Suicide sites girl 'secretly got rid of parental controls' to access internet

Paul Whitehouse A TEENAGER who took her life after viewing internet suicide websites had secretly removed computer controls which should have stopped her accessing potentially dangerous material, the Yorkshire Post has learned.

Carina Stephenson used her knowledge of computers to override the controls in the program designed to give parents control over what could be obtained from the internet.

Instead, she installed her own replacement program which allowed her to view unrestricted a range of websites offering information about suicide.

She used the details she gathered from one site to plan her death in Doncaster earlier this year, prompting a campaign for a legal clampdown to bar access to such sites from computers in this country.

The ease with which the 17-year-old was able to override the controls meant to keep her safe demonstrates the difficulty faced by society in keeping youngsters safe from illicit material on the web.

Her parents, John Stephenson and Liz Taylor, believed Carina was able to view only innocent material because they had bought a computer which allowed them to set parental restrictions to censor what could be viewed.

It was only after her death that they discovered she had the expertise to override the program controls.

Her mother has now launched a campaign, backed by the Yorkshire Post, to stop such sites.

She said: "We put the parental controls on but kids have ways around these things. They are taught from an early age at school how to work them. Whatever controls were on, she has deactivated them and reinstalled her own."

Because domestic controls could be deactivated, she believes the answer is to make internet service providers answerable for the access they allow.

"My daughter typed in 'How to kill myself' and went off and searched for all the ways she could do it.

"Everyone knows stuff like this should not be published and these sort of providers have to take responsibility.

"The method Carina used came off the internet. It was followed very, very precisely. Without that it would have been impossible for her to have known how to do it.

"If she had gone to the library asking for that sort of information she wouldn't have got it and there is no reason why the internet should be any different."

Ms Taylor, 38, describes herself as "just a mum" but has taken on the huge task of single-handedly trying to achieve a change in the law which would protect children from that type of material.

"I don't intend to let this drop, I have to make it happen so that my life counts for something more. I have taken on responsibility for this because I want to protect people from this, from the pain and heartache," she said.

Carina was found hanged in woods near the family's home in the village of Branton earlier this year. The family had recently returned from Australia where it had taken part in reality TV show Colony, which is currently being screened.

Her death was confirmed as suicide at an inquest but relatives only became aware of Carina's fascination with taking her life as the computer was examined afterwards.

One interim measure Ms Taylor is suggesting is to make internet service providers legally obliged to send users regular statements, detailing which websites have been visited from their account.

The Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) insist its members act in the same way as the postal service, delivering information rather than publishing it.

It operates a "notice and take down" procedure to remove illegal material if it is made aware of it but states: "ISPA firmly believes ISPs should not have the power of judge and jury over the legality, suitability and appropriateness of the content that is contained on their servers."