The UK government is proposing new legislation that will require all sites containing pornographic content to request age verification of visitors to their sites. Rather than porn sites putting an “18+ to enter” button that can be clicked just as easily by an 8-year old as a 28-year old, internet providers will access public information that will help to identify the age of the visitor. This is a huge step forward in protecting kids from the harmful effects of pornography.

The motivation behind this effort, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, is to keep children safe on the internet, preventing them from viewing material which is proven to be damaging to children. A press release from the Prime Minister’s Office states, “Viewing pornography at a young age can cause distress and can have a harmful effect on sexual development, beliefs, and relationships.”[1]

A study by Comscore, an internet analytics company, found that 1-in-10 visitors to adult sites in the UK were children.[2] In 2015, a study by NSPCC Childline found that nearly 1-in-10 12 to 13 year olds expressed worry that they were addicted to pornography, and 18% said that they had seen images which shocked or upset them. Finally, 12% admitted to making or being a part of a sexually explicit video. The UK government recognizes that sexually explicit content can be addictive and can give children a warped idea of sexual relationships.[3]

(Related: The Serious Mental Costs of Watching Porn)

So how can the government verify ages when it comes to internet porn? After all, one of the reasons that pornography has become so widespread online is not just because it’s free but because it’s totally anonymous. The British government hopes it has found a way around this. The Prime Minister’s office hopes to work with providers of social media and other online interactive services to make their platforms safer for children and allow them to identify the age of users. Accessing basic public information such as birth dates and other age identifiers would ensure that the people clicking adult content are indeed 18 and over.

Just recently, the UK Department for Culture, Media, and Sport took an even greater step in raising awareness on the harms of pornography, by publishing Child Safety Online: A Practical Guide for Providers of Social Media and Interactive Services. The guide educates online providers on how to best include child safety into their sites and make them aware of the dangers posed to children online.

Regarding the UK’s efforts, Minister for Internet Security and Security Baroness Joanna Shields states, “Whilst great progress has been made, we remain acutely aware of the risks and dangers that young people face online. This is why we are committed to taking action to protect children from harmful content. Companies delivering adult content in the UK must take steps to make sure these sites are behind age verification controls.”[4]

Our stance

What has defined Fight the New Drug from the beginning is that we have been non-religious and non-legislative from day one. Even as college students, we founded this movement on two principles: First, we would not be religiously affiliated and second, we would not have a political or legislative agenda. Our purpose is not to restrict adults’ rights to view legal forms of pornography. Our mission has always been to decrease the demand for porn by helping people understand the facts about how harmful it is. But we are always against children being exposed to pornography. (We think even the most pro-porn advocates would have to agree that young children being exposed to hardcore porn is not good.) Every day, we at Fight the New Drug hear from men and women who discovered pornography at a young age and have suffered its severe consequences, including addiction, depression, isolation, and broken relationships. When we see government initiatives like this that seek to prevent young children from coming in contact with porn, we are on board with that all day every day.

Children’s developing brains are especially susceptible to the harms of pornographic images because the images are especially shocking and novel. Kids don’t understand sex, which makes them even more curious, even when they want to stop. Preventing them from viewing such content until they are more mature will help them grow up to be healthy individuals, free of addiction and capable of making their own decisions about love and sex.

(Related: Growing Up Fast: Why 12-Year-Old Girls Are Having Sex Rougher, Earlier)

As other countries start to recognize porn as a public health issue and begin promoting programs to educate on the issue, we will be saving generations of kids from their first exposure to pornography and will also be protecting our relationships and the society we live in. We commend the UK Government for taking steps to protect kids. We believe it’s very possible to live in a world in which kids who have not yet reached puberty are not already addicted to watching hardcore sex acts online. We can fight for the health and relationships of each and every individual. Science and research have proven that pornography is harmful. Let’s work for a world that teaches kids the real value of sexuality and love.

What YOU Can Do

We support what the UK is trying to do to lessen the harm of pornography. SHARE this article if you’d like to see the same thing happen in your country!


Sources:

[1] Prime Minister’s Office. Curbing access to pornographic websites for under 18s. Gov.UK. 30 July 2015. Web.
[2] Prime Minister’s Office. Curbing access to pornographic websites for under 18s. Gov.UK. 30 July 2015. Web.

[3] Brewis, Marie. UK government to stop teenagers looking at porn: What is the porn ban and how does it affect you? PC Advisor. 16 Feb 2016.

[4] Prime Minister’s Office. Curbing access to pornographic websites for under 18s. Gov.UK. 30 July 2015. Web.