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There is no magic “safe internet” button. If you want parental control, that’s what it means – a parent, being in control.

Chris Lynch – Writer, Hypnotist, Technologist, Parent

In the first of our guest writer blogs, Technology expert Chris Lynch talks about the use and effectivness of parental controls.

Momo.

There, I’ve said it.

Momo.

You couldn’t move for the scare stories about the “Momo Challenge” online a month or so back, followed by the stories that it was all a scam, followed then by the stories that it was now real… inspired by the original scam.

I’m not writing about whether or not Momo is, or was, real. Momo, in and of itself, is not the problem.

The problem is that the potential for something like Momo to exist is there and that many people seem to think that the solution for this needs to be found in technology, legislation, or both. We need to make the Internet safe for kids, yeah?

We can’t make the internet completely safe for kids anymore than we can make the world completely safe for kids.

It’s a great soundbite but… no.

We can’t make the internet completely safe for kids anymore than we can make the world completely safe for kids. It’s a misconception, a grift, a fraud, desired by parents and leveraged politicians, but it’s utterly, utterly wrong.

Why? It’s pretty simple – and like many thinks involving technology, it’s a numbers game.

Nothing, ever in recorded history, made by humans has been close to perfect. Nothing is 100% efficient or effective. We may be fundamentally incapable of achieving perfection, perfection itself may simply be unattainable. But let’s not get too abstract – simple rule, rule 1, we’re never going to get a 100% successful system of internet filtering or “parental controls”.

Does that matter? Isn’t something better than nothing?

Well, no, I don’t think it is.

Let’s assume that we can create a system that is 99% effective at filtering out “bad stuff”.
Now, depending on which set of statistics you choose to believe the internet is 5-15% pornography. Anything up to 30% of all internet bandwidth consumed is pornography.

And that’s just what we can know about. Beneath the internet lies “The Dark Web”, the internet of sites and servers that are not indexed by search engines and exist outside of the mainstream internet, but are nevertheless accessible any one with an internet connection and a little bit of know how.

In 2018, there were an estimated 1.8 billion websites.

So, 1.8 billion websites and (on the most conservative measure I could find) 5% of those are the kind of stuff you don’t want your kids to see. That’s 90,263,000 (and a half) websites. If 1% of these can sneak past your filter, you’re looking at 902,630 websites.

Yep, that’s right – your shiny new 99% effective internet filtering tool is going to let through 900 thousand websites full of stuff you don’t want your kids to see. Doesn’t sound good now, does it?

Let’s also remember that if it’s wrong on 1% of pornography, it’s going to also be wrong on 1% of everything else (at least). Your internet filter that is right 99% of the time just blocked 18,052,600 websites for no reason.

This, fundamentally, is the problem with parental controls.

Following the “Momo” news stories online I was horrified by the number of parents who were commenting that their “parental controls” were “as tight as can be” and yet they were still worried. Well, as I hope I’ve shown you now – “as tight as can be” really isn’t very tight at all and they were right to be worried.

If a bleach told you that it killed 99% of all known germs, would you lick the inside of a toilet after it had been cleaned with that product? Nope, because 1% of the stuff we know about is still there and anything up to 100% of the stuff we don’t know about is there too.

The best parental control on the planet is the one that involves you sitting with your kid when they are on the internet

If I told you that you could leave your kid on a street corner and there was only a 1 in 100 chance that something bad would happen to them, would you take that gamble?

No, of course you wouldn’t.

Ultimately, with today’s technology (and maybe with anything that the future brings) there is no such thing as a “safe” internet. There’s the potential for a “safer” internet, but safer isn’t safe.

The best parental control on the planet is the one that involves you sitting with your kid when they are on the internet. It means watching hours of mind numbing YouTube videos about Peppa Pig, Minecraft, or some band that neither you nor I have ever heard of. It means playing the same games as they do. It means keeping a hawk like watch on pop-up ads, chat messages, and pre-roll videos. It means not letting them have headphones so you can hear what they hear.

There is no magic “safe internet” button. If you want parental control, that’s what it means – a parent, being in control.

About the author
Chris Lynch is a writer with several Amazon best sellers, a technology expert and hypnotist. He has had a short film, The Black Room,  published on Amazon prime.  His latest book:  The Truth About SEO: How to survive online in a world of robots, demons, influencers, and spiders  is available now.

Hoshi Martial Arts is a trading name of Hoshi: Keeping Children Safe C.I.C.  A not-for-profit organisation, we are registered as a Community Interest Company in England and Wales

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