Web 2.0 services pose the biggest risk to Australian kids -- and current filtering technologies aren't up to the job of protecting them, according to a report released yesterday.
"Risks to Australian youth are primarily the risks that are associated with Web 2.0 services -- potential contact by sexual predators, cyber-bullying by peers and misuse of personal information," the Australian Communications and Media Authority's (ACMA) report said.
Despite the popularity of IM and chat services, current technology is not yet adequate to filter their content, the document said: "Filters are yet to develop sufficiently to adequately address real time online communications."
Parental monitoring software, which can record IM conversations or screenshots of user activity can be useful according to the report: "Parental control software enables parents to monitor their children's use of IM and chat services and can alert them to particular risks."
In the future, the report forecasts that near real-time filtering of content or interpersonal communications such as online gaming and chat will be developed.
With more complicated filtering, however, there is the risk of Internet performance reduction.
"Solutions that have been deployed in other countries to filter and block illegal content using index filtering cause no more than a small reduction in the performance of the network in which they are installed. However filtering and blocking solutions that must manage and process much larger indexes or undertake complex analysis of content or both inevitably create a more significant drain on processing resources," the document said.
For ISPs implementing filtering and blocking solutions, the size of the task is related to the number of subscribers using the filter, according to the report. "Without substantially augmenting the processing capability of its existing hardware an appreciable reduction in network performance is inevitable," it said.
Younger children can, however, benefit from simple white list filters -- filters which only allow access to a list of safe sites -- according to the report.
"Filters may be particularly advantageous in controlling the Internet access of very young children who lack the skills or understanding to make decisions about the kinds of content that may be appropriate for them," the report said.