Monday 3 September 2007
Labor too late on pro-anorexia websites
The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator the Hon Helen Coonan, today called on Opposition health spokeswoman Nicola Roxon to get behind the Howard Government’s world-leading NetAlert initiative.
“I note Nicola Roxon’s comments in the media yesterday, calling for action on pro-anorexia websites.
“Coincidentally, I launched the information campaign for NetAlert – Protecting Australian Families Online yesterday, so there has never been a more opportune time to talk about the way young people use the internet, the potential risks of the online environment, and what the Government is actually doing to empower parents to tailor their children’s internet experience.
“NetAlert is providing parents with the tools they need to reduce the risk of their children accessing illegal, inappropriate or offensive online material and activities that parents or carers believe are harmful. This includes helping parents deal with social and health issues, such as eating disorders and bullying that can be exacerbated by inappropriate and unsupervised internet use.
“The greatest tool that we have in protecting Australia’s most precious asset, our children and young people, is the active involvement of parents, grandparents and other carers of children.
“I am encouraging parents to use the SEE principle of Supervise, Educate and Equip to help protect their families from offensive material online.
“This includes the use of filtering technology to block access to material that parents would prefer their children not to see.
“Parents can enter keywords to help block websites containing those words, or the filters can be used to help block entire categories of content.
“There are a number of categories that can be blocked, including, in at least one of the filters, pro-anorexia and drug-related websites,” said Senator Coonan.
“The filters also allow parents to limit their child’s time on the internet and monitor sites that have been visited by their children.
“However, we have never claimed that there is a silver bullet when it comes to online safety,” said Senator Coonan.
“Our collaborative approach has been to develop a comprehensive response to give parents, grandparents and other carers of children, the tools they need to protect children online.
Over the next few weeks, the Australian Government will distribute internet safety information and advice to Australian parents and carers to help manage their family’s internet experience.
Senator Coonan said the information would include internet safety strategies and offer a free internet filter to suit each family’s values and needs.
“Together with the Prime Minister, I announced the details of NetAlert in August,yet Labor still seems to have no understanding of theprogramme and what it will achieve.
“So I say to Ms Roxon, and indeed Labor leader Kevin Rudd, you should have a good look at the NetAlert initiative before levelling criticism. The Australian public understand these are complex issues. They want practical support to help combat the dangers their children face online, not vague promises.
“I’ve said time and time again that the protection of children is our highest priority and should be above politics and I welcome the support of all parliamentarians, regardless of political affiliation, for this world-leading initiative.
“The Howard Government has a serious commitment to protecting our children online, that is why we have delivered a comprehensive programme to using the broadest possible line of defence in protecting Australian families online,” said Senator Coonan.
Parents, grandparents and carers can visit www.australia.gov.au/netalert or call the help line on 1800 880 176 for advice about managing online safety, as well as access to free internet content filters, and information about how they work.Media Contact: Katherine Meier 0417 441 141