Pornographic websites must ensure visitors are aged over 18

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Pornographic websites must ensure visitors are aged over 18

44,000 primary school aged children visited an adult website in December 2013, research shows

Figures released today by ATVOD (The Authority for Television on Demand) show that pornographic websites and materials are being accessed by underage children in the UK.

In a study in December 2013:

  • 473,000 6-17 year olds visited an adult website from a PC or laptop
  • 44,000 children were aged 6-11 years old.

23 of the 25 most popular adult websites visited in the UK provide instant, free and unrestricted access to hardcore pornographic videos and explicit still images.

Many of the videos feature equivalent, or stronger, material than an R18 classified DVD which can only be sold to an adult in a licensed sex shop.

We must apply the rules about accessing this material online as well as offline. We are calling for tougher enforcement and restrictions on access to pornography online.

Accessing pornography is damaging

Children and young people can access porn wherever they access the internet – whether that’s on a PC or using mobile phones, tablets or games consoles.

Children may come across pornography online by accident, although older children may be curious and search for more sexualised or risky content. They may feel embarrassed, frightened, upset or confused.

Watching porn can be highly addictive and easy access to degrading and violent pornography is also giving young people unhealthy attitudes towards sex and relationships.

  • 28% of 11 to 18 year olds feel that pornography has changed the way they think about relationships.
  • 475 counselling sessions were held by ChildLine in 2012/13 with young people who had been exposed to sexually explicit images, including pornographic videos or online content.

However, children and young people may not realise that watching pornography can be damaging.

NSPCC’s Head of Child Safety Online, Claire Lilley, explains:
“It’s important to understand how graphic, immersive, violent and distorted modern online pornography can be. When asked, children often don’t realise that accessing pornography is damaging.

“Much of the porn these days is more explicit than the porn you may have seen when you were a child or teenager. Your child may have seen pornography that is violent or sadistic, which is a video rather than a still image, includes sound and which is made to look very realistic.”

Age verification must be enforced on porn sites

We are calling for tougher enforcement and restrictions on access to pornography online.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC CEO, explains:
“We want to see the law enforced and websites have to take responsibility for this. If a 12-year-old walks into an off licence and buys a bottle of vodka, of course we educate the young person but we also prosecute the off licence. Online porn should be no different.

“Crown Prosecution Service guidance says that websites offering hard-core porn which is accessible to children are in breach of the Obscene Publications Act. But if this law needs updating or a new law needs introducing, we shouldn’t hesitate.”

Parents and schools must play their part

Peter continues:
“Parents and schools must play their part too. They can make sure blocks and filters are installed on devices used by children. And most importantly, because no safeguard will be 100%, we must educate young people openly about sex before they turn elsewhere for their knowledge.

“We must warn them of the dangers of porn so that if and when they see it they will understand to take it with a massive pinch of salt. And they can make educated decisions.”

Read Peter Wanless’ full article

How parents can help keep their children safe

Many children use pornography as a way of learning about sex and relationships. Parents need to talk to their children and explain that pornography isn’t a real representation but a portrayal.

It may feel awkward, but it’s important that parents talk to their children about healthy relationships, trust, commitment and respect.

It’s easiest to have conversations little and often, rather than trying to cover everything at once. Parents can also:

Read our advice for parents on how to help your child stay safe online.

What to do if you are worried about a child

Contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 to speak to one of our trained counsellors.

Children and young people can also call ChildLine on 0800 1111.

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