Parents urged to police internet

Parents should be the first to take responsibility for stopping their children looking at internet pornography, the new Culture Secretary has said.

Maria Miller said calls demanding internet companies block access to hardcore online porn as a default setting would be considered by the Government.

But she emphasised that "first and foremost" parents must ensure their children and using the internet safely.

"I think responsibility is very strongly with parents to make sure that they really understand how their children are using the internet...to make sure they are safe," the MP said.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Mrs Miller said there could be a role for the government in giving advice to parents on devices such as parental blocks on their home computers and similar software, adding: "I think probably the awareness of those sorts of pieces of software you can buy or indeed what you can do is not as high as it needs to be."

A petition signed by more than 110,000 people calling for internet service providers be made to compulsorily block access to pornography on computers, mobile phones and tablets was handed to 10 Downing Street last week.

In June the Government launched a 10-week consultation asking parents and businesses for their views on the best way to shield children from internet pornography. The study is also looking at measures to protect children from other potentially harmful sites such as those which promote suicide, anorexia, gambling, self-harm and violence.

Parents are being asked for their views on three possible systems, including one where users have to "opt in" to see adult sites, and one in which customers are presented with an unavoidable choice about whether they want filters and blocks installed.

The third option would combine the two systems, enabling customers to block some content automatically and be given a choice to unblock them as they wish.

It comes after David Cameron said earlier this year that the Government needed to look at whether internet services or devices might come with a filter on as their default setting or have a combination of a filter and an "active choice" by the customer.