The Government is a step closer to forcing pornography websites to verify the age of users.
In November, ministers announced that they planned to give the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) powers to restrict UK and overseas sites which fail to show they are denying access to under-18s.
Digital Economy Minister Matt Hancock has now signed an order allowing this to be done from spring next year.
The new powers are contained in the Digital Economy Act, which was given Royal Assent in April.
The Act does not specify the means of proving users are over 18. One suggestion is for sites to require credit card details before allowing access to adult content.
Nola Leach, Chief Executive of Christian charity CARE, welcomed the development saying that it would help protect children.
“The distinction between the offline and online world becomes less apparent almost daily in our fast-paced digital age”, said Leach.
“In the offline world children are shielded from harm through age rating mechanisms for films and magazines and a host of other tools.”
She added that “age-verification for access to pornographic content is a very welcome step towards bringing protection of children online into step with the offline world”.
Last year, research commissioned by the NSPCC and the Children’s Commissioner for England found that around 50 per cent of 11 to 16-year-olds have encountered porn online.
According to the study conducted by Middlesex University, more than a quarter had first seen explicit content at the ages of eleven and twelve years old.
The NSPCC warned that an entire generation of children was at risk of being “stripped of their childhoods” through exposure to porn at a young age.