Children are tricky creatures to protect. They behave like danger magnets, hoovering up needless risk from all directions while parents and teachers desperately try to keep pharmaceuticals, choking hazards and firearms as far away as possible.

The internet has equivalent dangers of its own, but it's unique in that it has no shallow end. You can be as middle class as you like, but you can't move to a good neighbourhood with the internet. Google connects you to everywhere all at once and the bad places are the same number of clicks away as the good.

Net filtering software attempts to screen most of the filth from the deluge that comes sluicing through the router, but it's like a bullet proof vest - it's better to be wearing one than not, but it's no substitute for not being shot at in the first place.

Worse, whereas most of us can choose not to bring up our children in Gaza or Brooklyn, you can't really keep your kids away from wrongsideofthetracks.com without keeping them off the internet altogether. And to do that you'd need to live in a log cabin in Manitoba. (Ironically, I imagine that internet access in Gaza is fairly sporadic.)

These are complex problems that do not respond well to simple, quick-fix solutions. Nevertheless, that is exactly what I am about to suggest, because I'm a sucker for such things.

What should we do about it?

So, let's implement some equivalent of good and bad neighbourhoods in the IP addressing scheme. The .com and .org domains and their ilk were designed to distinguish between different commercial models, but even if the naming scheme were enforced (which it most certainly isn't), it has nothing to say about the moral calibre of the domain in question.

What I'm proposing is a sort of civic zoning for the internet, where domains that are unsuitable for minors end up clustered together in some way that makes it harder for minors to access. Not impossible, just harder.

Routers could be set to block access to these areas, or log who is accessing them. Naturally, there will always be ways to get around this system, however it's implemented. But there are dozens of ways to smuggle drugs into school or sell porn under the counter at the newsagents. And yet in most cases, neighbourhoods self-regulate their moral character.

I'm talking about something similar, where the "savouriness" of a web domain is determined in an emergent way, according to the sites it links to and the people that use it. Similar to the way that Google determines relevance in search results now.

Hosting or linking to sites that serve porn, sell herbal viagra or espouse lunatic and/or prejudiced views would act to slide you towards the seamier end of the net, as a sort of gravitational attraction clusters these sites together.

Google searches would default to sorting results by neighbourhood first and then by relevence. Optionally, adults could set their preferences to show the "worst" neighbourhoods first. After all, disabling porn altogether would probably cause the web to implode.