These are exciting times!
The fight for meaningful protection for children from online pornography is not yet over but this week has been a milestone in the journey towards our goal.
On Tuesday morning a meeting of MPs heard from Professor Gail Dines about the reality of the pornographic material available online, the practices of the porn industry and the effect it is having on those who consume it.
On Tuesday afternoon a symposium organised by the Sunday Times and the Policy Exchange considered the impact of pornography on children and the best way to protect them moving forward.
I was delighted to be present and to see that the event was packed with a disparate audience which included campaigners, academics, clinicians, journalists, therapists, technical experts and charity workers. The overwhelming feeling in the room was that something must be done to protect children and it must be done now.
Tomorrow, Friday, I will be attending The Westminster Media forum - an event attended by politicians, media policy makers and academics. Once again the subject under discussion is what the next steps to protect children online should be.
This event will be followed by a ‘Council of War’ on Monday 17th. The Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, has summoned web giants - including Google, BT and Facebook – to a meeting where they will be expected to come up with plans to do more to stop access to harmful material on the internet.
Protecting children online is an issue which is not going to go away.
At Tuesday’s event the delegates heard that:
- The most popular, and fastest growing, online search category is for ‘teen porn’. This means images of girls who are, or who appear to be, under the age of 18; the kind of material which was recently implicated during the trials of the murderers of April Jones and Tia Sharpe.
- In a recent survey conducted by the Portman Clinic 25% of young men aged 18-24 reported that they were worried about the amount of internet porn that they were consuming and the effect it was having on them.
- Thousands of people in this country are regularly looking at pornographic images of child sexual abuse online. More people than the police can realistically arrest.
We cannot ignore facts like these. To paraphrase Diane Abbott speaking at the Sunday Times event: this a public health issue, a chance to stop the aggressive sexualisation of young people and to defend their human rights.
Thank you for your support on this issue which has been an important contributor to the climate which has enabled this to happen.
We have some way to go but there are things that you can do now:
We are still waiting for a date for the 2nd Reading of Baroness Howe’s Online Safety Bill which has been introduced to reduce children and young people’s access to inappropriate and potentially harmful online material.
If you have not yet done so, may I urge you contact a member of the House of Lords and ask them to support the Bill and push for an early 2nd Reading. You can do this quickly and easily using our campaign website Safeonline.org.uk. The site also includes links to useful information on how to go about protecting your children and grandchildren online which I hope you will also find helpful.