Protecting children from online pornography – another step forward

Posted on 27 September 2016

The Digital Economy Bill moves one step further, while renewed calls for statutory PSHE highlights the need for a holistic approach to protecting children from online pornography.

The Digital Economy Bill

On 13th September, the Digital Economy Bill passed its 2nd reading in the House of Commons with no votes against it. Next it will go to Committee stage in October, before eventually being debated in the House of Lords.

The Digital Economy Bill includes new protections for children online, requiring all pornographic websites to have age verification in place.

The Digital Economy Bill proposes a new requirement in law for commercial pornography providers to establish robust age verification controls, establishing a new regulatory framework backed by civil sanctions to monitor, notify and enforce compliance with the law.

This will enable payments providers such as Visa, Mastercard and Paypal and other ancillary services to withdraw their services from infringing sites; an important step to make pornography providers comply.

Read the UK government factsheet to find out more.

An important step – but not the only one we must take to protect children from online pornography

In our response to the DCMS consultation into this bill, we explained how we believe that technical measure like age verification and the provision of parental control tools should be pursued in combination with a range of approaches to both reduce the chances of children being exposed to pornography, and to help reduce the negative impact of pornography on children’s wellbeing and development. 

Most importantly, children need to receive high quality and age-appropriate education about these issues, so they are equipped with the critical thinking skills and resilience to cope with exposure to online pornography. This education is best delivered by parents, and by schools within a structured curriculum of PSHE Education, giving young people opportunities to discuss and explore these issues in a supported and age-appropriate way.

With increasing calls for statutory PSHE education, it’s an important time to ensure that we are using every approach we can to protect children from online pornography, from regulatory approaches demanding the global pornography industry to act in socially responsible ways, to ensuring that children have the critical thinking skills and resilience to cope with exposure to online pornography.

This multifaceted approach will be the most effective way to promote and protect children’s wellbeing online. 

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