Leading online and high street store Argos has partnered with Symantec – the company behind Norton online security products – to become the world’s first retailer to offer free online safety software to parents, whether or not they are customers.
From today Argos will offer Norton Family software to any parent or other person looking after children, to help them to control access via internet enabled devices including PCs, laptops, smartphones or tablets. Argos is expected to sell hundreds of thousands of internet-enabled devices before Christmas, but the software will be offered free of charge whether or not a device is purchased from the retailer. It will enable web monitoring and blocking of certain sites, social network monitoring, Android smartphone monitoring and parent email alerts, helping those looking after children to better understand their children’s internet behaviour and prompting conversations about the potential risks.
The move pre-empts the Government’s proposed legislation to ensure protection for children from adult content on the internet. The joint Argos/Symantec initiative has the backing of Reg Bailey, Chief Executive of Mothers’ Union, who conducted a Government-commissioned, independent review into the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood. The 2011 report entitled ‘Letting Children be Children’ has led to the Government initiating an effort to bring together all companies involved in internet connectable devices to establish mechanisms, a code of practice and ultimately legislation to ensure protection for children from adult content on the internet (Active Choice).
Also behind the move is new research which indicates that whilst parents feel their children are protected from explicit content, violence and social media sites on their home PCs, their ability to monitor activity on mobile devices represents increasing cause for concern. The research commissioned as part of the Argos Safe Kids Online launch found that 89% of parents have some measures in place to control their child’s internet usage in the home. On mobile devices, however, 42% have no safety device in place for their children. In fact, a quarter believe that it is impossible to monitor internet usage on smartphones and tablets.
The Norton Family software includes the following features:
– Android smartphone monitoring – to see how children are using their phones
– Web monitoring and blocking – tracks what websites your child visits
– Time limits – manages the time children can access the internet from any device
– Social networking monitoring – keeps an eye on your children’s activity
– Search monitoring – updates what your children are searching for
– Email alerts – alerts you when your children do something they shouldn’t, like try to access blocked sites.
The Norton Family software can be downloaded via Argos’ website or via QR code, by calling Argos, via the retailer’s Facebook or Twitter pages, via its gift guide, its Spring/Summer catalogue or in store. Customers for whom Argos has email addresses are also being contacted.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: "The internet is a brilliant resource for children of all ages and increasingly plays a key part in our day-to-day lives. As parents, we all want our children to be safe when they click online but it can be difficult to know how best to protect them from harmful material and inappropriate sites.
“I am determined that we do something about that and last year's Bailey review set out how we would better equip parents to keep their children safe. Government, business, parents and others must all do more and we are starting to see people rise to that challenge.
“I welcome the steps Argos has taken today to help parents keep their kids safe online."
Reg Bailey, Chief Executive, Mothers’ Union, said: “Mothers’ Union works to create a more family friendly society in which children are valued for who they are. For several years, we have been concerned about the commercialisation and inappropriate sexualisation of children.
“In my review, one of the things that parents told me was that with the growth of internet enabled devices, it was hard for them to keep track of what their families were being exposed to. What they wanted was a really simple and easy way to set up parental controls. This initiative is exactly the sort of thing I had hoped for, so I am delighted with this approach, and I hope many parents will make good use of it.”
John Walden, Argos Managing Director, said: "We believe the internet is a great place for education, networking and entertainment, but it wasn’t part of many parents’ early experiences so it’s not surprising there are gaps in knowledge between them and their kids. We want to help close that gap in a helpful way.
“At Argos, we sell hundreds of thousands internet enabled devices each year and we felt it was our responsibility to help customers understand more about what children are doing online so they can manage the risks they see. Then we decided to make it available for all. It is a difficult area to tackle but we wanted to take a step forward and will continue to push for more to be done."
Founder of Netmums Siobhan Freegard said: “Over a million parents use Netmums each week and many are baffled about the best way to keep their kids safe online – so this fantastic campaign will have a dramatic impact on making the web safer for children.
“Like all lessons in life, children have to be taught right from wrong and by downloading this software, parents can begin that journey in a safe and controlled way. The internet is now a vital part of life and essential for children for many tasks from homework to socialising, so the earlier parents help their kids use it safely, the more comfortable mums and dads will be.
“Argos have taken a bold step on the road to responsible retailing and I hope the campaign sets a standard for other firms to follow.”
Barnardo’s said: “It is important children can use the internet to learn, develop or play but Barnardo’s wants to make sure they are protected from potential risks associated with internet access. All parents should be aware of what their child is doing online, and be able to have an honest conversation with them about the appropriate and safe use of the internet.”