Monday, 27 February 2012

SafeSearch settings, are they really that safe?

If you've got children who can access a computer, then you more than likely have SafeSearch settings on search engines such as Google or Yahoo set to “Strict” which will filter out any adult content. Theoretically anyway.

The search filters work by searching for key words linked to the image when performing a search, however if there aren't any objectionable words on the website where the image is stored then the filter will not work and adult images will be shown. For example:

I typed “fox” into Google with the SafeSearch settings set to strict and as expected, I was shown pictures of foxes, however I was also shown images of the actress Megan Fox:

Not too bad, but on page 8:

I also tried the same search on Yahoo with the search settings also set to strict which should filter out adult content. The results were worse:

I also tried the same search settings with the word “melons”:

I can’t actually show you the “SafeSearch” results for Yahoo as they’re not safe for work, but I’m sure you get the idea. However if you do want to see how bad it can be, have a search around for yourself with different words.

There is an option to report the inappropriate pictures which is demonstrated in this video:

 However not all images are guaranteed to be removed.

So is simply relying on SafeSearches (which many parents do) enough to protect your children from seeing inappropriate content online? Even if you wanted to check what they were looking at after using the computer by checking the internet history, you’re likely to not realise if they are. Admittedly though, you’d probably realise something wasn’t quite right if you had quite a few page views of “melons”. Obviously, you can’t sit with your child every time they’re using the computer but you can try to keep on top of what they’re doing to keep them safer online. Here are a few useful tips & warning signs to look out for:

  • Keep the computer or laptop in a communal room and if possible, in an area which is easily viewable by you. Be aware if they quickly close or minimise windows when you enter a room or walk nearby and question the reason why.
  • Turn the internet off when everyone should be in bed.
  • Set up parental controls through your admin account on your PC so that the computer will limit internet usage for your child’s account during specific hours – you can also choose to prevent them from playing on certain age restricted games etc.
  • Use pop-up blockers for your browser to stop children being able to click through to other sites.
  • Be aware of ALL computers your child has access to – including smart phones and check them every once in a while – make them aware that the same rules apply to those as when using a regular PC.  
  • Check your child’s internet history frequently – if it is being deleted often then question why
  • Still make use of SafeSearch settings but sit with your child when looking for vague search phrases or explore the idea of lettings them use child friendly search engines such as AskKids or KidsClick.

I hope you’ve found some useful information here. I may look into the parental controls for PCs in my next post – thanks for reading!


Monday, 13 February 2012

Back In My Day...

I've found myself saying this more and more lately, (in fact, i'm starting to get on my own nerves – i'm only 22!) the way technology is advancing and the amount of different ways people can communicate with each other is getting crazy!

I suppose, if I think it's bad for me, I can't fathom how different everything is for my parents since they were younger.  back in their day:

There were no emails, just letters, so if you  happened to do something wrong and wanted to tell a friend about it, then that would be the only convicting evidence you'd have. There were no camera phones, or digital cameras so if there were ever any inappropriate photos taken, they would most likely only stay with the intended recipient – it would have taken more of an effort to try and get copies to pass around!

I recently watched a programme on BBCthree called “Websex: what's the harm?”, it's no longer available on the iPlayer, but i'm sure there will be clips on YouTube or somewhere on the internet as most things are these days (see, there I go again!). The programme followed Nathalie Emmanuel (@missnemmanuel) as she investigated the youth culture's attitude towards online sex and also a trend among young people called “sexting”.

Nathalie spoke to one young girl who said that she had been picked on in school because of her looks, and although she was a naturally pretty girl, it still knocked her confidence significantly. The only place she found solace was online where she could meet new friends and boys would tell her that she was beautiful. Talking online with someone can sometimes create a false feeling of security with another person and over time this can develop into the passing on of phone numbers and this is generally where sexting occurs.

Sexting is worrying trend that more and more young people are taking part in. It involves sending illicit messages or photos/videos of yourself to share with another person. Sadly, more and more young girls are sending these sort of images to new boyfriends only to split up a few weeks later and then the image is passed on (if it hadn't already been) to others or even posted online. Once online the images can be very difficult to remove.

Uploading images and videos to websites aren't just exclusive to mobile phones either, Nathalie also visited a lady who makes a living out of “performing” on webcams and she explained that on quite a few occasions, she has found her performances on pornographic websites without any knowledge she was being recorded. There are certain software programmes available to download, which records the screen without the person you're video chatting to knowing they are being filmed.

A lot of children will end up stumbling on websites such as ChatRoulette with their friends as a bit of fun or even just chatting with their new online friends via webcams. The danger of this can be explained with this video:

The young girls in this video wouldn't have known that they were being filmed, and thought they were genuinely talking to their idol, Justin Bieber – however this was just a loop of film.
This could be potentially done with anyone though. What if the purpose of the loop of film wasn't just for a laugh? What if it was being used to trick young kids into doing other things on webcam by pretending to be someone else? As seen in the video above, the whole thing can be recorded and posted online for everyone to see. Sometimes there are dedicated websites to these sorts of videos, although they're normally disguised as something else.

Last year CEOP took down a paedophile ring who were doing just that:

I know I seem to be repeating myself a lot on these blogs at the moment, but the only way to tackle problems like these with your kids is to be a lot more active within their online lives as well as their offline lives. 

  • Keep internet use confined to a family room if possible, or turn internet routers off during times when they are supposed to be in bed to limit their activity. 
  • Check what websites or programmes your child are visiting or using so you can monitor their use and check their friend lists if possible. Some programmes such as Skype will also keep a log of messages sent and received as well as any video calls sent/received. Check these regularly to see who your child is chatting to and the content (bear in mind they may use acronyms so visit my other post to see a list of common acronyms used).
  • Chat to your kids and explain the dangers of whatever they do online can be seen by more than the intended recipient and can be very difficult, if not impossible to remove.

For more information on ways to speak to kids of different age groups about this subject or for other hints and tips to keep your kids safe online – visit CEOP's ThinkUKnow website.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Safer Internet Day 2012

 Hi all,

Just a quick post to mention Internet Safety Day (SID) which will take place on the 7th February 2012.

The day has been organised by The UK Safer Internet Centre which is co-funded by the EC and brought to you by a partnership of three leading organisations, Childnet International, the South West Grid for Learning and the Internet Watch Foundation. CEOP's is helping to raise awareness to this day via their ThinkUKnow website and it's aim is to educate parents about how to keep their kids safer online. The ThinkUKnow website will host The Parents & Carers Guide to the Internet and will have interviews from experts including Dr Tanya Byron and Dr Linda Papadopoulos, industry players like Facebook and Moshi Monsters and, most importantly, children themselves - this guide aims to answer all of the tricky questions parents may be afraid to ask. It will be a short TV style programme which will be a light hearted and entertaining approach to show what it's like bringing up kids in today's online world.

A new page has been launched for parents on the ThinkUKnow site too which can be found here:  it has new content and from 7am on the 7th of February will also contain the new video guide mentioned above. (The video can also be found on CEOP's YouTube channel too at ).

If you have any questions you want to ask the CEOP team – you can do so by posting questions via their facebook page ( or by joining the conversation on twitter by using #parentsguide between the hours of 6pm and 9pm.

Hope to see you there!


Thursday, 2 February 2012

CEOP – What do they do?

As CEOP has provided support and advice for the company I work for and are all over the flyers and leaflets in work, i've often wondered what exactly it is they do, I thought i'd create a post while I found out!. Although I've heard of CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) as it's a pretty well known name now e.g. i've heard it quite a lot on the news, I don't know a great deal about them, apart from when they were in the news a year or two ago, trying to persuade websites such as Bebo & Facebook to install “panic buttons” on their webpages, and i'm sure many people have roughly the same amount of knowledge.

CEOP's main objective is to eradicate the sexual abuse of children. The organisation consists of police officers who have specialist experience of tracking and prosecuting child sex offenders and are working towards their objective with seconded staff from organisations such as the NSPCC, sponsored by companies such as VISA and SERCO as well as experts from government and corporations such as Microsoft who offer specialist advice and guidance.

CEOP's work is far more in depth than just tracking convicted and potential sex offenders both at home and abroad though, they study how offenders operate and think, how children and young people behave and how technological advances are developing. Which is well needed in today's modern world.

As i've already mentioned (and this may also be how you've heard of CEOP),  A “ClickCEOP” panic button was created to help protect vunerable kids online which has been installed on several websites that young people use including, Facebook, Bebo to name a few. The idea first came from CEOP's former CEO Jim Gamble who called for the panic button to be installed in March 2010. The idea behind it is that if a child felt uncomfortable or at risk online, they could simply click a button and it would be reported to the police via their ThinkUKnow website where it could then be investigated by police officers.

So what actually happens when the button is pressed? Well...


CEOP first came together in 2006 and there's no denying that the work they continue to do is invaluable, just take a look at these statistics:

CP = Children Protected due to the help of CEOP
A = Arressts made thanks to intelligence passed on from CEOP
SO = High risk sex offender networks disrupted and dismantled. 

Looking forward, CEOP has three priorities this year:

  • Prevent – to make it more difficult to exploit children.
  • Protect – Identify and safeguard children who are at risk.
  • Pursue – Identify offenders and stop or disrupt their activity.

And they will also be dealing with six high threats this year which is what they will be mainly focusing on:
  •  How children behave online which is putting them at risk online.
  •  Children who are particularly vunerable to abuse.
  •  Use of developing technology by offenders and those who are vulnerable
  •  Offenders who exploit children
  •  Offenders who make, distribute or access child abuse material; and 
  •   The trafficking of children. 

If you would like to know more about CEOP then visit their website. It has information on Most Wanted lists and the child sex offender disclosure scheme.

This website contains information for parents, carers, teachers and trainers, but it also contains useful information for different age groups of kids too. The 8-10 section has information about how to stay in control on different devices that many young kids have today, such as mobiles and online games. It's worth a look if you're a parent too – just to keep yourself updated!

Hope you've found this post useful. Thanks for reading! CEOP are also hosting a “Safer Internet Day” on the 7th of Feb 2012, so i'll be looking into what they've got planned in my next post.


NB: CEOP suggest that if a child is in immediate danger and anyone is concerned then they need to contact 999.