The recent Bailey Review highlights many different aspects of the sexualisation of children in society today. Entitled Letting Children be Children – Report of an Independent Review of the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood, the review also lays done some suggestions and action points that should be taken up by various industry sectors and government.
Among the areas looked at was internet pornography, so ubiquitous in our society that it is often considered to be part of the ‘Wallpaper’ of children’s lives. Various scientific disciplines are providing a growing body of evidence showing that exposure to pornography is not a harmless pastime. Especially for children.
The Bailey Review had the following to say to the Internet Service Providers, effectively the major distributor of pornography around the UK:
“5. Making it easier for parents to block adult and age-restricted material from the internet: To provide a consistent level of protection across all media, as a matter of urgency, the internet industry should ensure that customers make an active choice over what sort of content they want to allow their children to access. To facilitate this, the internet industry must act decisively to develop and introduce effective parental controls, with Government regulation if voluntary action is not forthcoming within a reasonable timescale. In addition, those providing content which is age-restricted, whether by law or company policy, should seek robust means of age verification as well as making it easy for parents to block underage access. ACTION: Internet industry and providers of age restricted content, through UKCCIS.”
Elsewhere in the review a “reasonable timeframe” is defined as 18 months.
As Jane Turner recently noted in the Times newspaper: “..that computers and mobile phones might, as Bailey proposes, come with their porn filter switched to an “on” default is commendable not only because it will stop offensive imagery popping up unbidden, but more importantly because it is a statement of intent: a declaration that the internet is not an anarchic Wild West empire beyond governmental purview.”
The ISPs recognize the need to offer some protection, indeed many offer, or sell, PC based filters as parental control tools. While this is laudable, we would suggest that network level filters, turned on as standard, would provide another very powerful tool at the disposal of parents, as well as encouraging people to engage with the issue should they choose to turn the filter off.
Talk Talk has lead the way, recently launching their Home Safe service. However, it seems not many TalkTalk customers know about it yet, and it is not “on” by default. Perhaps this initiative, along with the Bailey Review recommendations, will encourage the other ISPs to follow suit.
No filter system will be perfect, but this would be another powerful tool within the Parental Control arsenal.