Sydney, Feb 26 : Improved education about online safety, not internet filtering, could be more effective in preventing children from viewing inappropriate material on the web, according to a report by Australia's communications regulator.
In the first of three reports on online safety to be prepared for the Australian Government, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) said that targeted education campaigns, similar to those in Europe, would make children aware about the dangers of online scams and illegal contact from adults.
The report argued that though the countrywide Internet filtering proposed by the Government would be helpful in preventing access to illegal material such as child pornography, it would not succeed in providing security against a range of other risks.
ACMA also said that Internet filtering would not prevent child pornography from being produced.
"It is worth noting that these measures are effective only after the fact and do not prevent the creation of illegal material nor, in the case of child pornography, the sexual exploitation of children," News.com.au quoted the report, as stating.
Though Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said that the Government is committed to introducing ISP-level Internet filtering, he also accepted that other measures were needed to guarantee the safety of children online.
"The Government's cyber-safety plan presents a comprehensive range of measures that involves education, international co-operation, research, law enforcement and Internet service provider (ISP) filtering," Conroy said.
"ACMA's report also identifies that there is no silver bullet solution to the problem of online risks, especially as there is a shift from webpages to interactive internet technologies such as chat rooms," he added.
The report discussed the efficiency of strategies such as internet filtering, content rating and education programs in reducing a range of online risks including fraud, cyber-bullying, illegal contact between adults and children and access to illegal and inappropriate material.
It found that internet filtering was effective at blocking access to illegal and inappropriate material, but failed to provide any security against risks such as fraud, illegal contact or cyber-bullying.
The ACMA said that a mixture of educational and legal strategies would be almost as effective at blocking access to illegal and inappropriate material, and would be more effective at teaching children about the dangers of fraud, illegal contact and cyber-bullying.
"Education is a viable alternative or supplement to filtering in targeting risks associated with inappropriate content, particularly for older children who may endeavour to circumvent filtering that they perceive the be restrictive," the report said.