Thursday, 5 July 2012

Government launches consultation into online child protection

The impact of online sexual content on children is of great concern and yet research suggests that as many as one in three under-tens have seen online pornography.  Protecting them from potentially harmful content must be a priority.

The Department for Education has now launched the promised consultation on how best to protect children from harmful online content.  Ministers are now suggesting that users should automatically be barred from accessing adult material online unless they choose to view it.

This is just one of a number of options that are being consulted upon:

The Opt-in System in which harmful content - not just pornography but other harmful material such as suicide, violent, self harm and pro-anorexia sites – is blocked as a default unless users contact their ISPs and ask for this to be reversed.

Active Choice in which new customers buying new devices or broadband services are asked whether they would like open access to all content at the point of purchase.  However it is unlikely that this would provide widespread protection across the UK until the end of this decade by which time a further generation of children will have been exposed to degrading and damaging material.

Active Choice-plus is aimed at reaching a compromise and would see adult content automatically blocked unless users choose to unblock using a simple action such as removing a tick from a box.  This is based on the idea that most people are likely to accept the suggested option.

This consultation marks a huge step forward in our campaign to protect children from harmful media and I hope that you will take the opportunity to have your say in how best to protect the next generation.

You can view the consultation document here.  The consultation will remain open until 6th September and Ministers will respond with their favoured option later in the autumn.  Watch this space over the next few weeks for an initiative which will make it easier for you to have your say.

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