The study indicates there is no link between the types of Internet filters
used for home computers and the likelihood of the teenagers being protected from accessing unpleasant online material or from being contacted online by suspicious strangers. The study was performed by Oxford University (U.K.) researchers. The general conclusion of the stud is that the effectiveness of Internet filters “dubious”. Moreover, the study says that putting more money and resources into improving the filter technology is not a good use of resources (given the potential flaws) and instead money is better spent working with schools to educate teenagers about the unsuitability of certain materials and helping to boost the resilience of teenagers to such experiences.
These findings come from Oxford University’s Oxford Internet Institute. For the research, the investigators looked at data collated by the U.K.’s communications regulator Ofcom. This consisted of 1,030 interviews in the homes of 515 teenagers aged 12-15 years. The subjects were drawn from across Britain. With the teenagers, the mix of boys and girls was near equal. In addition to the teenagers, parents were also interviewed. The questions to the parents related to whether or not Internet filters had been fitted and, if so, the type of filter.
The teenagers were interviewed
and asked if they had experienced inappropriate content over a twelve month period. Here one in six reported that they had experienced at least one negative experience online in the past year. In addition, eight percent reported they had been contacted by someone online who seemed suspicious. More worryingly, 4 percent said said they had encountered another person pretending to be them online.
In this context, one-third of parents used Internet content filters on the computers in the home. While some parents chose not to use filters, one quarter were unaware that filter technology was available. Where filters were used, the findings suggest that the filters were not always effective. Here the researchers recommended that more focus is needed on educating and supporting teenagers to view online material responsibly.
The study findings are reported to The Journal of Pediatrics
. The applicable research paper is titled “Internet Filtering Technology and Aversive Online Experiences in Adolescents.”