New plans to protect children from online porn revealed

Tue, 16 Feb 2016

Distressing online sexual content which could be seen by children is set to be restricted under new Government plans.

Conservative ministers say pornography has “never been more easily accessible online” and exposure to the material could damage children’s emotional and psychological development.

Adult users of such content may be forced to prove their age in future, as a way of blocking under-18s from seeing online pornography.

Extreme material

The Government admits that no scheme will be problem-free, and has launched a consultation ahead of legislation on the subject.

Explaining the Government’s position, three ministers – Baroness Shields, Karen Bradley MP and Edward Timpson MP – said “material that would previously have been considered extreme has become part of mainstream online pornography”.

They added that the Government wants to protect children from viewing “distressing or unrealistic images of sex” whether they accidently ‘stumble’ across content, or deliberately look for it.

Robust

Under the plans, there would be a “new requirement in law for commercial providers to have in place robust age verification controls for online pornographic content in the UK”.

This would be supplemented by: “A new regulatory framework and civil regime” which would see sanctions imposed where “providers remain non-compliant”.

Ahead of the General Election in 2015, the Conservative Party made a manifesto commitment to “stop children’s exposure to harmful sexualised content online, by requiring age verification for access to all sites containing pornographic material”.

Last year a doctor warned that teenagers who watch pornography may struggle to recognise that it does not portray normal sexual behaviour.

Neurological

Dr Max Pemberton said he was concerned because of the immaturity of the prefrontal cortex – a part of the brain.

He explained: “The evidence from brain scans is that the prefrontal cortex is still developing well into your 20s. This is why teenagers behave in impulsive ways.”

Setting aside “moral arguments” about pornography, he concluded that “there is a sound neurological reason to do everything we can to limit teenagers’ exposure to it”.