UK wants to cut off teenagers’ access to porn

UK wants to cut off teenagers’ access to porn
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The UK government is making good on a 2013 promise to protect the children by launching a consultation today to work out exactly how we put internet porn out of reach of young people.

It’s pulled together some pretty compelling stats, including that around one in five teens under 18 who’ve used the internet have accessed adult sites – that’s 1.4 million young people – and 70 percent of 18-year-olds believe porn gives us unrealistic expectations of sex. Yep. Sigh.

The pornographic content available online – its prevalence, accessibility and its nature – is of a different order of magnitude to what was available 10 or 20 years ago.

The landing pages of the majority of the most popular pornographic sites contain explicit, un-simulated depictions of performers carrying out a wide variety of sexual acts in a range of scenarios, often in the form of, or accompanied by, short video clips or ‘gif’ animations of an explicit nature.  

Generally, material is not behind any sort of age or pay barrier, and only very infrequently is there any form of warning that the content is only suitable for adults.

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But the initial report freely admits that: “Tech savvy young people determined to access pornography will always find ways to do so and the internet is only one of the routes via which children are exposed to pornography.”

It also points out that young people may well be making it themselves: “Mobile phones are increasingly reported as one of the main sources of both exposure and access, and user-generated sexual content is also common, whether sexting, photo sharing, or user-generated audiovisual content.”

While many measures have been put in place with ISPs and sites based in the UK and EU are subject to various pieces of legislation, Europeans aren’t the greatest distributors of porn.

“On-demand programme services that are operated by providers established outside the UK are not required to comply with the rules governing UK providers,” the document explains.

The solution put forward by the government, made ahead of the actual consultation, is age verification using something like a credit card, but the reports states that: “accountability for protecting children from pornography sits squarely on the shoulders of the commercial providers of pornographic content, who must take responsibility for the damaging effect their products and services are having.”

Which is all well and good, unless you’re an anonymous company operating in an unreachable jurisdiction that doesn’t have a great deal of time for nursing the warped minds of the UK’s children.

Some will argue, too, that understanding what kind of sex porn on the internet represents, via good sex education, would do the job just as well. A lot of sex on the internet is scary, so how do you help kids understand what good sex looks like?

The government is looking to talk to the porn industry, as well as kids, teachers and parents, and as the likes of payments providers to get a fuller picture on the issue.

The consultation closes on April 12.

➀ Child Safety Online: Age Verification for Pornography [Department for Culture, Media and Sport]

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