UK age-verification has kids – and parents - at heart
In 2016, a UK report was published on the ‘impact of online porn on the values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of children and young people’. The report showed that nearly half of 11-16-year old boys and girls had seen online pornography, and that first exposure to porn was most likely to be accidental, rather than pursued.
From the report came a powerful statement from the Children’s Commissioner for England: there is no room for complacency.
“It cannot be right that so many children may be stumbling across and learning about sex from degrading and violent depictions of it. We need to act to restrict their access to such material and to ensure that they have spaces in which to discuss and learn about safe relationships and sex. It is our duty to protect children from harm and so we must ensure this happens.”
Now, in 2019, age-verification has been introduced to UK law via the Digital Economy Act. From 15 July, all websites hosting porn will be required by law to have an age-verification system. According to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) – the body responsible for regulating the system – age-verification is about keeping kids “as safe as possible whenever they’re on the web”.
Age verification is not just about kids though. It’s also about their parents and carers. Remarkably, 88% of polled parents supported the UK introduction of the age-verification system. This overwhelming favour for age-verification is not surprising, especially considering that the standard defence offered by the porn industry has been that if kids are accessing porn, parents are at fault. But as Caitlin Roper’s March 2018 Huffington Post article highlights, the cards are stacked against parents and carers, in the porn industry’s favour. When simple key-stroke errors and searches based on cartoon characters can give a child direct access to porn-sites, parents haven’t got a hope of protecting their children. It’s simply not a fair fight. The support from UK parents for age verification is an acknowledgment that they are in a no-win situation to protect their kids from porn and that they need help.
Back to the kids. As John Carr, a leading UK authority on children’s and young people’s use of digital technology, puts it, ultimately age-verification is aimed at “helping children grow up to be healthy, well-adjusted adults”.
And so only one question remains: why would anybody in Australia not want that too? With less than a week until the election, there’s still time to ask your candidate that very question.
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Collective Shout is calling on government to act on the following key issues
Reclaim public space by reforming our advertising regulation system AND Protect children from pornography by compulsory age-verification
The everyday sexualisation and objectification of women in media, advertising and popular culture and the exposure of children to online pornography result in demonstrated harms to women and girls, men and boys, and to our community as a whole.
Despite growing awareness of and concern about these harms there has been little meaningful action at government level. It is time to put the wellbeing of the community over the vested interests of the advertising and porn industries. It is time to reclaim public space and to stop children’s too easy exposure to online pornography.
BACKGROUND - RECLAIMING PUBLIC SPACE
In 2011, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs in its report ’Reclaiming public space' noted:
Many parents are concerned that their children are exposed to sexualised images and messages that they are not mature enough to digest. Many women in particular are angered by the prevalence of sexual objectification in advertising images, and the messages that these send in the public space. The Committee finds it difficult to see how such images can ever be in the public interest.
It said the ad industry should be given one last chance to clean up its act:
If the self-regulatory system is found lacking, the Committee recommends that the Attorney-General’s Department impose a self-funded co-regulatory system on advertising with government input into advertising codes of practice.
That was eight years ago.
It is time for the Federal Government to act to reclaim public space so that we don’t have to be confronted by images or words that are inappropriate for children or that treat women as sexual objects.
Objectified portrayals of women lead to a ‘diminished view of women’s competence, morality and humanity’ and have been identified as contributing to attitudes which lead to violence against women and girls.
The objectification and sexualisation of women and girls should be a central consideration in the regulation of advertising, marketing, and the media.
- The current advertising standards system has no powers of enforcement and issues no penalties for non-compliance. Repeat offenders such as Honey Birdette and Wicked Campers continue to ignore Ad Standards rulings and face no penalties.
- Only a regulatory regime with real teeth - which can impose adequate financial penalties and prevent repeat offenders from continuing to advertise - can make corporates act ethically.
- Lip service about protecting women and girls from sexualised violence is meaningless if we don’t address advertising that sexually objectifies women and trains men to see women as objects to be used and not equal persons to be respected.
Ask your MP if they will support a new advertising regulatory regime to ensure all advertising in public spaces is free from images and messages that are unsuitable for children, especially images and messages which sexually objectify women.
2) AGE-VERIFICATION TO PROTECT KIDS FROM ACCESS TO PORN
It is well established that many children in Australia are accessing pornography online and that exposure harms them.
Exposing children to porn harms their healthy sexual development and contributes to children acting out in inappropriate ways, including by sexually abusing other children.
Soon a new UK law will require anyone who makes pornography available online to UK users to implement an age verification system to ensure that no person under 18 years of age is given access to pornography. If websites fail to comply, UK internet service providers will be required by law to block ALL access to the non-complying websites.
- UK kids will no longer have ready access to pornography – Australian children need the same protection.
- You can’t buy alcohol or tobacco or play the pokies without proving you are over 18. Yet there is no proof of age requirement for our kids to access hard-core porn sites,
- Porn harms children – it trains boys to see girls and women as objects to be used not as equals to be respected. Age-verification (18+) for online pornography is a must.
Ask your MP if they will support a mandatory age-verification system to stop children in Australia from easily accessing pornography online.
The Federal election is scheduled for July 2. Now is the perfect time to let your local candidate know how you feel about the objectification of women, sexualisation of girls and pornification of society. The research is solid. There is no longer any doubt about the devastating harms to our children and young people – indeed to all of us. We need our political leaders to act. But they will only take action if they see there is a constituency for change.
We’ve done the hard work for you. All the latest research is contained in three recent submissions on sexualisation of children, harms of pornography and links between gender inequality and domestic violence.
Here are some points you can make. Request a 15-minute meeting with your candidate. Or email or call them with your thoughts. You can approach them out on the ‘hustings’ at shopping centres and other public places. Or when they turn up on your doorstep! You will find them more open than ever to hearing from you. The main political parties keep tabs on what constituents are raising with them so make your views known.Read more