rooms for there is a chance you are talking to people who are lying.”

One child went so far as to suggest closing all chat rooms:

“Don’t use chat rooms or shut them down.”

With regard to the third child theme, four children emphasised a need to be supervised whilst using the Internet:

“Be sensible. Always ask for your parents’ supervision.”

“ I would tell children to have a parent near them while using the Internet.”

The final theme focussed on the importance of avoiding strangers. Three children talked about the possible dangers for children of interacting with people they do not know. 71

“Don’t talk to anyone you don’t know!”

“Always be in your guard, there might be somebody trying to trick you out.”

In all, participating children demonstrated a clear awareness of the potential hazards of using the Internet. Interestingly the majority of the young peoples’ comments identified risks associated with Internet use, advising caution and stressing the importance of supervision, though few children mentioned safety tools in this section, perhaps due to children seeing these features as less helpful than effective supervision and common sense, or also perhaps due to low awareness/understanding of such tools. Very few called for bans of Internet services and many mentioned the positive aspects of the Internet:

“Be careful what you say and do. But the Internet can be great if you use it in the right way.”

Chapter summary • • • • Parents tended to make lower estimates of their children’s usage of Internet services than did their children Teachers tended to make higher estimates of children’s usage of the Internet than did children A majority of parents believed their children to possess higher than average Internet skills Though there were self-reported instances of children being made to feel threatened, uncomfortable or vulnerable while using Internet services, most children had not had such experiences. For those young people that reported such incidents, these were not usually regular occurrences • • A fifth of teachers reported they had been concerned about the intentions of an individual communicating with children over the Internet Children used safety tools and features more frequently than their parents estimations, and the vast majority of young people viewed the tools positively

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• • •

Ignore and block features were the most familiar safety tool for parents and children Around 7% of parents and zero teachers felt that the Internet had become more dangerous for children during 2003 Almost half of parents and teachers felt they didn’t know any more about the Internet in 2004 compared with 2003. The largest proportion of children felt they knew a little more

Children demonstrated sound safety knowledge, advising that other children should enjoy using the Internet but exercise caution

Key points for future action • Parents gleaned most of their safety information from the media and believed their children to obtain theirs from school. In contrast, children reported receiving most of their knowledge from parents and the media • • Parents did not possess high levels of Internet safety knowledge and rarely helped their children use web safety tools and features Parents requested safety tools and features that were already commonplace, underlining a need for education

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Chapter 4: Internet Service Provider Senior Managers’ perspectives

The sample In all 15 Senior Managers from different Internet companies were interviewed. Where possible, Managers with primary responsibilities for Internet safety within their company’s sites were recruited to ensure a more knowledgeable sample and to provide responses from people in similar positions across the different businesses. A list of job titles of the respondents is given in table 4.1 (appendix) and the average length of time respondents occupied this position was 2.9 years (SD = 2.7 years). The Managers represented five International companies and 10 UK only businesses. The sample included nine connectivity providers with an average UK user base of 1.34 million subscribers (SD = 1.57 million). Four of these ISPs also provided chat, as did an additional five companies (three of which were chat/community based sites only). Six of the companies offered IM type services however two of these Managers did not wish to comment on their IM clients for reasons that will not be stated here. Eleven of the companies provided users with their own Internet space and all but one organisation offered other web based services. In all, the sample represented large, medium and small Internet companies offering a range of online communication and Internet services to which the Task Force Guidelines would apply. This chapter will first explore qualitative data on the Managers’ perceptions of the risks of the Internet as well as how responsible various parties should be for protecting children online. Discussion will then turn to the Models themselves and Guideline dissemination will be explored as well as both qualitative and quantitative data on implementation of the Models to gain an insight into the uptake of the recommendations against baseline concordance. This section will also explore the effects of the Guidelines on business. Methods for preventing attrition of safety practices and features will then be discussed before sections on the Managers’ opinions of what were the most and least useful recommendations as well as how they perceived the consequences of the Models with regards to Internet safety. Opinions of the Model facilitation process will be given and the perception of the balance of the Guidelines between user and industry needs will follow before the final sections that identify further information the Managers would like, as well as their suggestions for future Guidelines. 74

Risks to young users

Perceptions of how dangerous the Internet is Of the 15 Managers, eight responded with a definite ‘yes’ when asked ‘Do you consider the Internet to be a dangerous place for users under the age of 16?’ A further two of the interviewees did consider there to be risks related to Internet use, but made it clear they also believed the advantages outweighed the risks:

“It’s dangerous but very informative…The Internet by itself, yes, as an open source of information can be dangerous to young users but at the same time it is such a great source of information that dealt with correctly it’s far from dangerous.”

With regards to ‘correct use’ of the Internet, the above quote relates to views expressed by two further respondents who believe the risks associated with the Internet can be avoided if people are taught how to use it properly:

“I believe it’s a failure through education - that people aren’t informed enough to make an educated decision about what is good and what isn’t good.”

This feeling reflects the opinions of many online users (see Chapter 2). These two respondents were part of a group of five interviewees who believed either that the Internet was not a dangerous place for young users (three cases) or that the Internet was no more dangerous than the ‘outside world’ (two instances):

“The high street is a dangerous place for young children. In the same way that the high street is dangerous I would say the Internet is dangerous as well.” (How do you feel the Internet can be dangerous?) “Well how is a library dangerous? Because there may be paedophiles in libraries, or the local swimming pool – are they dangerous places?”

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Specific risks When asked to identify reasons why they felt the Internet could pose a risk to young people the most commonly cited dangers involved exposure to inappropriate content or information (five instances) and the ability for contact to be made with ‘dangerous’ individuals (four cases):

“Things like chat rooms etc. You can easily lead people from there as we all know. I think that’s probably the main aspect.”

“… [there are risks] in terms of young people being preyed upon either by fraudulent users or by, in incredibly rare events I suppose, by paedophiles. Obviously though that’s the one that gets the most coverage. But most of all I think young people happening across inappropriate material is the greatest threat.”

A risk not unrelated to inappropriate content is that misleading information may be available on the Internet:

“I think there’s a lot of information out there and what I do think is worrying, slightly more, is the fact that they [young people] think things are bona fide sites and in actual fact they are not necessarily so, so they could be getting slightly skewed information. It could be that [the information is] from something like the Ku Klux Klan. So I think there’s a problem with ‘bona fide’ sites.”

As stated above, access to inappropriate content or information was cited as a threat to child safety by five of the respondents. Other specific threats to safe child use of the Internet as perceived by ISP Managers were risks associated with giving out personal details (one case) and two more interviewees mentioned that the Internet can serve potential abusers as a means of communicating:

“Yes [the Internet is a dangerous place for users under the age of 16] because of the accessibility and the ability to bypass certain mechanisms; to glean

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information from like-minded people. It’s a breeding ground for those type of things.”

Finally two respondents who believed the Internet to be dangerous for young people cited that children place themselves at risk due to their naivety or rebellious nature. This view is not unrelated to the three respondents’ opinions given above concerning that the dangers of the Internet often arise due to a lack of education or improper use.

Perceived locus of responsibility for Internet Safety

Respondents were asked four questions seeking their views on ISP obligations and responsibilities for Internet safety. They were then asked further questions to explore how responsible they felt parents, teachers, the Government and any other organisation should be in ensuring protection of vulnerable users.

Responsibilities of the Internet industry Concerning the responsibility of the Internet industry, views ranged from beliefs such as “I don’t believe it’s the ISPs responsibility at all” to beliefs that the Internet industry should be “very responsible.” Whilst these two quotes represented extremes of the opinions expressed by the respondents, the vast majority of the interviewees (13 in all) accepted that the Internet industry had some level of responsibility but that service providers could not be held wholly responsible and other parties must also be involved. Seven Managers provided opinions regarding the limitations of the Internet industry’s responsibility. The most common view, expressed by four of the respondents, was that service providers could not be responsible for user behaviour (and hence could neither be responsible for completely protecting children or stopping all potential abusers):

“I think parents see us slightly as a babysitting service where we’re responsible for their kids actions which is impossible.”

Similarly three of the Managers expressed beliefs that they could not be held responsible for content on the Internet, however two of these respondents did believe 77

that each company should be responsible for the content “actually being hosted on it’s servers”. One of these interviewees further believed ISPs to have a responsibility to act upon both inappropriate content and abusive behaviour on their sites once they became aware of it:

“If it was a telephone line would BT be responsible because someone phoned up and hurled abuse at somebody? Well no as long as they did something about it. And the same goes for the ISP: as long as the ISP does something about it when they know about it then I think that’s all they can do. I don’t think they are responsible for the content itself - I think they should act responsibly and take action as soon as they know something.”

Of those two Managers who believed that ISPs should take responsibility for the content of their own servers, one commented further on specific methods ISPs could employ to protect young users. This respondent believed that ISPs could “do a certain amount of central filtering and can have an effective complaints procedure”. The other Manager mentioned that ISPs have a responsibility to provide technology for safety:

“So of course we have responsibility and we provide the technology …we offer our members, for instance, parental controls and advice.”

Although only two Managers explicitly stated that ISPs should take responsibility for ensuring the content within their sites is safe, other views expressed included a duty “to act as good models for common sense” and to “encourage good behaviour”. The most commonly stated area of responsibility for the Internet industry was their role in educating and advising users about safe Internet usage. This view was given by four of the five interviewees who expressed opinions on how ISPs should be responsible:

“I feel we’re responsible for educating them as well, and the parents.”

Whilst a further interviewee did not explicitly state that the ISPs had a responsibility to educate users, this interviewee also perceived education as the main preventative measure:

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“I think we have to take our responsibility but I think it’s more about education – teaching them how to help themselves and what to be aware of and what not to…”

As well as believing ISPs to play a role in educating and advising children on Internet safety, three of the respondents believed that industry should additionally be educating parents:

“I think as someone’s ISP we need to be aware of the dangers and be providing the relevant advice and education to parents and children who are using our service.”

Once again, these views tie in with those of the online users who believed education and awareness to be the most valuable safety tools that young users have at their disposal.

Responsibilities of parents and other carers The Senior Managers in general viewed parents and carers to have more responsibility for protecting children than the Internet industry. Expressions of the magnitude of this duty varied from it being a “shared responsibility” to “100%”. Indeed, six of the 13 interviewees providing qualitative answers concerning parental responsibilities identified parents as having the most significant duties compared with any other party:

“They should probably have the biggest role because it is their children after all and no one will care about their children more than they do.”

Seven interviewees provided opinions with regards to specific ways in which parents could help protect young people on the Internet. The above quote highlights the theme that emerged concerning parents showing an interest in, or indeed providing supervision, when children are online (six instances). Being involved with what their children are doing on the Internet was the most commonly cited example of how parents could keep their children safe. Two respondents further commented that parents have the responsibility to “make sure their child is happy to come to them if they see something they don’t like.” 79

One Manager commented on the usefulness of taking preventative measures such as keeping PCs in common areas of the household, whilst three interviewees stated that parents should ensure that protective technology is in place, for example:

“I also think parents should have responsibility to… use the technology that’s available because they can very easily set up parental controls via [respondent’s company]. If they’re not with us then they can use other filtering packages and monitoring package.”

While all respondents believed that carers should play a role in protecting young users on the Internet, five of the Managers expressed concerns that parents may be limited in performing this role, due to perhaps having low awareness of risks and countermeasures:

“I think in many cases parents are not aware, firstly of the nature of the threat, and secondly obviously the many solutions which are available to them to counter the threat including parental control software, firewalls, a selection of ISPs which do or don’t support news groups, you know, monitoring what their kids are doing”

Responsibilities of teachers Opinions concerning teachers’ responsibilities varied from beliefs that teachers should be “extremely” responsible to “hardly at all.” The majority of Managers (12) did assign some responsibility to teachers, though only two parties assigned primary responsibility to this group. As noted above, parents were viewed as having principal responsibility. With regards to ways in which teachers should protect children, two interviewees believed that “it’s important teachers are aware of the dangers of the Internet”, and one of these same respondents stated that if the Internet is to be used in schools teachers have “got to make sure there are specific guidelines”. This Manager also suggested that teachers ensure effective filtering mechanisms are in place on school computers. Perhaps unsurprisingly the main responsibility of teachers identified by the Managers was education and this was cited as a duty that teachers should (as opposed to ‘could’) play by five interviewees. Three of these Managers 80

explicitly stated that Internet safety education should be incorporated into the national curriculum:

“There should be a centrally led campaign and it should be included in the curriculum for children to learn how to protect themselves on the Internet what to look out for, what the pit-falls are, where things can go wrong and how. Generally I think, how to be careful.”

However one of these three respondents, whilst believing that Internet safety within the curriculum would be a good idea, also highlighted that “the teachers are under such pressure obviously without looking at that [Internet safety].”

Four of the Managers played down the role of teachers in favour of parents:

“I think education in school would probably be a good thing, but at the end of the day if a child is using a computer at home though it should be more up to the parent.”

One of these four Managers, whilst stating that teachers “should be just as responsible as any parent” believed that compared with teachers “a parent would get more respect from users under the age of 16”. In Chapter 3 however, four parents felt that children were more likely to listen to their teachers than their parents. Opinions against educating children about Internet safety in school were expressed by one respondent who believed that doing so might have effects opposite to those desired:

“The history of educating people about things they shouldn’t do is like advice about taking lots of exercise and not smoking – it’s very difficult to teach this to a class without actually exciting kids about going and investigating these things.”

When talking about limiting factors on teachers’ responsibilities only one respondent mentioned that teachers might have a low awareness of the issues. This compares to five Managers who highlighted lack of knowledge as a limiting factor for parents and the findings from our (limited) teacher sample detailed in Chapter 3. 81

Responsibilities of other organisations Twelve of the Managers were asked if they could think of any other organisation that should have some degree of responsibility for child safety on the Internet identified at least one other party. The most commonly cited body here was the Government and the Task Force (eight respondents) followed by the Police (five interviewees). The perceived responsibilities of Government included setting guidelines and legislation that “dictates to a large extent what Service Providers do and how enforceable things are” (three cases), as well as providing education to both children (two instances) parents (one case) and the media (one respondent). Another role of Government identified by a respondent was run “campaigns and, you know, advertising, promoting awareness, things like that as well”, whilst another Manager called for a Government initiative “to tackle spammers, the trouble is that most of them are based in China or the States.” This quote relates to the views expressed by two further respondents who believe that the Government has a duty to apply pressure on International Governments:

“I think that Government has other functions as well in terms of… acting on International Governments to control the kind of international influx of dubious material. Things like pornographic spam. I think that’s a very difficult thing to crack on a national ISP level when obviously a large part of it is coming from overseas.”

In terms of the responsibilities of the Police, the most commonly requested duty involved the provision of a clear mechanism via which abuse cases or complaints could be channelled. This opinion was expressed by two of the Managers:

“…with regards to the Police there should be a proper mechanism in place which allows [chat] service providers such as ourselves to actually follow through, and a clear specific route on how to actually report matters and points of contact and things like that.”

Linked to the above, one of the respondents expressed a need for the law to be clarified with regards to Internet abuse: 82

“I’ve spoken to the Police for the last year or two and even the Police involved appeared to be a bit sort of hazy on what’s a regulation, what’s a guideline. You know, perhaps the law needs to be tightened up and made a bit clearer.”

One further Manager stressed the need for the Police to “take all complaints seriously.”

The global nature of the Internet was highlighted by one interviewee as a factor limiting the degree to which the Police can impact on Internet safety:

“You could be looking at something completely illegal that happens to be hosted in Cuba and maybe in Cuba it’s perfectly legitimate. And that’s the biggest problem: Yes they [the Police] should take responsibility but there’s only so far that it will go and unless the whole world actually gets together and makes some sort of unilateral decision to police the Internet themselves then I don’t think anything will ultimately happen which is a shame.”

Other bodies identified by the Managers included the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), “various groups within the Internet Service Providers Association”, the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA), non-Governmental organisations and software manufacturers (all of these organisations were each cited by one interviewee). Finally, three of the respondents mentioned that young people should take responsibility for their own behaviour:

“To a certain degree children should learn to take control of it themselves. Use common sense. As much as we can turn around and say ‘yes we can protect you, we can throw this person off if they’re being inappropriate’, at the end of the day they can protect themselves by a) reporting it and b) using the ignore feature.”

A fourth respondent gave an example of how shared child and parental awareness of the dangers and collaboration can make use of the Internet safe:

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“There was a case highlighted by the media, of a young girl who had met an older man on the Internet and she went to meet him… the media had put this on, and the TV company in their reporting were ‘look at the dangers – that the young girl went to meet an older man’ but in actual fact what had happened was that the girl was surfing the net using chat rooms, she had read the safe surfing guide, so had her mother. Because she told her mother everything she was doing and her mother showed an interest in what she was doing the mother knew about the meeting that was about to happen and went with the girl to meet the man. And as a result she had actually protected her. Now from the way it was reported it was ‘well look how dangerous all this is’ but actually this was a brilliant example of how things actually work when youngsters know what to do, when the younger users know what to do and involve their parents and when the parents are involved off their own back and actually want to be involved in what their children do.”

Summary of views on responsibility Managers assigned the most responsibility for protecting young users on the Internet to parents via active parental involvement, providing supervision and ensuring protective technology is in place. However, low awareness of the Internet was cited as a factor inhibiting this group’s ability for keeping children safe. Whilst teachers were assigned a comparatively lower level of responsibility, beliefs were expressed suggesting Governmental and law enforcement bodies should also be responsible. Whilst a filtering effect (whereby more safety conscious Managers may have agreed to participate in the present research) may have led to the present sample believing ISPs to have more responsibility than Internet industry Managers in general, the present sample on the whole believed that ISPs did have duties to protect children online and these responsibilities involved ensuring their own content is appropriate, providing access to protective technology and, most commonly cited, educating users and parents. Throughout all the sub-sections in this segment education and increasing awareness of a) risks associated with the Internet and b) implementing technology to minimise these risks were cited as the main protective measures. This is related to one of the main themes identified from the previous chapter: that the Internet can be safe if individuals both know how to use the Internet safely and choose to do so.

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Familiarity with the Models and dissemination Familiarity with the Guidelines Twelve of the Managers were familiar with the Guidelines prior to contact by the research, however a 13th respondent became acquainted with the Models through a Home Office web link sent by the authors. Prior to the researchers’ contact three of the 15 Managers were unaware of the Models. This figure is made more significant by the possibility of a filtering effect whereby those companies who have a higher priority on safety would show less resistance and more willingness to participate in the current study. By the time of interview 13 of the 15 interviewees said they were familiar with the Models and of these thirteen, 11 of the Managers considered themselves to be very familiar with the Guidelines.

Intra-company dissemination Of the 12 Managers familiar with the Models prior to the present research, 10 stated that they believed the Models had been disseminated to staff within their organisation. Of those 10, eight of the Managers believed that staff within their organisation had good accessibility to the Guidelines.

Dissemination to the Internet industry Problems regarding the distribution of the Models were a recurring theme throughout the interviews and this issue was highlighted in response to several items. Two Managers who were unfamiliar with the Guidelines and three who were acquainted with the Models raised concerns. Two of these five were Task Force members and felt there should have been more effort in distributing the Guidelines to companies not involved in creating the recommendations:

“The only thing again would be awareness within the industry itself. I had quite a role in it [the Models], but had I not I don’t think I would have known very much about it.”

One of the three Managers familiar with the Guidelines had concerns with the way he had received the Models:

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“We have a regulatory affairs department who deal with all our interactions with Government and authorities and it [the Models] came to them. There is an issue there. I picked this up when it came out slightly by accident. It may be a process issue within this company but our regulatory guides tend not to be sufficiently closely linked into the day-to-day business, but I’m the guy who’s operationally responsible for the server, I can’t say that I have a close link with the Home Office, now perhaps I should have.”

Those Managers not aware of the Guidelines felt their company was not alone in this regard:

“I didn’t have a copy of the guidelines, I wasn’t aware, or made aware that they could be downloaded or whatever. That’s my experience I presume that will be the experience of many of the hundreds of ISPs… I mean I don’t know how they’ve distributed them, but at least let the general public or ISPs know about it. I think the danger of a lot of these Task Force things were, you know, it’s a good idea and so forth, but practically speaking if you’re going to make a real difference it needs to be higher profile.”

The above respondent felt that publication of the Models should have had a higher profile. As may been seen later, two of the Managers felt that awareness of the Guidelines could better have been facilitated by involving more industry members in the development of the Models, and a further interviewee called for a more dynamic method of dissemination:

“I think sending out a document is OK but if you want to change things in the real world you need a more active engagement with the ISP community. We’re all busy 24 hours a day and sending us big fat documents from the Home Office is not a way to encourage changes of behaviour. We don’t have people really, well we do have people sitting round reading this sort of stuff and trying to keep up with it all, you know, and we’re quite a big company and I imagine smaller ISPs it would have been straight in the ‘to do’ list along with a huge pile of other consultation papers which have come out from 86

central Government. It needs a more interventionist style I think, to come round, talk it through, you know, if you want to make changes in the real world.”

Implementation of the Models – closed item responses

Implementation of specific aspects of the Models was explored through both semistructured items and closed questions. This section will focus on responses to the closed questions whilst the following section will be concerned with the more qualitative responses from the semi-structured items. For each closed question, five possible responses existed: feature in place before the Guidelines were introduced, feature was implemented or changed in response to the Models, feature was not in place but plans existed to introduce it, feature was not in place and there were no plans to introduce it, or not applicable. The results from the closed-item questions are displayed tables 4.2 to 4.5 in the appendix. Notes for interpreting the results discussed below are also provided in the appendix. The sub-samples of Managers for which useable data was obtained represented eight chat providers, four companies offering IM, eight connectivity providers and nine companies that provided web hosting for home users. Table 4.6 below shows the percentages of response types for each of the three Models.

Table 4.6. Table 4.6. Percentages of response types for items across different Models Model Feature in place preModels

Feature introduced/changed in response to the Models

Plan to introduce/change the feature

Model impact (sum of previous two columns)

No to

plans

introduce/ change feature

Chat (n = 8, responses = 280)

77.5%

5.4%

10.4%

15.8%

6.8%

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IM (n = 4, responses = 129) Connectivity (n = 8, responses = 109) Hosting (n = 9, responses = 99) Total (responses = 617)

53.5%

14.7%

13.2%

27.9%

18.6%

62.4%

11.9%

4.6%

16.5%

21.1%

61.6%

10.1%

3.0%

13.1%

25.3%

67.3%

9.2%

8.9%

18.1%

14.7%

Response numbers do not include missing data responses, nor ‘not applicable’ responses. Sub-sample numbers do not include companies for which data is missing.

Relative percentages as shown in table 4.6 were generated from only those respondents who answered ‘pre-Models’, ‘post-Models’, ‘plan to introduce’ and ‘no plans to introduce’ (the number of responses the percentage is derived from is given in the table for each Model). Response numbers do not include missing data nor responses where an item was identified as being ‘not applicable’ to the particular service offered by a company. Not applicable answers were coded when the risk that a certain Model recommendation aimed to prevent was not a risk associated with the service in question due to other measures being in place (e.g. not having a means by which users could enter any sensitive material into profiles allowed that warnings to not enter such details were not required). Such measures in some instances might be seen to make the site safer than if the Models had been followed to the letter, and in all instances where a ‘not applicable’ answer was coded these measures had existed pre-Models (thus diminishing the relative magnitude of the baseline concordance discussed here). Baseline concordance Across each of the Models baseline concordance with the recommendations was high with 67.3% of responses stating that features were in place ‘pre-Models’. The highest

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proportion of baseline concordance related to recommendations of the Model on chat (77.5%), although it should be noted that this figure does not include baseline features of two companies who closed their chat rooms at least partly in response to the Models and therefore the items on chat were not applicable to these companies. All seven chat providers for whom user profile questions were applicable said that when completing profiles, user information that will be in the public domain is highlighted, whilst all eight respondents claimed to display clear information concerning both the type of chat service offered and the audience services are aimed at. All companies said Model items concerning safety advice aimed at and easily understood by young users were in place prior to the publication of the Guidelines. The recommendation that service providers should ‘give due prominence to some or all’ suggested safety tools also met high levels of baseline concordance with all companies having at least two of these tools in place pre-Models, though the ‘grab and print’ tool showed the lowest level of baseline concordance, with only one company having this feature in place pre-Models (see ‘Negative aspects’ sub-section, current chapter). Another chat recommendation that showed low baseline concordance concerned the screening of Moderators, with just two companies running checks on their Moderators preGuidelines (see ‘Factors inhibiting implementation of the Models’ sub-section, current chapter). Similar levels of baseline concordance were observed for the Model for connectivity providers (62.4%) and hosting providers (61.6%). With regards to the former, the highest level of baseline concordance related to recommendations to have effective mechanisms in place for dealing with complaints, informing users in terms of service that unacceptable behaviour may lead to withdrawal of service and/or referral to law enforcement, and warning users that they have legal liability for whatever they place on the web (seven out of eight companies for each). It is interesting to note that the last two recommendations diverge responsibility away from the ISP. The lowest level of baseline concordance for this Model involved the recommendation to provide information that parents may utilise in order to educate their children regarding the risks of Internet use (two respondents). This finding is of particular importance as the need for education and the involvement of parents in this process was highlighted in chapters 2 and 3. Representatives of eight of the nine hosting providers interviewed claimed to have effective mechanisms in place for dealing with complaints relating to customers’ websites and effective procedures for 89

removing illegal content pre-Models. Seven of nine respondents answered ‘preModels’ to four of the remaining nine items, including the item asking if they provide a link to, or information about the IWF to facilitate reporting of illegal content. The high level of base concordance for this recommendation is surprising as it this was viewed by the Managers to be one of the least useful recommendations (see ‘Positive and negative aspects of the Models’ below). The lowest levels of baseline concordance for hosting recommendations occurred for the items asking if specific guidance was available for young home users when creating web pages (zero companies) and whether customers were encouraged to provide self-labelling of the content of their sites using Platform for Internet Content Selection (PICS) compatible systems such as ICRA. The lowest level of baseline concordance occurred in relation to the Model for IM providers, though over half of responses were ‘pre-Model’ (53.3%). The highest level of concordance occurred for the three items asking if the client had ignore/block tools that were clearly described, and whether there were clear links to the company’s privacy policy (four of four respondents for each). Prior to publication of the Guidelines none of the companies had safety messages in place on the home page for downloading the IM client (zero of three respondents), nor information on how to contact law enforcement and child protection agencies, nor links to online safety guides (this is compared to seven of eight companies that provided such links from chat rooms pre-Models). Impact of the Models As baseline concordance was so high it is unsurprising to find that the direct impact of the Models in regard to specific points was moderate. Almost one in five (18.1%) responses indicated a feature had been changed or introduced as a response to the Guidelines, or a statement of plans to introduce or alter said feature. While the Model on IM saw the lowest level of baseline concordance, it also made the greatest impact with 27.9% of responses indicating that there were plans to alter features or that such changes had already taken place, although it must be noted that this sub-sample was small with data available for only four companies. The Guidelines had no reported effect on just five of the 36 items on IM (13.8%). Items that had the most impact relate to recommendations to display safety messages regarding communicating with strangers (three out of four companies) and for prominent safety messages to be

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displayed on the home page for downloading IM (all three respondents for which this item was applicable to – one client was not downloadable). Similar levels of direct impact were found for the Models on both connectivity (16.5%) and chat providers (15.8%), though perhaps the magnitude of the latter is more surprising considering the comparatively high baseline concordance for this Model. The impact of the chat Model is also perhaps more significant when it is taken into consideration that two represented companies (not part of the sub-sample of eight) closed their chat rooms at least partially as a response to the Guidelines. With regards to the sub-sample, the Model appeared to have no impact (above and beyond existing baseline concordance) for 13 of 39 items (33.3%). The recommendations that have had most impact include the introduction of or plans to introduce alert features or/and a grab and print tool (three out of eight respondents for each), whilst four companies had been looking at a system via which users can report problems with Moderators and also conducting security checks on Moderators (there had been zero levels of baseline concordance for this recommendation). Only one of 14 items (7.1%) in the connectivity section of the research protocol showed zero impact and this item related to users being informed that pornographic, racist and other possibly illegal material will be reported to the IWF (half the respondents met with this recommendation pre-Models, half had no plans to do so). The largest impact of the connectivity Model was found in the item that showed lowest baseline concordance. This item related to the recommendation to provide information for parents to utilise in order to educate their young users regarding risks (three of eight companies). The Model relating to hosting providers appeared to have least overall impact (13.1%), though zero effects were found for only one of 10 items. This item related to the recommendation to encourage users to self-label their content using PICS compatible systems such as ICRA (one company did this pre-Models, seven had no plans to do so). The biggest impact (two out of eight companies) was found for three items: do Terms of Service explicitly state the boundaries of acceptable online behaviour; is clear guidance available for home users when creating web pages; and is there specific guidance aimed at young users for doing so. There was zero baseline concordance for this last item.

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Non-compliance with the Models Non-compliance (‘no plans to introduce/change feature to concur with Model recommendations’) accounted for 14.7% of responses to items applicable to the subsamples. The Model to which least resistance was shown by far was that aimed at chat providers (6.8%) and this can be explained in part by high levels of baseline concordance. Compliance (or plans to comply) was indicated in responses to 25 of the 39 items (64.1%). Items towards most resistance was shown related to the recommendations for a ‘grab and print’ tool (four companies, again see ‘Negative aspects’ sub-section) and the suggestion that an alert system should specifically be at the top of each chat page in rooms aimed at young users (three respondents). The Model for IM providers indicated the second lowest levels of resistance (18.6% of responses being ‘no plans to introduce’) with complete compliance being stated for 21 of 36 items (58.3%). Items to which non-compliance was most often indicated were recommendations to display safety messages when a user considers adding a person to their buddy list, providing clear information on how to contact law enforcement and child protection agencies, and providing links to online safety sites from the IM client (three of four companies had no plans for each). It is interesting to compare resistance to adding links to online safety guides with the results from the similar recommendation for chat: all eight chat service respondents said that such links were in place or that there were plans to create them. It might be that the refusal to link from the client itself could be due to the companies seeing IM as a side offering to other services that already provide such links (as was the case with all four of the present IM sub-sample). A non-compliance rate of 21.1% was found in response to the items exploring implementation of the connectivity Model and no resistance was shown to only four of 14 items (28.6%). Most frequently cited areas of non-compliance related to informing users that pornographic, racist and other possibly illegal material may be reported to the IWF (four cases – see ‘Factors inhibiting implementation of the Models’ sub-section below), providing information for parents to utilise in educating their children on risks, encouraging parents to take practical steps in order to minimise risk (e.g. advised to keep PCs in common areas of the home), and providing safe surfing guidelines specifically for young users themselves (three of eight instances for each - See ‘Negative aspects of the Models’ below).

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The highest relative levels of resistance appear to be to the good practice Model for hosting providers with a non-compliance rate of 25.3%. Complete compliance (or plans to be so) was shown in response to just two of the 11 items (18.2%). These recommendations involved having effective mechanisms for dealing with complaints relating to customers’ websites, and effective procedures for removing illegal content as soon as is reasonably possible. Extremely high levels of non-compliance were shown in response to two of the items with eight of nine respondents having no plans to encourage users to self-label their content (see ‘Negative aspects’ sub-section below) and seven organisations having no plans to provide specific guidance to young users on creating web pages, although it must be noted that one of these seven companies only allowed teenagers to generate content in their web space.

Implementation of the Models – semi-structured item responses

Implementation in comparison to ‘competition’ Of the 12 Managers that had some familiarity with the Models prior to the research, nine perceived their company’s implementation of the recommendations to be above average in comparison with their main rivals. One interviewee however, believed that the Models had no impact on the way he ran his company and that nothing had been done to incorporate their recommendations. In commenting on the safety of his service, this respondent stated “Well, we’ve never had a complaint. We’ve never had any sort of illegal material, or anything negative at all, ever, on any of our sites. It’s never been an issue, ever.” Another Manager was unable to comment with regards to this item due to not having considered how well other sites had implemented aspects of the Models, whilst the twelfth respondent viewed his company “in the top half of compliant ISPs” though not “in the top quarter” and this Manager did not believe his company had “taken aggressive steps to follow up on the kind of peripheral areas.”

Changes to operating structures “Our focus and our priority has always been safety. We have people constantly monitoring… So, you know, as long as your heart’s in it, and it always has been and we haven’t really had to make any changes to accommodate for this stuff [the Models] because it’s been there from the beginning.” 93

The above quote is representative of five respondents who could name no major changes to operating structures or policy and practice as a response to the Models due to these respondents claiming to have most of the recommendations in place before Guideline publication. When considering this and the high rate of baseline concordance found from the quantitative data presented in tables 4.2 to 4.6, it is unsurprising to discover that only five of the twelve companies familiar with the Models altered policy or practice in response to the Guidelines, whilst four of these five Service Providers made changes to operating structures. A thirteenth respondent recently acquainted with the Guidelines felt that his company would have to make alterations to operating structures to accommodate the recommendations. Perhaps the most drastic change to operating structures was the closure of chat rooms in the UK by two large Internet companies. One of these companies however stated that this was done only partially as a response to the Guidelines:

“[The Models were] certainly one of the factors in there, yes. But ultimately it was a case of, you know, trying to protect our users online, and we thought that [closing the chat rooms] was the safest thing to do.”

By closing chat rooms companies are not necessarily changing structures to comply with the Models but are effectively removing the need to meet the chat guidelines. The Manager who became aware of the Models as a result of this evaluation, whilst believing that his company already followed most of the recommendations, stated that in order to fully meet all the requirements, they would need to close their ‘open access’ chat rooms (a service by which users from any ISP can enter and Chat as opposed to the chat rooms that an ISP offers that are open only to subscribers):

“I’m not particularly in favour of continuing to run an open access chat room for instance because we have no control of what happens, you know people can come in there, do whatever they want with another ISP… It’s just a resource for abuse, for whoever’s out there and it’s a bit like the wild west in that, and hopefully we’ll take action to kind of reign in these services in the next six months.”

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Two of the Managers explained their operating structures had been altered by modifying slightly both the content and/or prominence of safety messages:

“As a result of the Models we took a look at where those safety messages were and we gave them even higher prominence as a result.”

Two companies made alterations to various product features and services, and one ISP cut a link to an external IM provider in response to the Guidelines.

Changes to policy and practice in response to the Guidelines With regards to changes to policy and practice the most commonly cited example of change was a greater awareness or attention directed towards child protection issues, including the hiring of a Child Protection Officer in one instance. Three of five Managers who explained that changes to policy or practice had been made in response to the Guidelines said that alterations had been made in this regard, however one of these respondents, a member of the Task Force, stated that it was less the Models themselves that had caused this shift in focus but the processes involved in formulating the Guidelines. Perhaps one of the more significant changes to practice and policy was the outsourcing of Moderators by one major ISP. Reasons for this are given below:

“Before we went to this moderation company we had volunteers within the kids and teen message boards as well and although we did supervise them on a daily basis to ensure they were safe and there wasn’t any personal or identifying material on the message board, we can guarantee that with this moderation company that they’re checking the forums frequently. We have an actual time schedule now, which you couldn’t really do with volunteers. It’s made our supervision a lot easier in a lot of ways to have this company working with us.”

The Models had affected the way another company evaluated their safety measures and it had become practice to review their child protection policy on a quarterly basis. This Manager also explained that as a result of the Models his company had “audited all our applications so that not only do they comply with current recommendations 95

and Models but also so that they’re actually ahead of them so that we comply with future Models.”

Factors inhibiting implementation of the Models Whilst none of the interviewees felt the Models dictated drastic changes from previous operating structures, only three of the Managers did not identify any factors they felt would inhibit implementation of the Guidelines. It must however be noted that a total of seven respondents out of 12 could not identify any specific factors when asked: ‘What particular features of the Models inhibited their use?’ and some of the inhibiting factors discussed here have been collected from responses to other items. It would thus appear that on the whole most respondents felt that there were no major aspects of the Model that inhibited their implementation. Two respondents (including one Manager not familiar with the Guidelines) talked about how they felt the Models were less relevant to their company’s services due to already having in place strict Guidelines of their own or having to abide by international laws. Another respondent highlighted that some features of the Models might have been harder to implement than others and though not working for a company that offered chat or IM, identified the Models for these services as being the most difficult to implement:

“If I was looking at another ISP I don’t think it would have been too difficult to start implementing. The hardest thing I think would be the Models on chat and Instant Messaging because it’s quite an area to look at obviously but there is quite a lot more that people can do and should do for chat in terms of Moderators and obviously the background check on Moderators and such. And I think that will be harder for a lot of ISPs to actually deal with. But if I was running a chat room I think it would be difficult to implement but I think ultimately that is what they should be doing anyway - it’s only common sense the majority of it.”

Like

the

Manager

quoted

above,

another

respondent

believed

that

the

recommendation that background checks be carried out on Moderators was difficult to follow. This interviewee felt this was due to the current high demand for such checks:

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“[Our Moderators] are screened but as you know there is a huge backlog for the Criminal Records Bureau and [they have] terrible difficulty keeping up with themselves, and there’s more work to do in this area - not just for us but for everybody.”

A further Manager expressed her views concerning how a lack of information had prevented her company from implementing the recommendation that there should be clear information on how to contact law enforcement or child protection agencies:

“The only info that we would like, and it’s the same throughout the Internet community industry, is that we are not sure of who to go to if there ever was a problem. One of the questions was ‘is there clear information to tell parents where to go if something serious happens?’ – well there isn’t because we don’t know who we should be telling them to go and see.”

Two of the most commonly cited inhibiting factors are discussed elsewhere and involve problems with the distribution of the Guidelines (five cases, see ‘Dissemination to the Internet industry’ above) and financial factors (three instances – see ‘Effects on business’ below). With regards to the latter, one Manager, when talking about the Model on chat stated that:

“It would be very difficult for an ISP to follow those Models throughout and still be cost effective.”

Another common inhibiting factor was identified by five respondents who gave examples of how certain recommendations were not implemented within their company due to their specificity and irrelevance to the services they offered. Specificity and irrelevance have been grouped together as it was often the case that the applicability of particular Model features were limited by the Models being perceived as too specific. Instances where the Guidelines appeared irrelevant differed between respondents:

“…the reason why I said no to some of the points [concerning implementation of the Models] is because of the way our site is. The guidelines are aimed at flat 97

chat and we are a virtual 3D site, we are more of a game so it’s not easy to put some of the things in place.”

This respondent also numbered among two interviewees who felt the recommendation to have an alert feature on the top of chat pages aimed at children to be too specific:

“Some things are a bit too specific. Like the alert button has to be top right, that doesn’t really help when you have got a graphic-rich site and you can’t put it top right or other things like that. It’s just a bit too specific a better way of putting that would be there needs to be a clearly visible alert button.”

Two respondents questioned the relevance of the specific requirement to inform users that inappropriate material may be reported to the IWF:

“[Warning users that possibly illegal material may be reported to the IWF is] not really a relevant way to go about these sort of things because if you’re looking at an organisation the size of ours then in any type of abuse there would be a number of options that we could use, one would be the police, another would be the IWF, yet another would be the judiciary system. It could be any of the above plus others; the IWF is three people and a computer.”

Returning to the Model on chat, one Manager questioned the relevance of certain safety messages (for example not to post personal details) being in place on his company’s chat rooms due to the nature of Moderation they provide:

“The way you’re pre-moderated, there’s obviously massively reduced risk, so the fact that they are pre-moderated has cut out a very large element of risk and therefore safety advice in pre-moderated say, is clearly generally not exactly relevant - words can be knocked out before anybody can see it.”

Finally, one respondent whose organisation had not altered anything in response to the Models quoted a “lack of relevance” to the services his small ISP offered as an inhibiting factor:

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“Well, we have a very strict policy of keeping our own house in order. We don’t allow this material on full stop, and it’s just not, you know, we provide services to business primarily, and businesses don’t want to be associated with this kind of material so that is our rule. And, so, a lot of the Task Force work, as I said, was more about getting the children’s charities and the politicians to understand that what they wanted was actually not possible, and what they should have done, and I mean basically what they want is nobody to ever find horrid porn on the Internet, that’s what they want, but in practice, that’s not achievable in the way that they’re trying to do it which is basically criticising the Internet industry in the UK.”

The belief by some of the Managers that certain recommendations are irrelevant to their company suggests that a more general and holistic approach needs to be undertaken when proposing Guidelines on how to offer safe services. Conversely this finding has implications for assessing the safety of sites using the current Models – where certain recommendations are not being met by a given company they might not be required due to the nature of the site, and conversely when certain features are present these measures might not be as effective as alternative practices utilised by other companies.

Effects on business The previous section identified three Managers who identified financial factors as inhibitors of implementation. Six stated that costs had been incurred when asked a more specific question concerning whether expenditure had been required to meet the Guidelines. This number reaches seven if the Manager who had recently become acquainted with the Guidelines is included as he felt there would be costs involved if his company was to employ the Models. The lack of financial costs for seven of the other eight companies can be partially explained in terms of these companies claiming to have not altered practice, policy or operating structures in response to the Models. The financial costs of implementing the Guidelines may differ between individual Models. As one respondent whose company did not make any alterations in response to the Guidelines stated when asked about cost implications:

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“Not for us no. But again having said that if we were to do chat and IM and such then yes there would be.”

Similarly, four out of the seven respondents who said that there had either been or would be cost implications related these costs to chat services. For example, two Managers spoke of the costs of Moderation:

“If we are going to have 24 hour, seven day a week Moderators then there’s going to be cost implications.”

A representative from another company who stated that they could in theory implement the chat recommendation for having recording mechanisms in place, went on to say they do not do this “because of the size of the file it would produce …Give me enough money to buy a hard drive then ‘yes’.” This same respondent also highlighted the absence of an alert feature as a consequence of financial constraints. Whilst the other three companies who said there had been costs associated with implementing the Guidelines did not specifically attribute these expenditures to the Model on chat, all three companies did offer chat at least prior to the Guidelines. None of the Managers were able to either estimate or provide information regarding the magnitude of the costs. Whilst several respondents believed the Models resulted in cost implications for their businesses, none of the interviewees viewed the overall effects on business as negative. Of the six Managers whose companies had made (or planned to make) substantial changes, two viewed the Models as having had both negative and positive effects on business whilst the remaining four saw the Guidelines as having had a purely positive effect on revenue. Negative factors have been discussed above and included costs of deploying certain features (both in terms of programming and staff time) and of losing users due to axing certain services. With regards to positive effects, all seven respondents felt that if consumers perceive their site to be safer they will more likely stay or become a user:

“It’s all a question of parents feeling their children are safe and it’s to do with brand reputation really – if you have good child protection policy in place…

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and you educate the public then they perceive you to care about their welfare, which we do obviously, then it’s good for business.”

One chat provider also commented on a growth of user numbers as a result of other sites closing their chat rooms in response to the Models.

Internal evaluation and maintenance of safety features The research protocol contained three items designed to assess existing structures within companies to prevent attrition of Model-consistent features and to explore procedures for implementing the Guidelines. Whilst only six respondents believed that their company had or would make significant changes in response to the Models, an additional five companies reported that most of the recommendations were already in place prior to publication of the Guidelines. This section will therefore focus on responses from 10 of these 11 companies to explore how they maintain their safety features (data from one of the 11 could not be obtained due to interviewee time constraints). All the 10 companies had in place some means of evaluating their safety measures. In the majority of cases (six) this responsibility fell to one specific person. In five of these six instances the interviewee themselves was this individual. The size of these companies ranged extensively: whilst one respondent at the smaller end of the scale believed that he alone was more than capable of maintaining safety features, a Manager of an ISP at the larger end of the scale believed that this role was difficult. The following quotes illustrate this dichotomy:

“If anything does get reported obviously it goes through a certain channel but because we are a small team it’s very easy to see when things are changing, when things need to be changed without having specific structures involved.”

“…when I was talking about the customer home pages, and the labelling [this is referring to the recommendation to encourage users to self-label their content], the reason why we don’t follow the Model on that particular basis is because there’s such a huge surface area and it’s, you know, just impossible for one person to do it.”

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One large ISP explained that it had a specific team “committed to online safety and community-related issues” and a Manager of a chat service explained that a large team structure ensured safety features were maintained and evaluated. Two respondents stated that evaluation of safety measures was carried out by regular review and audit one of these companies also explained that their policies were evaluated by an external party as well as inter-company reviews. Whilst all of the 10 companies had assigned responsibility to monitoring implementation of the Models to an individual, team or review process, four of the Managers talked about how evaluation procedures were ‘ad-hoc’, often evaluated and maintained by users highlighting problems as well as through staff usage of the site. This was the case with a small and mid-sized ISP as well as two chat only providers:

“I suppose it’s just what crops up. You know things will crop up from time to time but usually it will crop up first on, you know, either a volunteer or a user will alert us of something, and then we usually have a discussion on the management mailing list and between us we figure out what would be the best solution and how to, you know, what reaction we should be looking for.”

With regards to maintenance of Model features one respondent was of the view that

“Once they’re there they’re there. And then we build on them for our next version.”

The difficulties of maintaining and evaluating safety features will not only vary with the size of the company and user numbers, but also in terms of the nature of services provided. For instance, in a quote given previously this section one Manager talks about the difficulty in monitoring user home pages due to their sheer volume. However with regards to online communication services, once particular messages or tools are in place then the main issues of maintaining good practice may revolve around Moderation and supervision of Moderators. For example, one ISP that provides chat talked about how their Moderators “are given clear guidelines and their performance is constantly checked by evaluating their chat logs and monitoring their message boards”. Moderator supervision, training and provision of job guidelines will be discussed in

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chapter five alongside roles of Moderators and the impact of the Models upon this group.

Positive and negative features of the Models Negative aspects Interviewees were asked to report on what they perceived to be the most negative aspects of the Models, as well as which particular features of the Guidelines made them a success. None of the respondents identified features that they believed to be particularly negative. However by analysing qualitative data obtained from other items it was found that several participants had commented on a lack of utility among certain Model recommendations. The most frequently reported feature in this category was the ‘grab and print’ tool recommended in the chat Model. Three respondents thought the need for this tool was redundant because text could be recorded by the site itself. This relates to relevance, which is discussed above. One respondent commented on the specificity of the Models resulting in the implementation of a ‘panic button’ that he perceived to be less useful than previous measures:

“There is a point there that refers to a panic button being available in every chat room. Now a panic button is a very specific example, or a very specific requirement. In our case for example we have a facility that allows you to report abuse but it wasn’t a button and we found ourselves having to bend over backwards to create a less helpful solution that incorporated the button because we wanted to comply.”

Two further respondents questioned the utility of encouraging users to self-label their own content using PICS compatible systems such as ICRA:

“It’s a very difficult one that I think industry and consumers have been grappling with for quite a few years and to be honest not many people selflabel, and there doesn’t seem to be any value in it.”

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Indeed the above recommendation was found to be the least adopted measure in the present research with only one Manager advising customers to self-label. This respondent felt however that this recommendation was one of the most positive provided by the Guidelines. An interesting point was made by one Manager who believed the alert tool to be more beneficial than the ignore feature on a well moderated site, given that the former can help prevent abuse of a number of users rather than just the person using the tool:

“We are working to encourage more people, I think because it’s a valuable and useful tool, to alert rather than block, because if you alert you alert the company which otherwise someone else might forget, and then you’ve got the possibility of the Moderator looking at the seriousness, whereas if you just block you’re saying ‘I don’t want to be disturbed and I don’t mind if you go and do the same thing to somebody else’. And that’s a cultural thing and I think it’s interesting to explore.”

With regards to the Models as a whole, four respondents felt that the Models had missed out certain Internet services such as e-mail. The final theme identified concerning negative aspects of the Models was the non-mandatory nature of the guidelines. Two Managers from both a large and a mid-sized ISP stated that the Models should perhaps be made statutory, although one of these interviewees commented that lack of resources might make this difficult for some ISPs:

“And at the end of the day maybe it should be, maybe another measure would be to make some of the guidelines law. The issue then becomes where does the money come from. I mean if you’re going to have a chat room and there’s requirements to monitor that 24 hrs per day, who pays for that?” Positive aspects As well as few respondents identifying least useful recommendations of the Models, few interviewees gave specific examples of what they felt were the best suggestions, despite all but one of the Managers viewing the Models as being a positive measure overall. It has been noted above that one of the Managers saw the recommendation to encourage users to ‘self-label’ as a very positive recommendation, whilst a chat service

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provider mentioned the utility of the alert tool and another ISP representative commented on the importance of having an effective complaints procedure. Two Managers stated that providing safety advice to users was the most valuable feature of the Models. A quote illustrating this and the usefulness of a complaints mechanism is given below:

“I think the focus on educating users and children who are users, and having an effective complaints mechanism is a very kind of positive approach rather than imposing lots of draconian legislation and outlaw of content. I think education and an effective complaints mechanism are the right way to go about it.”

When asked about the overall benefits of the Models, eight Managers said that an increase in awareness was the most positive outcome. The next most commonly cited positive feature was the clarity with which the advice was presented. Such comments were made by five of the respondents: “I think the Models themselves are well written and self-explanatory”. Two more respondents commented that the Guidelines provide a good framework for industry when considering child safety. One of these two respondents also felt the Models are “a good base for parenting as well as for ISPs”. One interviewee was encouraged that the publication of the Guidelines reflected the multi-agency nature of the Models development:

“I think the fact that it was collaborative and the fact that it wasn’t just something that Government churned out with little consultation with the industry or little understanding of how the industry would view or would be able to adapt these in a real environment. So it’s the collaborative element that I found the most beneficial.”

Consequences of the Models One respondent didn’t see the Models as “being a success”, another commented he did not feel the Models had been “100% successful” and another respondent believed the Guidelines to have had no impact due to problems of dissemination. However the majority of the 13 participants familiar with the Models viewed them as having had a mainly positive impact (11 cases). 105

As noted above, the most commonly cited positive impact of the Models was a perceived resultant increase in awareness of safety issues:

“Awareness. I don’t think I can stress that one enough. I think awareness is probably the biggest thing because most people have got common sense and if they’re aware of what the problems are and how to deal with them then most people will.”

Whilst in some instances it was not clear from responses who had become more aware as a result of the Models, two respondents commented that the Guidelines (or the process of formulating the Guidelines in one instance) had resulted in a greater awareness and focus on safety within the UK Internet industry:

“From personal experience I think the fact that people have got around a table and talked about this stuff has made them think. It’s made them more aware of what other people are doing in the industry; it’s made them aware of the different attitudes. I think that’s been really helpful, just the process of getting people talking about it”

A representative of an international company also spoke of the possible positive effects the Models may have due to them being disseminated to International branches of the business. One more interviewee believed the Models increased awareness of parents and three respondents expressed views that the advertisement campaigns and media attention accompanying the Models had resulted in greater public understanding. As these adverts were aimed at the public it can be interpreted that these respondents believe that user awareness of safety issues had improved:

“Awareness more than anything else on the positive side. During the course of writing the Models there was quite a lot of media activity about it and there was also an awful lot of advertising campaigns and such like that that all came out to make people aware.”

Related to the theme of greater awareness were the views expressed by one Manager that the Models had provided “reassurance that we were doing the correct thing”. This 106

respondent also stated that the Guidelines indicated that child safety had “been taken seriously.” Another Manager saw further positive business related consequences and expressed his views that the Models have “kept us out of the media for the right reasons” but perhaps more significantly have helped balance the level of responsibility for child protection placed on ISPs by pushing some companies to be more responsible whilst taking some responsibility away from those other ISPs who had already been making an effort in this area (presumably due to the Task Force taking some of the responsibility by generating the Good Practice Guidelines):

“It’s moved the Internet industry forward from a complete lack of any commercial social responsibility in say 2000 to one were I am quite confident that I can say what I’ve just said: That it isn’t all our responsibility now.”

This Manager saw this pitching of ISP responsibility as having a further positive consequence because “theoretically, [the Models] will put all the main ISPs on a level field, which you know obviously doesn’t make us paragons of virtue and neither does it leave us on the roadside.” This respondent did however point out that the Models were not mandatory and he called for them to be made law in order that companies could not opt out. Related to regulatory issues was one of the two ‘negative consequence’ themes that emerged from the discourse. One Manager commented that small enterprises may be discouraged from setting up community projects due to the demands of the Guidelines “laying down a restrictive standard of moderation which naturally might put off community projects and community issues if the standard is so high.” This Manager further felt that the Models’ requirements were so great that they could result in Internet safety being worsened in some conditions:

“I think the danger of people who don’t necessarily understand the medium forcing over-prescriptive Models from another world, and trying to require those Models... I think that can actually be counter-productive and can actually have the opposite effect.”

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And whilst three respondents had commented that the media campaign associated with the Guidelines was positive, two of the respondents felt that the press associated with the Models had the effect of scaring service users unnecessarily:

“Fear is now epidemic in children. I was at Centre Parks last week and somebody was taking photographs, quite innocently, and my children were worried that you know, they’d go on this Internet site and they’d be displayed. That’s what the children said. It was shocking, they shouldn’t think that way at all.”

Facilitation of the Models Respondents were asked if they felt that the Models could have been better facilitated. Eight of the interviewees responded positively, but this number is reduced to five when those respondents whose main concerns were with publicity and the distribution of the Guidelines to ISPs are removed. Two of these five respondents, both members of the Task Force, commented that the drafting the Models took too long and that they would liked to have seen this process shortened:

“I think the thing that some people don’t realise is the sheer amount of time that.... the Guidance takes. There are times when I’ve been working for a day a week, you know, it feels like a day a week, a lot of time on a Model when they’ve got to be made completely from scratch… I’m not saying they’re not worth it but it’s a nightmare. A small number of people have invested a lot of time and again [we] have had to go on doing our normal jobs as well.”

As well as concerns about the time it takes to produce the Models one of these respondents also felt that if representatives from more industries were involved in creating the Guidelines, then this would encourage greater use:

“I think if you want people to accept that the Guidelines apply to them then it’s not a bad idea to get more people playing a very big part in developing these Guidelines.”

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Related to this was the view expressed by another respondent who felt that his company “should have been involved in them [the development of the Models] a lot earlier. Because the minute we got involved we made our utmost to actually implement them.” Two respondents, both Task Force members, expressed concerns that during the facilitation of the Guidelines it was not completely clear who the Models were to be targeted at:

“Because the Guidelines when we were making them, they were a little bit vague sometimes so we had to actually work out whether we were going to inform parents or whether we were informing children or carers.”

The most negative views about the facilitation process came from one Manager who viewed the Models as a product of a PR exercise to meet the demands of children’s charities in response to negative media concerning the Internet:

“The agendas that were behind the creation of the Task Force models were wrong-headed… the way this whole process is being conducted is very much a PR exercise driven by the children’s charities and the politicians and in effect, not actually improving safety of children at all. The thing is children are being abused and tortured right now. All over the World. And these models have not actually done anything at all to rectify that.”

Balance of the Models between Industry and user needs Just two respondents did not view the Models as striking an appropriate balance between industry and user needs:

“The Models do very little to actually protect children. So I would say that on one hand they do too little, but it might be better to say they don’t do the right thing.”

Another respondent was more positive about the Guidelines but felt more could be done to protect users:

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“I mean for us it definitely wasn’t too much, because as you can see we were doing most of the [recommendations] pre-Models anyway. I think for us it’s a really good start and I know that there’s a lot of on-going work to do more with these Models and so I think even more detail would probably be helpful.”

The remaining 11 participants with some familiarity with the Models felt that the guidelines struck a “reasonable” to “perfect” balance between industry and user needs:

“Perfect balance. It’s nice that the Home Office consulted with Industry Members.”

Two Managers acknowledged that the Models represented “a first step and actually does get people thinking about it” and that “there’s always work to be done, so it’s a benchmark on which we can actually build on in the future.”

Further information and additional support Seven of the 15 Managers felt satisfied with the level of information in the Guidelines. Of the remaining six interviewees who had some familiarity with the Models the most commonly cited omission concerned knowing how and to whom to report instances of serious abuse (four cases):

“I think additional support maybe with regards to what to do in instances where people seriously abuse the service, so more related to the police… The specific problem that we had was that we didn’t know the appropriate course of action of what to do when reporting things to the police and then we were passed on from one department to another.”

Similar views were aired in the ‘Responsibilities of other organisations’ section above. One other Manager felt that there could have been more information regarding support networks for ISPs:

“There are support mechanisms around for ISPs but not a great deal. So I think it would sort of go back to the same thing of awareness and other ISPs

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knowing, first that they’re there, and had I not been involved [in the Task Force] I’m not sure I’d have known where I had to go to find out.”

One more respondent felt the Models could have gone into more depth on public profiles:

“I think they could maybe do more on member directory, you know, the personal profiles. It’s a case of, you know, more information about what we should and shouldn’t be doing in terms of protecting user information, linking to photos, not linking to photos, if there’s anything on data verification systems it would be quite useful, but not only from a UK perspective but from a global perspective.”

Manager suggestions for future directions As well as feeling that the Models could have included more on public profiles, four interviewees requested that future guidelines apply to other Internet communication services such as message boards and e-mail, as well as mobiles and hand-held devices:

“There do seem to be different parts to this that need to be clarified a bit, specifically about message boards and forums, because they’re not discussed, it’s all chat and IM, but a huge amount of time spent online by kids and young teens is on message boards and I think that those can also be a dangerous place if… proper safety messages aren’t put in place beforehand.”

One Manager also felt that there should be a “more co-ordinated approach, Governmental, to tackle spammers” and that police should have more powers to punish people responsible for this, whilst another respondent called on future Guidelines to recommend to ISPs to encourage users to protect their PCs from spam and viruses:

“I think there are some issues in two areas. One is around asking ISPs to be more proactive in encouraging their customers to protect themselves against viruses in particular by attaching Windows applications with their software, and I think secondly in terms of protecting their PC against e-mail borne viruses. And I think ISPs have a role to play in absolutely making clear to 111

customers good practice in terms of protecting themselves against viruses and e-mail spam. Those are sources of lots of malicious content.”

Two of the Managers felt more work could be focused on age-related systems or requirements. The second of these respondents felt that the Models on chat should recommend that as well as providing a chat room for the general public, ISPs should provide separate rooms for children and adults in order that young people can better be kept safe from potential adult abusers, and that adult material can be drawn from general access rooms to the age restricted adult sites:

“Part of the problem with chat for example is that in obvious cases children go into chat rooms that are aimed at the whole population and we feel that that’s probably inappropriate that there should always be a separate chat service for children and hence we created a separate wall garden area that has different parameters and caters for children, is better moderated, doesn’t allow private messaging and so-on. So that’s an example of a step we’ve taken that isn’t actually required by the Guidelines but we feel is essential for the protection of children. Conversely what we’ve done is we’ve actually created an adult area because we know that where children are restricted from going they will go so we try to take a lot of the adult content that happens on our main chat service to move it into a more restricted environment for adults thereby cleaning up the main chat service as well so when children do go into it there is [no] filth in there.”

One of the respondents felt that work on ‘self-labelling’ should be taken further and called for the identity of all published material to be known:

“One thing that I think would be helpful though would be a requirement for originators of web content to be required to make their identity known… so if you go to a website it should be possible to identify who is responsible for that material. Because if you buy a book, the author, the publisher and the printer will always be somewhere on the book. There is a legal obligation for the publisher to do that so that if there is a complaint the complainer knows who to complain to.” 112

This respondent was also one of two Managers who felt that resources should be directed towards setting up sites devoted to educating users of risks:

“What would be nice is that if there is going to be a child safety campaign that it should be done so everybody could benefit from it, rather than just my company. I’ve got 300 customers. For me to do a competent exercise in this area is going to cost me £10,000. The common sense approach here is to have a single one-stop shop which deals with these issues, and there are many of these shops already. But signposting to places like IWF is the way to do it, rather than put the obligation on the ISPs to put their general solutions warning on a cigarette packet.”

One of this pair stated that he saw Internet safety as “purely an educational issue,” echoing themes identified earlier concerning a need to educate users and that the Internet is mainly dangerous due to a lack of awareness. Another Manager praised the idea of using celebrity figures to promote education of children regarding the risks of the Internet and this person felt that this was something that should be given more attention:

“Today’s generation will not understand they think the Government is telling them what to do. So they will rebel. If you get celebrities associated with chat it will get under age people to listen.”

Whilst two respondents mentioned they felt the law needed to be tightened up in regard to originators of inappropriate content, four of the Managers acknowledged that the global and open nature of the Internet limits the impact that UK Guidelines can have on Internet safety. Two of these Managers went on to call for the Government to apply pressure on external Governments to exercise control over both the content suppliers and distributors:

“I think that Government has other functions as well in terms of acting on international Governments to control the kind of international influx of dubious material. Things like pornographic spam. I think that’s a very difficult 113

thing to crack on a national ISP level when obviously a large part of it is coming from overseas.”

Chapter summary • • • The majority of Managers sampled were aware of the Guidelines though one fifth had not heard of their existence prior to contact by the project ISP Managers held highly diverse views as to responsibility for safety, but parents were assigned principal responsibility While acknowledging the potential dangers of Internet usage Managers tended to emphasise the overall benefits of usage and the importance of personal responsibility and appropriate supervision • • • Resistance to Model recommendations within the sample was low Echoing earlier findings, Managers too saw education (of both parents and children) as an effective and enduring means of promoting safe Internet usage Of the twelve Managers familiar with the Guidelines: o Five reported having made changes to policy, practice, and/or operating structures since their publication o Five felt there had been no need to make changes as measures were generally in place pre-Models o Two felt they did not comply with the Guidelines but had no plans to do so • • • Whilst some Managers acknowledged the costs associated with implementing the Models, none felt that the net effects on business were negative The most commonly cited positive consequence of the Models was an increased public and industry awareness The majority of Managers familiar with the Models viewed their impact as having been mainly positive - striking a 'reasonable' to 'perfect' balance between industry and user needs • Quantitative data indicated a high level of baseline concordance with Model reccomendations (67.3%) and this was highest with regards to the Model for chat providers (77.5%). Despite this Model impact was still moderate (18.1%) and appeared to have most influence on IM services (27.9%). The Model that saw least concordance was that aimed at hosting providers.

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Key points for future action • Managers tended to see parents as having primary resonsibility for helping ensure their children’s safety with teachers to varying degrees being seen as having secondary responsibility • Factors that inhibited implementaion of the Models included lack of familiarity with the Guidelines, financial constraints, and an opinion that the Models were sometimes too specific or irrelevant to the services offered • Concerns were raised regarding dissemination and Managers felt that some of the companies not involved in their development may have not seen the Models

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Chapter 5: Moderators’ perspectives

The sample Ten Moderators were interviewed. The average length of time respondents had been moderating was 2.8 years (SD = 1.9 years). Nine of the respondents were currently responsible for just one site, though two of the respondents had moderated contemporaneously on several sites in the past. Three of the respondents did not work for chat sites as such but rather forums and a fourth interviewee represented an independent moderation company whose Moderators moderate chat rooms for several companies. For the remainder of this text this respondent will be counted as a chat room Moderator. The remaining six represented chat rooms of varying sizes, both commercial and not, as well as sites that provided just chat and ISPs for which chat was only one of the services offered. Four Moderators worked on a part time voluntary basis, one worked full time in a paid role, three moderated part-time within a full-time role, another though no longer moderating worked full time in a senior position in an independent moderating company and the final interviewee worked for a non-profit organisation as a volunteer. All Moderators who volunteered worked from home. Moderator’s roles

Descriptions of primary responsibilities The 10 Moderators were asked to describe what they perceived to be their primary role whilst moderating. Of the seven chat room Moderators, six emphasised protective factors such as “making sure the chatters are safe” and “ensuring the safety of the children who are chatting in the chat room.” Two of the forum Moderators emphasised their role of chairing debates, whilst the third forum Moderator, as well as speaking of protective measures involving deleting inappropriate threads and settling disputes between users, also emphasised her role as “partly technical to make sure people with any registration problems are sorted out.”

24-hour moderation The second question in the present section asked Moderators whether the sites they moderate are moderated 24 hours per day. Of the seven chat room Moderators three

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claimed that their sites are moderated continually and that one more provided moderation at all times the room was open. Three of the sites were not moderated at all times, but two respondents said that they were moderated most of the time:

“We have got host operators from say the States and Canada so obviously they are on a different time zone so they are generally there to do the work during the night. But, no, as a rule we try to get our hosts to host when they’re needed, so when there aren’t four or five other hosts on, but it’s not 24/7 coverage, no.”

This question was perhaps less relevant to two of the forums, a Moderator from one of which said that their boards were moderated “as and when any of us are there.” One of the forums that took the form of a live debate was moderated at all times when open.

Meeting and greeting Moderators were asked whether they hosted as part of their role: if they greeted the chatters when they entered the room, and if they said goodbye when chatters left. Eight of the 10 Moderators responded yes to this question. The remaining two Moderators reported that they did not play host to their chatters, however one respondent explained that Moderators are “easily identifiable by symbols by our names so that people know we are there…if anyone approaches us on an individual basis then we also respond to that as well”. The remaining Moderator felt the question was not applicable because they moderated a forum, but mentioned that if they saw a new user they would welcome them with another post.

Answering questions and site direction All 10 respondents answered positively to two items asking whether they answered user questions and helped people find their way around the site.

Advertising and moderation of links All 10 Moderators tended to moderate advertisements within chat/posts and seven respondents explicitly stated that advertising was prohibited (this included the independent moderation company representative who said that most of their clients do 117

not permit advertising). Responses to users who did advertise ranged from telling the abuser “not to do it again” (one case) to banning the advertiser (two respondents). All three forum Moderators explained posts containing advertisements would be deleted. Similarly, all 10 respondents moderated links, three explicitly stating that posting links was not permitted on their sites.

Moderation of inappropriate behaviour Nine of 10 Moderators claimed to moderate inappropriate behaviour. The need for such Moderation on the adult political forum was greatly reduced but this respondent explained that in the very few instances that inappropriate messages were posted, action was taken:

“The only time our site was really flooded with messages, it was from a campaigning group… and so we decided instead of deleting them we opened another section and so all the messages coming from that group were moved under that section.”

The tenth respondent, a forum Moderator, felt their moderation of inappropriate behaviour was vague: “We are very loose about it.”

Familiarity with the Models Of the 10 Moderators, three were familiar with the Good Practice Models prior to contact although a fourth respondent became familiar with the guidelines prior to interview as a result of a web link the researchers sent to him. Three further interviewees had glanced at the Guidelines through this link provided prior to interview, but did not feel able to respond to Model specific items and an eighth respondent had heard of the Guidelines prior to our contact but was not familiar with them. One respondent, whilst viewing the concept of the Models as positive, had complaints about the dissemination of the Guidelines:

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“The first I’ve heard of this was two weeks ago. So it might be the best guidelines ever but if you don’t get it out to the people on the front-line like myself, and I actively look for these things, and I’ve been in the DFES for meetings etc. extensive meetings with members of all the partners in the Home Office etc. and no-one has ever mentioned these Models. And your contact with [respondent’s organisation] was the first time we’d ever heard of them. I do now have a set, a photocopy, in my action tray but I’ve not had a chance to go through them. I obviously can’t comment on their actual detail but they do strike me as being a good idea.”

Recruitment, training and supervision

Supervision Several of the Moderators worked for sites in which there was some form of supervision (indeed in five of these cases the interviewee was the main supervisor). The remaining three Moderators had no formal supervision structures in place during times when they were moderating.

Job descriptions Six of the 10 said that they had a detailed job description for their moderating role. Four had no specific job description, but two of those respondents did have job descriptions for other aspects of their work.

Recruitment Nine of the 10 Moderators had been in their role for more than one year, whilst one reported to have started their position after the Models had been published (and was recruited through connections with site owner). Five of the interviewees began their moderating careers as regular chat room users and were later recruited or headhunted into a Moderator role. These interviewees either completed online application forms (two cases) or were approached by site representatives (three cases). Three more of the interviewees were recruited for a different position for which moderation was part of their role. The final interviewee reported that he was no longer actively a Moderator but had set up an independent moderation company as a result of his experiences. 119

CRB checks during recruitment Of the seven Moderators who knew whether or not Criminal Record Bureau checks had been carried out on them when they were recruited, just one responded positively (an individual paid to Moderate as part of their role). A representative of a non-profit chat site stated:

“What we have done is that we get to know people over time, and see how they get on with the chatters and anyone we think is suitable is taken on-board. But they’re also given an online interview, things like that, but we’re moving towards a more secure system so, we’re also moving towards taking down their contact details and we want to do as many checks as possible in the future.”

Similarly two respondents for whom no security checks had been conducted said that this was something their organisations had brought or planned to bring into the recruitment process.

Model impact on recruitment Four Moderators felt that such changes in recruitment policy might have been encouraged by the Models:

“We have got more stringent checks in place so yes. Before there were just background checks.”

The founder of the moderation company stated that they carry out CRB checks on all of their Moderators, and that the Models have had some impact on this process:

“[Company name] have raised its standard of recruitment as a result of the Models. Moderators are registered with CRB whereas three years ago they weren’t. We now carry out enhanced checks on all staff – three years ago we didn’t.”

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Whilst two Moderators who were familiar with the Guidelines prior to being contacted by the research felt that the Models had no impact on Moderator recruitment processes, two respondents who weren’t familiar with the Guidelines felt that their recruitment process had altered in the last year: one felt that their interviews were now more in depth whilst the other felt that their focus had changed to recruiting Moderators with better people skills.

“We hand select the people, now, we feel have the right attitude... we are now more focused on people with people skills rather than technical abilities.”

Training Of the 10 Moderators interviewed only one respondent said he received no training for the Moderator role though this individual did provide training to other Moderators. This participant Moderated in one aspect of his job and worked for a non-profit family run chat site. The remaining nine interviewees reported that they had all received training to some degree ranging from two hours to six months. Of these, three reported that length of Moderator training in their organisation depended on how long the trainee took to grasp the technical and in some cases human elements of moderating. One respondent described the length and nature of their own Moderator training as being ad-hoc:

“Just as and when, just asking how do I do this and they’ll tell us.”

Training was most commonly provided via distance learning facilitated by chat rooms, IM and phone conversations. This was the case in several instances including two Moderators who were trained through a specialist Open University course. One interviewee in a senior role said that their Moderators were trained face-to-face using a training programme he developed. Of the nine respondents for which we have data, seven reported that their training covered child protection issues.

The Model’s impact on training As with recruitment, two of the four respondents familiar with the Guidelines believed the Models to have impacted on the way they trained Moderators, while two did not.

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One of these two respondents explained that this was “mainly because we’re an independent site and our main concern is with safety and we achieve the end result the best way we see fit.” Both of the two respondents who felt the Guidleines had impacted here felt that more time was now spent on training:

“More time is spent on it. Speaking for our Moderators, we need to make sure those who do moderate are more aware of all the issues that can and can’t come up through the Guidelines that we’ve set, whereas when we just started we were just there to watch and we didn’t have a set of Guidelines that we followed, we were just looking out for any abusive language.”

Of the six Moderators unfamiliar with the Guidelines, three felt their company’s training had altered within the past year: one believed their training to be more in depth, and another felt their guidelines were now more comprehensive. The third Moderator cited a change in focus of the training from technical issues towards interpersonal skills:

“I think it used to be about 50% how to use commands etc. but now it’s more about getting people to calm down and stop swearing and so on. I think it’s more aimed at that end, you know, getting people to calm down, finding out what’s going on, what’s going wrong, how we can help them. We try to calm people down to minimise aggressive commands.”

One Moderator who worked for a site where training had not altered called for a greater focus on child protection issues, whilst similarly another felt that Moderator training had altered but believed there should be a greater focus on understanding children:

“You definitely need to be aware, to remind people, that young people are less developed than adults and it seems like an obvious thing, so certain allowances need to be made and certain efforts need to be made when you’ve got young participants involved.”

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Finally the respondent who completed the Open University course called for more professional training programmes:

“I think there should be much more training available to Moderators, as far as we know the OU is the only course available to Moderators, so there should be more training provided.”

Moderators: Their experiences

Inappropriate material Respondents were asked 19 questions that referred to their experiences as a Moderator. They were asked whether, in their experience, some chat users resented being ‘babysat’. One interviewee reported that this did not occur because he moderated an adult forum where serious discussions of a political nature took place, but all other interviewees responded positively to this question. Two of the respondents further went on to explain that it was generally teenagers who resented being moderated, but one interviewee explained that sometimes adults also felt this way:

“In the main the people that resent it are usually the teens… they think ‘oh we don’t need a host’ etc. Also we find it sometimes but not often in the adult rooms where, in one way it’s more understandable, they say ‘hang on, we’re adults here, why are you here?’ But it’s quite rare that you get that on a regular basis.”

A substantial part of the section on Moderator’s experiences was concerned with measuring their exposure to inappropriate behaviour described as racist, sexist, threatening, abusive, sexually explicit and pornographic in sites not aimed at an adult audience. Further, interviewees were asked whether this material had been ambiguous or explicit in nature. Table 5.1 details the results.

Table 5.1. Table 5.1. Proportion of Moderators’ who had seen inappropriate material

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Number of respondents who had seen inappropriate material in their chat rooms Sexually explicit language 9 (in sites not aimed at an adult audience) Abusive material Threatening material Racist material Sexist material 8 8 6 6

Respondents who felt this material to be ambiguous

1

1 3 3 2 0

Links to pornographic sites 5
N = 10

Though the above table shows the number of Moderators that had encountered various forms of inappropriate content it does not indicate the frequency with which those respondents who had seen this material had happened across it. The qualitative data revealed that links to pornographic sites were comparatively rare with Moderators stating that such links were seen very occasionally, whilst abusive language was the form of inappropriate material witnessed most often. When comparing the frequency of racist and sexist material two respondents gave contradictory answers:

[Have you seen sexist material in your chat rooms?] “No, not as much as racist material. It does appear but not very often. It’s normally aimed at one person, not very much I would say.”

“Yes, again it’s all over the place. It seems to be that people are more aware of sexism than any of the remarks like that or any of the issues like that. Unfortunately it seems to have escalated slightly, I don’t really know why; it’s just something I’ve noticed.”

When interpreting the table it is also important to note that one Moderator had not seen any dubious material due to the nature of the forum (site for adult political 124

discussion). Whilst the frequency of specific material cannot be determined it can be concluded that it is not uncommon for inappropriate material to sneak through, despite language filters being in place in many chat rooms. In terms of being unsure as to what constituted inappropriate material the highest proportion of doubts were related to racist and threatening material. Doubts concerning the latter all related to an uncertainty as to whether or not the material was meant to be humorous:

“Sometimes it’s possible it may be done in jest but we don’t take any chances so it will usually result in a ban from that room.”

Uncertainties with regards to racist material tended to occur in relation to context and lack of background information:

“There are doubts sometimes, especially some adjectives used especially, you know, it is a bit borderline and so a lot of these things depend on context, and sometimes they are in doubt.”

Sexually explicit language and links to pornographic sites provided least uncertainty. This was mainly cited as being due to the explicit nature of the language and the ability to follow links through, as well as the names of the links themselves.

Potential abusers Moderators were asked whether they had ever suspected potential child abusers of entering their chat sites. Five of the 10 interviewees reported that although it was rare, they had experienced incidents where they suspected child abusers were using their services. One interviewee explained that he had only been suspicious once in his experience. Another highlighted some of the difficulties in trying to ascertain the intent of older chatters speaking to children on a site:

“I think that we get a lot of people coming into chat with very suggestive names. We also get quite a few overage chatters that will go to the teens’ room. As a consequence, I know it shouldn’t be assumed that they’re there to do wrong. I mean someone with a bad name yes that’s horrendous - they are dealt with, but it might be a child being, you know, being a child. However as 125

far as over age chatters are concerned that is taken very seriously… I am sure that they, potential paedophiles, are around however I’d like to think that we are able to spot them. Certainly when it comes to users under the age of 19 they don’t really bother me, but a lot of the overage chatters might be 20, 21, 22 - they are not going in there for bad reasons, they’re often trying to get back to talk to their friends who aren’t allowed in the other rooms so it has to be very very carefully done.”

The most serious case that was mentioned involved someone who was “soliciting girls under 16 and was offering them payment for sex”. This incident was reported to the Police. One Moderator did not wish to make comment on courses of action following suspicion of abusers. Of the other four, several different courses of immediate (nonreporting) action in response to a suspected abuser were given: Two respondents, including the Moderator who reported the incident to the Police and one who reported suspicious individuals to his Manager, “removed” such chatters:

“Most abusers would probably be kicked out of the system before it would be allowed to reach that stage but if someone did slip through the net then we’d obviously be vigilant about things like that.”

One Moderator who was unsure of the intentions of a suspicious character explained that the suspected individual was contacted:

“I got their account details and tracked down who they were and sent them an email.”

The final Moderator’s site placed an emphasis on monitoring suspicious individuals and communication between Moderators about such persons during shift handovers:

“Well as we say we monitor anyone who looks like they could be a potential abuser. The teen chatters are actually very good. They are very aware. And invariably they might whisper us saying “Oh, Paul has just told me he’s 25”, so our immediate action is to tell the person to put this Paul on ignore. And

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also then the ID is made a note of and all that information is then passed on to our team leaders when we do our next shift.”

Two of the forum Moderators who had not suspected a potential child abuser of entering their site believed that they would report a suspected individual. One more would report to a line manager who would then pursue the issue with the relevant authorities, and that in the first instance a block would be placed on the suspect user. The other was unsure of what exact course of action they would take but said they would research the issue:

“I’d have to do research on it and find out. Because I know there’s a place on the net that you can report things to.”

Effects of the Models

Recruitment and training Model impact on Moderator recruitment and training has been discussed in ‘Recruitment, training and supervision’ above.

Chat safety and user awareness Whilst Model-specific questions were only applicable to four of the respondents who had some familiarity with the Guidelines, the interview protocol also included items that focused on general perceptions of chat safety and user awareness, and how these had altered in the year since the Models were published. With regards to user access to safety information eight of the 10 respondents felt that this had improved in the last year, one respondent felt there had been no change, and the tenth stated that she did not know and that these things were “very hard to judge”. Of those who believed information had improved, two respondents accredited this to safety being “more high profile” and one respondent attributed it to the media:

In discussing user access to safety advice, three respondents also felt that information was more readily available due to Moderators themselves becoming more aware of safety issues involved: 127

“We as Moderators are more aware, not more aware - we’ve always been aware, but extra aware of safety issues. I think that the chatters don’t actually pride themselves on being very aware of this.”

Awareness was also a theme that was identified from responses given to an item concerning the frequency with which users gave out personal information. Whilst only four Moderators felt that users were more protective of their information and six of the respondents felt that this had stayed at a constant rate this past year, none of the interviewees felt that the frequency had increased. Two of the respondents who felt that the frequency had not altered identified awareness as a determining factor as to whether or not the user chose to give out information:

“They [children] know the difference. I mean I remember the first time I used a chat room, you know, probably 1995 or something like that, and even then we were very aware that you had to watch out and stuff like that. I think that people are aware that, but I think the problem with the likes of certain chat services is that over an extended period of time wariness can be broken down, but any initial, I think that kind of stranger-danger thing is at the forefront of every young person’s mind really. I think that young people aren’t naive enough to go out at an early stage and have a relationship with somebody online - to give out information.”

As with the frequency with which users were seen to give share their personal information, most respondents felt that chatters contacted Moderators at about the same rate during 2003 as they did during 2002 (five cases). One of the respondents felt this question was not applicable and three felt that users approach the Moderators more frequently. Reasons cited for this were that the visibility of Moderators had increased (two cases), a new reporting mechanism had been developed (one instance) and safety warnings had become more prominent, resulting in chatters asking questions about things they weren’t aware of such as ‘ignore’ features (one respondent). None of the Moderators felt that chatters’ use of safety tools had decreased over the previous year. Four felt usage had remained constant and a further four felt it 128

had increased (one respondent wasn’t sure and a further interviewee felt this question was not applicable).

Impact on the Internet and chat industry Moderators familiar with the Guidelines were asked whether they felt that the Models had had an impact on the Internet industry since they were published. Whilst one of the four Moderators felt that this impact was “not as much as would probably be desirable” the remaining three felt that the Guidelines did create an impact and all four of the Moderators felt that the effects of the Models were generally positive. Examples of how the Models have had a positive effect include helping:

“ISPs to become more responsible towards their user base and to offer more protection to their user base.”

Two of these four respondents echoed sentiments expressed by Managers in the previous chapter, stating that the Models had made the Internet safer through increasing awareness:

“It’s raised awareness amongst parents as to what can happen in chat rooms. Parents and kids are more aware to not give personal details out in chat rooms”.

Specific to chat, one of the Moderators felt that the Models had no impact on his site, given that his organisation had “always worked within those Guidelines”. This Moderator did see the Models as a positive step, however. One interviewee explained that the Models would have definitely made those sites that have implemented the Guidelines safer but went on to comment that due to the non-mandatory nature of the recommendations there would still be chat rooms that were not safe:

“Not everyone is obliged to follow them. I think those that do will have a safety focus, it would actually be benefiting them but there are a considerable amount of chat rooms that either don’t know about the Models or disregard the Models, and the result is there are still places that go ahead with unmoderated chat out there.” 129

Two of the four believed that the Models have helped make chat safer. Cited effects of the Models included more safety messaging, more opportunities for users to call for help, increased user awareness, improved features that facilitate better Moderation and greater levels of responsibility placed upon both users and Industry for safety (one case):

“Users are more aware of safety issues and the technical features built into the chat software allows for better moderation. There are more safety messages available, more opportunities for users to call for help or to raise a problem. The Home Office Guidelines have encouraged the industry to do more and have encouraged the users to take more responsibility themselves.”

When considering the views of those seven respondents not familiar with the Models, one interviewee felt that a greater awareness of safety had developed during 2003 and another reported that he felt that chatters had taken on more responsibility:

“It seems that there has been talk about [the Models] and more about the nature of online safety and people are more aware how they work and what they’re about.”

“Due to all the news that’s hit the headlines there’s more people on the lookout for it and a lot more people willing to step forward. There’s more people coming forward. The users of the chat rooms are more willing to turn around and say that bloke over there has been talking to that 14 year old girl, I don’t think in the right way. And the 14 year old girl might not have said anything.”

However, one further Moderator not familiar with the Guidelines did warn that in the last year their service “had more overage users in the teen room”. Whilst overall the four Moderators familiar with the Models viewed them as a positive thing for chat safety, only two of these were able to name features that had been put in place as a direct response to the recommendations. These included a

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reporting and panic mechanism and higher prominence of safety messages in the form of ‘news-flashes’ within the chat rooms. Specific content of the Models All four of the Moderators familiar with the Guidelines felt that they had been pitched “about right” in their recommendations (i.e. none of the respondents felt they had not gone far enough or gone too far). Whilst one of the Moderators felt that there wasn’t a particular “stand-out” feature of the Guidelines that he felt was the best recommendation, this interviewee did comment that:

“I think all the points made in the Model are actually beneficial, I don’t think there’s anything… superfluous or irrelevant, everything in there helps safety but there could be more things in there, but that’s from a personal view because we’re fully committed to doing more and we’re hoping other people will follow suit as well.”

One Moderator felt that warnings to not give out personal information during chat or when completing public profiles were the most useful recommendations whilst another felt that the safety tools were the most beneficial. The fourth respondent familiar with the Guidelines had no preferred aspect of the Models. This same respondent was also unable to identify any particular recommendation that he found the least useful or effective, and two of the Moderators felt that all suggestions were useful. The fourth familiar interviewee questioned the usefulness of an alert feature if a site is being properly Moderated, but did accept that such a tool could be useful in private messaging:

“The alert buttons really aren’t needed if somebody’s moderating it properly because they’ll see what’s going on. I think where they will come into their own right is with private messaging with people which may be missed by Moderators.”

One Moderator unfamiliar with the Guidelines did point out a problem in getting some chatters to make use of the ‘ignore’ tool:

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“Unfortunately we’ve got an ignore feature and as most people want to know what’s being said about them and what’s being said to others, that doesn’t get used nearly as often as I would want them to use the facility.”

Benefits and disadvantages for chatters, Moderators and chat providers One of the four respondents familiar with the Guidelines declined making comment on each of the items relating to this section, and a second respondent felt unable to comment on any advantages that may have been brought to users. The two remaining Moderators who identified potential benefits for chatters highlighted the increased safety of the chat rooms themselves, whilst the second interviewee also mentioned that the Models have:

“Raised awareness of the dangers and given them the reassurance that they can contact somebody if they’re being harassed etc. Whereas before they might have not been protected.”

All three respondents who commented did not feel the Models had brought many disadvantages to chatters though one respondent did mention that he considered Moderation in chat rooms for 16-21 year-olds a disadvantage, presumably because this would in part prevent this group of young people chatting in an age appropriate social manner and similarly another respondent thought some users might perceive the Models as restricting:

“Although the users may argue that it may limit their freedom. But from my point of view I don’t see that too much as a downside.”

All three Moderator felt that the Guidelines had provided Moderators with benefits due to the Models providing a frame of reference for good practice:

“Reiterates what we have in place and we know we’re doing the right thing.”

Just one Moderator talked about a downside for Moderators and chat services:

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“It would make things more difficult for whoever uses them. Because they’ll be concerned about breaking the rules.”

Future directions Moderators were asked if they had any recommendations regarding Internet safety and how the Guidelines could be further developed. One suggested making the Guidelines mandatory and to have systems and punishments in place for abusers:

“I think, maybe a bit more extreme, maybe even going towards a legislatory route making sure that everyone who presents a chat room has to do certain things, most of which are actually suggested by the Guidelines, and maybe stricter penalties for people who abuse the service, and systems in place for actually dealing with any abusers or perpetrators.”

Three suggested that more visible policing of sites may cut the risks of abusive behaviour:

“We think one of the reasons why we don’t see abusive stuff on our site is because we are very visible on the site. And in our previous research when we analyse other forums, for example in different Government departments, that the worst record was in the forums were the Moderators were not known by name at all but only as administrators. So people who were participating in the forums reacted very much like “oh there is a big brother” and they were very much against the administrators for the reason because they didn’t know who they are. And then later when we interviewed them it turned out they had a policy of silent moderation which meant they didn’t comment on the site at all regardless of whatever query it was, which really caused a lot of paranoia on the site.”

One respondent felt that whilst safety messages are useful, a message provided by the Government might carry more merit:

“I mean I don’t know if the Government has any plans to produce any type of standard material to put on the front of our site so that it would be a 133

Government thing. However official and efficient a site runs when something is seen to be a Government warning it’s taken, it’s something people will look at more I imagine and all that creates awareness.”

Whilst this opinion contrasts that expressed by one of the Managers (who felt that teenagers are more likely to rebel against Government suggestions) another interviewee also felt the Government could help raise user awareness by providing “some kind of handout or guide in taking part in online facilities.” All in all, increasing awareness was viewed by most of the 10 respondents as being of key importance. Three highlighted the role schools can play in increasing awareness through education and two Moderators expressed views suggesting that the media should be involved.

Whilst awareness of safety issues is obviously a key area of concern for most Moderators, one of the respondents stressed that technology has an important role also:

“A lot of the improvement in child safety has to do as well with the fact that there’s more technical restrictions, like if you go into schools - their computers are choked up to the hilt with preventative measures and firewalls, selective URLs, it’s all in there. Now you can do that with ISPs as well. And it’s not just an awareness drive it’s a hardware drive as well and software initiatives.”

As well as providing suggestions for future actions, some areas of concern were identified though the respondents’ discourse. One respondent talked about problems associated with private messaging within chat due to Moderators not being able to monitor such interactions. Another respondent did mention however that their company had a facility to log the discourse of private messaging. One respondent highlighted problems with a ‘whisper’ feature that some sites offer, a function similar to private messaging, however rather than a separate box or ‘room’ opening up for the private conversation to take place, the text appears in the main room but is only visible to the whisperer and the person who is being whispered to. As this respondent commented when talking about how obvious or not identifying what constitutes abusive material is: 134

“Everything that has been said or typed up is obviously taken seriously. It’s all obvious unless somebody goes and starts chatting to another chatter via whisper. Say for example Paul came in and doesn’t say anything on screen, but then Ann writes a message on the screen: “get out of my window Paul” or “Paul you’re being horrible” and what we try and do, bearing in mind we cannot see whispers, is to advise that the person who’s being harassed or abused or whatever to use the ignore button… However what can happen is that sometimes people will have a row. Suppose Ann and Paul have had a row that day and they’re usually good friends, she knows that Paul would probably get a little whisper reminder so it may be untrue that he is harassing her. There’s a lot of little games that get played between chatters and were not quite certain how you deal with these things.”

A further problem with the whisper feature was identified when users giving out personal information were discussed. Some people may think they are talking via whisper, but accidentally let a name or a number slip through the whisper feature. Future Guidelines may seek to explore recommendations around newer facilities such as whisper features.

Chapter summary • • Generally, Moderators of chat rooms have encountered inappropriate behaviour and material inappropriate for children within their chat rooms Only half the sample had suspected potential child abusers of being on their sites. Difficulties in ascertaining intent of overage chatters was also highlighted and only one Moderator claimed to have experienced a ‘serious’ incident with regards to a potential child abuser • • • Those Moderators familiar with the Guidelines felt the Models had had a positive impact on Internet safety Most Moderators felt user access to Internet safety advice improved during 2003, as had user and Moderator safety awareness All Moderators familiar with the Guidelines viewed them positively and felt the pitch of the Models was ‘about right’

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Moderators in general perceived that users and Moderators had been brought positive advantages by the Models

Key points for future action • • Moderator familiarity with the Models was generally lacking Baseline concordance with the recommendation to screen Moderators was low but it did appear that the Models were aiding a shift towards screening • Increasing awareness was viewed as the most important method of promoting safe Internet use, particularly via the media and in schools

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Chapter 6: The objective picture: findings from the desk-based audit

In order to further explore concordance rates with Model recommendations, 25 Internet companies were audited via a desk-based procedure. The primary aim was to collate quantitative information on safety facilities that were available to users. The audit also provided a balance between company opinions and facilities clearly available to an ‘ordinary user’. Every effort was made to match audited organisations with those who had been interviewed. The current chapter is divided into three sections and provides an overview of this more objective aspect of the research. It will provide separate descriptive analyses of the extent to which features recommended by the Models are currently in place for chat services, Instant Messaging (IM), and web based services (connectivity and hosting providers).

Of the 25 companies, seven provided chat services only, one provided IM only, nine provided connectivity and web hosting, one provided connectivity, web hosting and chat, three provided connectivity, hosting, chat and IM services and four provided chat and IM services only (see figure 6.1).

Figure 6.1. Services provided by assessed companies N = 25

Chat and IM 16% All 4 12%
Con, Host, Chat

Chat only 28%

4%

IM only 4% ISP Connect. and Hosting

36%

Section one: Chat services Nineteen questions pertained to those companies who provided chat services. These questions were primarily derived from the following section of the Models document: The Product, Moderated Chat, Safety Advice, Registration, Public Profiles, and Tools

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and Reporting. Fifteen of the assessed companies provided chat services (60% of the total sample) as either their main service, or as part of a combined service. Seven (46.7%) of those 15 companies provided chat alone (28% of complete sample), whilst four (26.7%) provided only chat and IM (16% of complete sample). In the subsequent sections of this chapter relative concordance with various recommendations made by the Models will be discussed with regards to the present sample.

a) The Product and Moderated Chat
Of the 15 companies who provided chat services, all provided information regarding the nature of the service offered. Ten companies offered moderated chat services and six of these had Moderators running all of their chat rooms. Eleven provided information regarding whether their chat services were or were not moderated. Of the 10 services that had moderated chat available, all explained the function of Moderators. In three of these ten cases, a facility was provided that allowed users to complain about Moderators.

b) Safety Advice
Ten of the 15 companies with chat services provided clear and accessible safety messages on chat room front pages and in the chat rooms themselves. However, seven of the 15 did not include separate safety messages designed for both adults and children. Two companies specifically stated that their chat rooms were for over 18’s and therefore it was not expected that they would offer safety messages for children. As a result, these companies were counted as ‘not applicable’ in relation to this question. They were included in the study since despite a clear disclaiming statement that children should not enter their chat services, many of the topics discussed were considered appealing to under 18’s and the chat rooms could easily have been accessed by this age group. Six of the 15 companies assessed did include safety messages aimed separately at adults and children, while all others did at least provide generic user safety guides. Twelve of the companies provided links to either internal or external safety guides whilst three did not. Two companies provided specific safety messages when the user was completing their profiles, whilst seven companies did not provide profiles, and for these this question was therefore ‘not applicable’. Six of the companies however, did not provide safety messages for chatters to read when completing user profiles. This could be partially explained by a tendency for safety 138

messages to be being placed in one location, for example, in a safety guide. Table 6.1. summarises these findings.

Table 6.1.

Chat room safety advice: findings from the objective audit Frequency of positive recordings Frequency of negative recordings

Safety messages on front pages and in chat rooms? Separate safety messages designed for adults and children? Are links available to online safety guides (internal or external)? Are safety messages available when the user completes his/her profile?

10

5

6

7

12

3

2

6

N = 15 (where the two columns do not add up to 15, questions were ‘not applicable’ to certain companies)

c) Registration and Public Profiles
Considering only those eight companies who did have a facility for completing user profiles, half explained the use and purpose of providing personal information at registration, whilst the other half did not. Furthermore, seven of the eight companies who provided a facility for creating personal profiles allowed users to limit personal information, but one did not provide this facility. Three of the eight encouraged children not to post personal information on chat sites. For three more this question was classed as ‘not applicable’ as two did not aim directly at a child audience and the third did not allow users to post up personal information on their profiles. Two companies did, however, not explain the use and purpose of public profile data.

d) Tools and Reporting

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Of the 15 companies that provided chat services, five had alert systems available at the top of each page inside chat rooms aimed at children. Four did not whilst this question was counted as ‘not applicable’ for six companies, given that their services were not aimed specifically and solely at under 16’s. However, 14 companies had ignore, alert and/or grab and print facilities available, whilst only one did not. The Models recommend that in moderated chat rooms specifically aimed at children, alert systems should be prominent at the top of each page. Our question directly reflected this recommendation and might have negatively skewed the data. That is, it is not that companies did not provide systems to protect their users (whatever their age) in a chat room environment, but rather that alert systems were not always sited at the top of each page. Eleven of the 15 chat service providers supplied advice regarding how to handle abusive chatters, whilst four did not. With regards to filtering mechanisms, seven of the 15 providers had available a filtering mechanism that could pick up bad language or aimed at preventing children from sharing their e-mail address. Two companies were excluded from this count as they had labelled their site as being for over 18’s only. Six companies however, did not appear to have a filtering facility available. Eleven of the 15 provided a facility to block private chat and IM within a chat environment, three did not, and one company had recently closed their private chat facilities within the chat environment, explaining that they felt private messaging in chat rooms presented a possible risk to personal safety. Twelve of the chat service providers had a system in place to allow them to respond to reports of incidents. Of these 12, two companies divulged a target response time, while 10 did not. Table 6.2. provides an overview.

Table 6.2.

Chat room safety tools and reporting facilities: findings from the objective audit Frequency of positive recordings Frequency of negative recordings

Alert systems on the top of all pages aimed specifically at children? Ignore, alert, and/or grab and print

5

4

14

1

140

facilities anywhere on the page? Advice on handling abusive chatters? Filtering mechanism available? Facility to block private chat/IM? System to allow incident reporting? If incident reporting possible, target response time indicated?
N = 15 (where the two columns do not add up to 15, questions were ‘not applicable’ to certain companies)

11 7 11 12 2

4 6 3 3 10

Section two: Instant Messaging Section two of the questionnaire comprised 22 questions directed at those companies who provided IM Services. Seven assessed companies provided IM as either their main service or as part of a combined service, and one more provided IM only.

a) The Product and Environment
Of the eight companies who provided IM, all provided information regarding the service offered, all explained the type of IM environment provided and in all cases users were able to access information on how to adjust privacy settings (e.g. by employing block features).

b) Advice
Seven of the eight companies offered information and advice on how to keep safe in an online environment, while one did not. It should be noted however that although most of the services did place safety messages on their site, these were not necessarily situated on the actual IM pages. Further, six of the eight relevant companies did not provide safety information both on the page for downloading the IM client and on the actual IM itself, whereas one company did provide this information in both locations. One company was not considered to be applicable because their IM client was not downloadable and was an integral part of their chat services. Five companies who had IM clients provided links to online safety guides from their IM pages, whilst three did not. Almost all the companies did actually

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provide some direction to safety guides but it could not be flagged in the audit because it aimed to identify a count of those located in the IM web pages, not on the company web site itself. Of the eight IM services assessed, two showed safety messages when users completed a user profile for IM. Three did not show safety messages at this juncture and three more did not have a facility for profile completion (this question was therefore considered ‘not applicable’ for these three companies). Of those five services that did have facilities for IM profiles, two included safety messages, whilst three did not. Four of the companies provided information regarding those elements of personal user data that would be placed in the public domain, while three did not. This question was ‘not applicable’ to one company, as there was no facility to place any information in the public domain. Half of the eight IM providers supplied a safety message when the user considered adding a person to their buddy list, and the other half did not. Table 6.3. provides an overview of the frequency of all IM safety advice features.

Table 6.3.

IM safety advice: findings from the objective audit Frequency of positive recordings Frequency of negative recordings

Is there information on how to keep safe in an online public environment? Is safety information provided both on the page for downloading the IM client and the actual IM itself? Are there links to Online Safety Guides? Are safety messages available when completing IM profiles? Is information provided on what will be

7

1

1

6

5 2

3 3

4

3

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placed on the public domain? Is there a safety message present when a user considers adding a person not on their buddy list?
N = 8 (where the two columns do not add up to 8, questions were ‘not applicable’ to certain companies)

4

4

c) Tools and Reporting
All eight companies had ignore or block features in place and all eight supplied information on how to deal with unwanted Instant Messages. Half of the companies who provided IM services had features for reporting abuse, allowing users to provide information about an abusive incident, and half did not. This finding could be explained by the fact that it might have been possible to report abuse via general contact e-mails, but there was no specific system in place to encourage users to report an abusive episode. Five companies provided a facility whereby users could record evidence of abuse, and three offered no recording facilities. However in at least one of these cases, there existed a centrally led facility that recorded all conversations that came through their IM client. In six cases, descriptions and/or examples of what constituted abuse were supplied, but in two cases no specific information was offered. Half of the companies distributed information on how to report serious and urgent incidents and half did not specifically have a facility to report incidents that were “serious and urgent”. Table 6.4. provides an overview.

Table 6.4.

IM safety tools and reporting facilities: findings from the objective audit Frequency of positive recordings Frequency of negative recordings

Are ignore or block features in place? Is information provided as to how to deal with unwanted IMs? Are there visible and easily accessible

8 8

0 0

4

4

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features for reporting abuse? Is information provided as to what constitutes abuse? Is there a facility whereby users can record abuse? Is information provided on how to report serious and urgent incidents?
N=8

6

2

5

3

4

4

d) Privacy
Six of the eight audited companies explained the purpose and distribution of personal information; two did not. Again, six companies informed the user of how their personal information would be used. However, it might be that those remaining two companies preferred to explain distribution of personal information in their Terms and Conditions or in other sections of their website, rather than in their actual IM pages. It appeared that for two of the eight companies, registration details were automatically transferred to either a public/user profile, or an open member directory. One company clearly did not do this whereas three companies did not provide any unequivocal information regarding transfer of registration details. Finally, for two companies this question was counted as ‘not applicable’ because their IM clients were designed such that the user did not provide any details other than a chosen username. Four of the eight companies assessed did not appear to provide advice regarding the potential risks of publicly accessible profiles/member directories whereas two did offer advice. For the remaining two companies, this question was deemed ‘not applicable’ since their users could not place information on user profiles. This approach does of course reduce risk even further, since potential abusers cannot search through directories to identify possible targets. Section three: Web services The third section of the objective assessment was directed at web services and included 16 questions. Findings from this section will be presented in two parts: connectivity providers and hosting providers. Nine of the questions focussed on connectivity providers and seven questions focussed on hosting providers. Thirteen of

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the 25 companies (52% of the total sample) provided connectivity and hosting as part (or all) of their service. All 13 companies who provided connectivity also provided hosting services whilst 9 of these 13 companies only provided connectivity and hosting services (no chat or IM).

Connectivity providers
Assessment of facilities available from connectivity providers was measured via extensive searches on the companies’ websites. Five of the 13 connectivity and hosting providers provided their home users with information detailing possible risks to children who use the web, whilst eight did not specifically do so. Furthermore, seven of the 13 companies did not provide information that parents might utilise in order to educate their children on the risks and only four companies directly encouraged parents to take practical steps in order to minimise risk (by, for example, recommending placement of home PCs in communal areas rather than in a child’s bedroom). Information on filtering software and safe surfing Guidelines did not appear on the majority of connectivity and hosting providers’ web pages. Four of the 13 companies offered their users the option of filtering software, three informed parents of the advantages and limitations of filtering software, five provided safe surfing Guidelines aimed at parents, and three directed safe surfing Guidelines to a child audience. It should be noted however, that safe surfing Guidelines would not probably be included in the ISP connectivity and host packages because users must be aged 18 years or over in order to join ISP services. Five of the 13 companies provided their users with information to allow them to report websites to the Internet Watch Foundation, whilst eight did not. However, the question asked was only whether users could report sites to the IWF. It may well have been the case that users were advised to report unacceptable sites to another source (e.g. the ISPs’ own abuse contact line). All 13 companies did state in their Terms and Conditions the boundaries of acceptable online behaviour. Table 6.5 summarises the frequency of all connectivity provider features examined by the research.

Table 6.5.

Connectivity provider safety features: findings from the objective audit

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Frequency of positive recordings

Frequency of negative recordings

Are home users provided information detailing risks to children who use the Web? Is information provided that parents may utilise in order to educate their children re: risks? Are parents encouraged to take practical steps in order to minimise risk? Are parents informed about the advantages and limitations of filtering and monitoring software? Are users offered the option of filtering software/filtered services? Are safe surfing Guidelines offered for parents? Are safe surfing Guidelines provided for young users themselves? Are users informed that they can report websites to the Internet Watch Foundation? Do Terms of Service explicitly state boundaries of acceptable online behaviour?
N = 13

5

8

6

7

4

9

3

10

4

9

5

8

3

10

5

8

13

0

Hosting providers
The final section of the assessment questionnaire included seven questions directed at ISPs who offered hosting facilities. As for connectivity providers, 13 assessed companies provided this resource. However, although one of the 13 hosting providers advertised web space as part of their package, the researcher could not find any

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further information regarding this service on the site, (even when logged on as a member), therefore all counts in the present section are out of 12 rather than 13. Two of the 12 assessed hosting companies provided safety advice for users who wished to create web pages and two also gave specific guidance for young users, whilst 10 did not provide either of these features. All 12 companies explicitly stated the boundaries of acceptable online behaviour, though only eight provided complaints facilities. As regards complaints concerning other users’ websites, only five companies provided a specific facility to deal with these problems. Nine of the 12 hosting providers assessed warned users that they were legally liable for whatever they placed on the web, whilst three did not. A negative recording for these three providers may be explained by the fact that although they stated that user accounts would be terminated if any unsuitable content were found, the legalities of fault were not mentioned. Finally, the majority of hosting providers (11) did not provide customers with information or encouragement to self-label their website(s). Table 6.6. provides an overview.

Table 6.6.

Hosting provider safety features: findings from the objective audit Frequency of positive recordings Frequency of negative recordings

Is safety advice available for home users re: creating web pages? Is specific guidance available for home users who are children and young persons? Do Terms of Service explicitly state the boundaries of acceptable online behaviour? Can complaints be made? Are users warned that they have legal liability for whatever they place on the

2

10

2

10

12

0

8 9

4 3

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web? Are effective mechanisms in place for dealing with complaints relating to customers’ websites? Are customers encouraged to provide selflabelling?
N = 12

5

7

1

11

Comparing present data with responses from Senior Managers As was found from the responses of Senior Managers, non-concordance with Model recommendations was higher with regards to the Models for connectivity and hosting providers compared to concordance with chat and IM recommendations. Again, implementation of advice encouraging users to self-label their content and concerning providing specific guidance to young people for creating web pages were found to have the lowest hosting provider implementation rates. Whilst all companies in this audit were found to explicitly state the boundaries of acceptable online behaviour in their Terms or Conditions, only seven of nine hosting provider Managers claimed that this was the case within their company. More significantly whilst eight out of nine Managers claimed that their organisation offered safety advice to home users regarding the creation of web pages, the present objective data indicated that only two out of 12 companies assessed actually did so. Similarly whilst only four of nine connectivity providers were found to advise parents to take practical steps in order to protect their children, five out of eight Managers claimed their sites encouraged parents to do this. Similarly whilst three of seven Managers for whom data was available said that their ISP provided information about the advantages and disadvantages of filtering software, a relatively lower concordance rate was found in the present data (three out of 10). Whilst half of the eight Managers claimed that users were informed they could report websites to the IWF only five of 13 sites assessed here were found to do so. Data from both the Managers and the audit revealed that 100% of the subsamples offering IM provided information regarding the service offered, the type of IM environment and how to adjust privacy settings. Similarly data from both subsamples indicated that ignore or block features were in place and information was

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provided on how to deal with unwanted instant messages. Similar rates of nonconcordance were found for information being available on both the home page for downloading IM and the IM client itself with only one of the seven applicable providers in the current sample doing so and none of the four representatives discussed in Chapter Four saying this was the case (though three of these Managers planned to introduce such information). Similarly only half of each sub-sample had in place easily accessible features for reporting abuse and information on how to report serious and urgent incidents at the time of data collection (though one company had plans to introduce each of these features). Across both chat sub-samples all companies appeared to provide information regarding the nature of the chat services offered. Similarly the present data indicates that only one of 15 chat providers did not have either ignore, alert or grab and print features in place and all eight of the chat Managers reported having at least two of these tools in place. Managers however tended to report higher levels than those identified by the audit for items enquiring whether there were separate safety messages designed for adults and children (eight of eight Managers reported they provided guides for under 16 year-olds and six claimed they offered guides for parents. This compares to six of 13 applicable sites that were identified by the audit as offering separate guides. Similarly, Managers reported higher levels of concordance than were identified via the audit on the following measures: easily available filtering mechanisms that might pick up bad language or prevent young users giving out their email addresses (8 out of 8 Managers vs. 7 out of 13 on audit), users being informed as to the time frame of a response when an incident is reported (4 out of 7 Managers vs. 2 out of 12 audit) and a system via which users can report problems with Moderators (5 out of 7 Managers vs. 3 out of 10 audit). Some of the discrepancies between the two data sets can be explained by differences between the samples – no representative was interviewed from 14 of the 25 companies audited. Where discrepancies arose these usually occurred in the direction of the Managers stating higher concordance rates than the audit indicated. This could be as a result of the auditor only marking a feature as being in place if it was both clear and easily accessible. Secondly those companies who were audited but declined to undertake an interview may have been less safety conscious than those who agreed to participate (see discussion regarding a possible filtering effect in the Methodology for the structured interviews). 149

Chapter summary

• •

Results indicate generally high levels of concordance with Model specific recommendations Safety tools and advice are most widely available within IM services (95.5% of majority positive recordings) followed by chat services (73.9%)

Key points for future action •
There is a significant lack of safety information and tools offered by connectivity and hosting providers (25%)

The focus of safety advice is general, rather than consisting of separate sets of advice aimed at children and parents

150

References

Hayward, B., Alty, C., Pearson, S. and Martin, C. (2002) Young people and ICT 2002: Findings from a survey conducted in Autumn 2002. London: British Educational Communications and Technology Agency. Home Office (2003). Good practice models and guidance for the Internet Industry on chat services, Instant Messaging (IM) and web based services. London: Home Office. Mintel Intelligence (2004: April). Marketing for children aged 7 to 10. London: Mintel. O’Connell, R., Barrow, C. and Sange, S. (2002). Young peoples’ use of chat rooms: Implications for policy strategies and programs of education. London: Home Office. O’Connell, R., Price, J. and Barrow, C. (2004). Emerging trends amongst primary school children’s use of the Internet. University of Central Lancashire: Cyberspace Research Unit. Potter, C. and Beard, A. (2004). Information Security Breaches Survey 2004. London: Department of Trade and Industry. The Office of National Statistics (2003). Individuals accessing the Internet: National Statistics Omnibus Survey. London: ONS. The Office of National Statistics (2003). Family Expenditure Survey. London: ONS.

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Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge the invaluable assistance of Mr John Morris of Stoneygate School, Mr Tony Hitchman of Edith Weston School, Mr Cliff Ashby of Medway Primary School and Miss Bridget O’Connor of Loughborough High School.

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Appendix

Table 4.1.

Table 4.1. Senior Manager positions as identified by the respondents
Business Relationship Manager Community Director Corporate Responsibility Director of Internet General Manager Head of Customer Security Managing Director Owner and Director Senior Advisor Editorial Department Senior Editor Senior Manager, Head of Chat and Community Service Operations Manager Technical Director UK Community Producer UK Country Manager

153

Table 4.2.

Table 4.2. Responses relating to the implementation of chat Model specific recommendations Plans to In place Introduced/ Safety feature introduce pre-Models changed in response to Models Product Clear, prominent information displayed concerning the type of service offered Clear, prominent information displayed concerning audience service is aimed at Safety advice Clear and prominent safety messages available on chat front pages Clear and prominent safety messages available in the chat rooms Safety messages aimed specifically at parents/carers/other adults Safety messages aimed specifically at young users under the age of 16 Safety messages can be easily understood by young users under the age of 16 Links available to online safety guides, in-house and/or third party safety sites

No plans to introduce

Not applicable*

Missing

8 8

1 1

5 7 5 8 8 7

1 1 1

1

1

1 1

1

1

1 1 1

1

1

154

Clear and prominent safety messages when a user completes their profile It is clear what profile information will be in the public domain

4 7

1

2

2 2

Registration Requests for personal information are as limited as possible The purpose of information gathered is clearly explained The distribution of registration information is clearly explained Are there clear community guidelines about conduct Public profiles The user is able to limit what information about them is made public Young users are particularly made aware of the need for caution Particular care taken to advise young users not to post their various addresses and telephone numbers Tools Ignore features Alert features Grab and print Reporting mechanisms Easily available filtering mechanisms that might pick up bad language or prevent young users giving out

7 6 6 6

1 1 1 1 2 2 1 1

7 2 2 2 1

2 5 6

7 5 1 7 7

2 1

1 1 3 1

4

1 1 1 1 1

155

their email addresses Users can block private chat/IM

6

2

1

Reporting Reporting mechanisms are in place Reporting mechanisms are clearly described Users are informed of what to expect (e.g. likely time frame of a response) Recording mechanisms are in place Moderated chat In chat rooms specifically aimed at young users there is an alert system (e.g. panic feature) at the top of each chat room page Moderators are easily accessible Moderators are screened (e.g. via Criminal Records Bureau checks) Moderators are trained Moderators are supervised Moderators are given a clear job description There is a system via which users can report problems with Moderators Moderators can block fake profiles/links from porn operators Moderators can block files or links that carry viruses or, e.g. dialler programmes linked to high cost telephone services Moderators operate on a 24/7 basis * Relevant service not offered by company

7 7 3 6

1 1 1 1

2

1 1

1 1 2 1

3

1

g

3

1

1

7 2 7 7 5 4 4 2

1

3

1

2 2 2 2 2 2 3 2 2

1 1

1 2

2

3

3

1

2

1

2

156

Table 4.3.

Table 4.3. Responses relating to the implementation of IM Model specific recommendations Introduced/ In place Safety feature changed in preresponse to Models Models Product Clear prominent information displayed concerning type of IM product offered Environment The type of IM environment is clearly described (e.g. open for people sharing similar interests or for buddies only) Users can easily access information concerning how to adjust their settings or preferences in order to increase or decrease privacy (e.g. users can easily change their audience to buddies only) Advice Safety messages available on the home page for downloading IM Safety messages available on the IM client Clear safety messages are present when a user completes their profile Information that will be in the public domain is highlighted when completing profiles Safety messages in place re: communicating with strangers

Plans to introduce

No plans to introduce

Not applicable*

Missing

3

1

3

3 3

1 1

3 3

2 1 1 1

3 1 1 1 2 1

1 1 1 1 1 1

3 3 3 3 3

157

Safety messages in place re: exchanging personal information Safety messages visible every time user receives message from a person not on their buddy list Safety messages visible when a user considers adding a person to their buddy list These messages can easily be understood by young users Safety messages aimed specifically at parents/carers/other adults Parents/carers are informed as to the easy access to chat rooms via IM Safety messages aimed specifically at young users under the age of 16 Links are available to online safety guides, in-house and/or third party safety sites

3 1 1 3

1 1 1 3 1 2 2 1 3 1

3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3

2

1 1

Tools Ignore or block features are offered Ignore or block features are clearly described Users are given the option to not receive messages from people not on their buddy list Information is available on how to deal with unwanted Instant Messages This information is clear and comprehensible Reporting Reporting mechanisms are in place Features for reporting abuse are clearly visible Clear information as to what constitutes abuse is given It is easy for users to report abuse (e.g. via archiving, screen grabs) Users are informed of what to expect (e.g. likely time frame of a

4 4 2 3 2

1 1 1 1

1

3 3 3 3 3

3 2 1 3 2

1 1 1 1 2 1

1

1

3 3 3 3 3

158

response)

Reporting serious incidents Clear information is available on how to report urgent and serious incidents Clear information is available as to what constitutes ‘urgent and serious incidents’ Clear information provided on how to contact law enforcement and child protection agencies Privacy The purpose and distribution of personal information is clearly explained Details from registration do not automatically transfer to public profiles or open member directories There are clear links to the ISP’s privacy policy The purpose and distribution of profiles/member directories is clearly explained Users are given clear advice regarding the potential risks of publicly accessible profiles/member directories Young users are made particularly aware of the need for caution Particular care is taken to advise young users under the age of 16 to not post their various addresses and telephone numbers * Relevant service not offered by company

2 1 1

1 1 1

1 1 3

3 3 3

3

1

3

4 2 1 1 1

1 1 1 1 1 2

1 1 1 1

3 3 3 3 3

159

Table 4.4.

Table 4.4 Responses relating to the implementation of connectivity Model specific recommendations Plans to In place Introduced/ Safety feature introduce pre-Models changed in response to Models Information Home users are provided with information detailing the risks to young users under the age of 16 Information is provided for parents to utilise in educating their young users under the age of 16 re: risks Parents are encouraged to take practical steps in order to minimise risk (e.g. advised to keep PCs in common areas of the home) Parents are given information regarding availability and use of filtering and monitoring software Parents are clearly informed of the limitations of filtering and monitoring software Safe surfing Safe surfing guidelines are offered These guidelines are written in an accessible format (as not all parents and carers are computer literate) Safe surfing guidelines are provided for young users

No plans to introduce

Not applicable*

Missing

5 2

1 2 1

2 3

1 1

3

2

3

1

5 3

1

1 2

1 2

1 2

5 5 4

1 1 1

2 2 3

1 1 1

160

themselves

Complaints Effective mechanisms are in place for dealing with complaints relating to users’ use of the web Terms of service Terms of service explicitly state the boundaries of acceptable online behaviour Users are informed that unacceptable behaviour may lead to withdrawal of service and/or referral to law enforcement Legal liabilities Users are warned they have legal liability for whatever they place on the web Filtering Users in the private home market are offered the option of filtering software or filtered services Reporting users Users are informed that pornographic, racist and other possibly illegal material may be reported to the IWF * Relevant service not offered by company

7

1

1

6 7

1 1

1

1 1

7

1

1

5

1

2

1

4

4

1

161

Table 4.5.

Table 4.5. Responses relating to the implementation of hosting provider Model specific recommendations Plans to No plans to In place Introduced/ Safety feature introduce introduce pre-Models changed in response to Models Information and guidance (in relation to home users only) Clear guidance is available in relation to home users 6 re: creating web pages Specific guidance is available for home users who are young users under the age of 16 and young persons Home users are warned about publishing personal 5 details on their web pages Terms of service Terms of service explicitly state the boundaries of acceptable online behaviour Users are informed that unacceptable behaviour may lead to withdrawal of service and/or referral to law enforcement Customers are informed they have legal obligations of their own regarding certain types of content

Not applicable*

Missing

2 2

1 7

3 3

1

1

2

3

5 7

2 1

2 1

3 3

7

1

1

3

162

Complaints Effective mechanisms are in place for dealing with complaints relating to customers’ websites Self-labelling Customers are encouraged to provide self-labelling of the content of their sites using PICS compatible systems such as ICRA Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) Company are members of the IWF A link too, or information about the IWF is provided in order to facilitate reporting of illegal content Procedures are in place for removing illegal content as soon as it is reasonably possible * Relevant service not offered by company

8

1

3

1

8

3

7 7 8

1 1

2 1

3 3 3

Notes for interpretation of data in table 4.6 The percentages given in table 4.6 are derived from responses given to the closed-question items exploring implementation of Model-specific recommendations. It must be noted that as some of the Models’ recommendations were made up of a number of composite parts, it was necessary to break down some of the bullet-points in the Models to form the items used in the present study. This means that whilst one item might refer to one bullet-point of the Models in some cases, in other instances there may be a number of items for each Model recommendation (e.g. the Model for chat providers recommends that ‘service providers should deploy and give due prominence to some or all of the following safety tools’ and then goes on to list four sub-bullet points that were broken down into seven items in the present study). The given percentages can thus only be used as a rough indication of Model uptake within the sample. It is also perhaps worth noting that some of the items did not relate directly to Model recommendations but rather were additional areas of related interest that the research wished to explore in order to better meet its aims.

163

Some companies, who offered chat, IM, hosting, or connectivity, provided responses which were coded as ‘not applicable’ and these responses are not accounted for in the percentages displayed in table 4.6. Not applicable answers were coded as such when the risk that a certain Model recommendation aimed to prevent could not be associated with the service in question due to other measures being in place (e.g. not having a means by which users could enter any sensitive material into profiles meant that warnings to not enter such details were not required). Such measures in some instances might be seen to make the site safer than if the Models had been explicitly followed, and in all instances where a ‘not applicable’ answer was coded these measures had existed pre-Models (thus diminishing the relative magnitude of the baseline concordance discussed here). In interpreting these results it must also be noted that, as is discussed in Chapter 4, two of the respondents had no prior familiarity with the Guidelines. Whilst these respondents did have plans to implement certain Model specific recommendations these plans cannot be attributed to the Guidelines. Conversely, that the same companies had no plans to implement certain features at the time of the interview perhaps could be due to unfamiliarity with the Guidelines, thus diminishing potential Model impact. Another factor that must be taken into consideration when interpreting the present quantitative data is the small sub-sample size. In a few instances a single company described non-compliance towards a number of recommendations within a Model, and in other instances one company might have accounted for a large percentage of Model impact, thus skewing results slightly. The small sample size reflects the researchers’ difficulties in recruiting representatives. It is likely that those that did participate were more confident about the safety of their service(s) and/or were more safety conscious compared with Managers who declined to participate. This filtering effect could have skewed results in two ways, the main means being that the present sample would have been more likely to have had Model recommendations in place pre-Model thus perhaps under-representing Model impact and non-compliance compared to the rest of the Internet industry. However, secondly, in places where the present companies did not comply it is more likely that these more safety conscious services would take action to implement recommendations compared to less responsible businesses, thus increasing Model impact here compared with the general population.

164