Monday 25 February 2013

Protecting children in a media-saturated world

There has been a mixed reaction to last week’s news that Iceland is considering banning all online pornography.

Many people have welcomed the move, whilst others have expressed concern that it ‘smacks too much of Chinese-style censorship’ believing that adults should be able to choose to access explicit material.

What is clear is that a general consensus is building that children do need protecting from online adult content.  In the real world access to adult services – such as gambling, alcohol or tobacco – requires a robust proof of age and the same should be true in the virtual, online world.

A YouGov poll, commissioned for The Sun, found that, if the option were available, 57% of people would choose to block pornography from their internet connection.

The same survey revealed that 61% of parents did not think their children had ever seen any inappropriate sexual content on the internet, although 29% knew that their children had been exposed to such material. 

Sadly these figures do not tally with what children themselves are saying.  Research carried out by the Safer Internet Centre found that, in the last year, 27% of 7-11s and 41% of 11-19s had seen ‘something unpleasant or hurtful’ on the internet.  We also know from other research that almost one in eight children has visited a pornographic website showing violent images and 27% of boys access pornography on a weekly basis.[1]

Clearly there is still a great need for education for parents.  Ofcom’s Media Literacy Audit revealed that, despite growing broadband take-up and a range of initiatives, there has been little improvement in UK adult or children’s levels of knowledge over the past few years.

If you are a parent or grandparent struggling to protect your children online – and the NSPCC tells us that the average child now has access to five internet-enabled gadgets – you can find sources of help and advice on our campaign website Safeonline.

You may also find the following helpful:

  • Game On!   BBC 1’s One Show included a very interesting segment on video gaming.  If you have a child or grandchild who is a keen gamer you may be interested to watch the report here (the item on gaming begins approximately 3 minutes into the programme).

  • Film Insight   If you’ve always found the BBFC’s film classifications to be a somewhat blunt instrument when it comes to making choices about what to watch, you may be interested to hear about BBFCinsight.  All films and games classified since 2007 have BBFCinsight which gives more detailed information for parents highlighting the key classification issues.  Key issues are highlighted and expanded on to give examples of what you might expect to see or hear such as violence, bad language or sexual content.  Helpfully, BBFCinsight also notes any other issues that might be important for parents, or those wishing to take younger viewers to see a film such as themes of divorce or bereavement or use of discriminatory language or behaviour

[1] Sources available at

Friday 15 February 2013

Iceland's solution to the menace of online pornography

This week Iceland announced radical proposals which could see it become the first Western democracy to block all internet pornography.

A law forbidding the printing and distribution of pornography is already in force in Iceland but, presently, it doesn’t cover on-line material.

Following a widespread investigation into the effects of pornography, which included evidence from teachers, law enforcers and organisations working with abused children, a strong cross-party consensus is building that violent pornography is damaging and must be controlled.

Iceland’s investigation concluded that the extremely violent nature of much online pornography was increasing the intensity of sex attacks.  It also found that children exposed to violent porn showed similar signs of trauma to those who have been physically abused.

A number of methods to achieve a ban are under consideration including blocking access to pornographic websites and making it illegal to use Icelandic credit cards to access pay-per-view pornography.

An Icelandic government spokesperson said “we are looking at the best technical ways to achieve this, but surely, if we can send a man to the moon, we must be able to tackle porn on the internet.”  She continued “it is no longer acceptable to keep blaming parents for the fact that children see graphic sexual content.  Parents are not the only ones responsible for protecting our young people.  They cannot be with their children all the time and the porn industry actively tries to seek children out”.

Iceland’s approach has been called ‘progressive’; looking at pornography from the perspective of the harm it does to women and to children who are having their sexuality hijacked at a young age by brutal sexual imagery.

The measures for which we have been campaigning in the UK would see adult material blocked as a default although those wishing to access such material would be able to opt-in to do so.  The proposals being discussed in Iceland go much further and we await the outcome with interest.

In Iceland tackling the menace of internet pornography has become a cross-party issue.  We are hopeful that a similar political consensus will emerge in the UK.  Last week Labour frontbencher, Diana Abbott, spoke of our ‘increasingly pornified’ culture and David Cameron has said he finds the fact that children are able to access such material ‘utterly appalling’.