14 July 2015 - The Media Development Authority has finalised its recommendations aimed at raising public awareness of Internet parental control services and making it easier for parents to access such tools.
• The Media Development Authority (MDA) has finalised its recommendations aimed at raising public awareness of Internet parental control services and making it easier for parents to access such tools.
• These measures were finalised following careful consideration of the feedback from the public and industry.
• MDA received a total of 20 written responses1 during a four-week public consultation2 held from April to May 2014. Nine of these were from members of the public while the others were submitted by security solution providers, Internet Access Service Providers (IASPs), the Media Literacy Council and social groups. Seven focus group sessions were also conducted with the public including parents with school-going children and youth social workers.
• MDA further engaged individual IASPs to discuss the implementation of the proposed measures and commissioned a telephone poll to obtain insights into parents’ views towards certain implementation aspects of the measures.
Current requirement for Internet parental controls
• Since 2012, MDA has made it mandatory for local IASPs to inform and offer optional Internet parental control services to subscribers when they sign up or renew their residential broadband and mobile Internet subscriptions.
• To complement this requirement, MDA works closely with the industry and community partners to reach out to students and parents. For example, MDA plays an active role in public education by supporting the Media Literacy Council’s efforts to roll out programmes to promote media literacy, cyber wellness and Internet safety among students and parents.
Five key areas of enhancement
MDA carefully considered the feedback received from the industry and public, and refined some of its initial recommendations on Internet parental control services to better balance industry and consumer interests. The finalised recommendations are:
• Subscription process – MDA will require IASPs to get their subscribers’ explicit decision on whether they want to subscribe to optional Internet parental controls at the point of their subscription, or within 14 days from contracting. The 14-day decision window was added due to feedback from parents that they would prefer to have some time to consider the offer, and requests from IASPs to have some flexibility in implementation.
• Subscription costs – New and re-contracting subscribers will be offered a one-time free trial of Internet parental controls for six months or half the term of their contracts, whichever is shorter. IASPs will need to obtain express consent from subscribers before any subsequent charges can be levied after the trial period. The duration of the free trial period should give parents enough time to try out and assess the usefulness of the Internet parental controls. They can then choose to extend the service for a monthly fee as determined by their IASP. This approach also allows IASPs to offer more comprehensive functionalities to better meet the needs of parents.
• Categories of content to be filtered by default – MDA will require IASPs to filter by default content containing sexually explicit material, violence and gore, for subscribers who opt for Internet parental controls. These content categories received strong support for inclusion in all the focus groups and written responses from individuals.
• Network level filtering – MDA’s initial recommendation for parental controls to be deployed at the network level remains unchanged. This will make it easier for less technologically-savvy parents and households with multiple Internet-enabled devices at home to use Internet parental controls. According to MDA’s 2014 “Zero-to-Fourteen” consumer survey3, most children under the age of 14 access the Internet from their homes or if on the go, from their mobile networks. Network level controls therefore offer a baseline level of protection for children. IASPs are free to offer device level controls to subscribers in addition to deploying the network level Internet parental controls.
• Technical assistance – IASPs should continue to provide reasonable technical support to subscribers with respect to filtering arrangements, for the duration of their Internet access subscription period. As an additional step, MDA will also require IASPs to offer instructional guides on the use of their Internet parental controls.
These five recommendations are expected to take effect by end 2016. Click here for more information on the public consultation.
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1The following organisations had submitted written responses to MDA: Media Literacy Council; Care Singapore; Focus on the Family; Wonderfully Made; Nominum; Netsweeper; McAfee and Symantec (Norton); Singtel; StarHub; and M1.
2The news release on the launch of this public consultation on 21 April 2014 can be found here.
3The Zero-to-Fourteen Consumer Survey focuses on the media consumption habits of children. The survey provides up-to-date data about children’s media habits to help shed light on the important role of the media in the lives of children in Singapore and to inform on MDA’s work in protecting children, especially online. The survey is available here.
About Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA)
The Media Development Authority of Singapore (www.mda.gov.sg) promotes the growth of globally competitive film, television, radio, publishing, games, animation and interactive digital media industries. It also regulates the media sector to safeguard the interests of consumers, and promotes a connected society. MDA is a statutory board under the Ministry of Communications and Information (www.mci.gov.sg).