Parliamentary Question for the Minister of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Pat Rabbitte TD)
To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on introducing legislation to block children from accessing adult Internet sites on their smart phones; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The protection of children in so far as this issue is concerned is paramount and there are a number of initiatives already in place in this respect, notably through the Department of Education’s resources and support for parents and children as well as the various initiatives carried out by the Office for Internet Safety. It is also essential that children, young people and parents are educated as to the risks that can be found online, that parents and teachers are supported in explaining these issues to children and that the optimal technical solution to protect children is identified. In this regard, there are a range of tools available online to assist parents in managing internet access. The industry also shares in the responsibility to take all reasonable steps to protect children and I have met the Internet Services providers (ISPs) and mobile operators to explore these issues in detail. The industry has already rolled out a variety of measures and resources, with software and other tools available to help parents ensure online safety for their children.
I remain to be convinced that a blanket or ‘default on’ blocker such as that implemented in the UK would achieve the desired ends particularly in respect of smart phones and other mobile devices. I also question whether, in fact, it is open to Governments to impose a blanket or general obligation of this nature on ISPs. What we need to ensure is that the State responds appropriately and in a manner which is effective, workable and respects the rights of individuals. Work is continuing to identify measures which might prove effective. To this end I set up the Internet Content Governance Advisory Group in December of last year. The Group are considering issues such as that raised by the Deputy and will report to me in May. I intend to bring this report to Cabinet and the Joint Oireachtas Committe.