Will the UK Internet Porn Filter Work as Intended?

If you are a concerned parent trying to keep your children from seeing porn on the internet, you have a lot of work ahead of you – a job that is for all intents and purposes impossible.

Teens are resourceful, and since that average U.S. teen spends six hours per day online, they have a lot of opportunity. Motive (porn is interesting to the young, curious mind) plus access (internet connected devices) plus opportunity (so much time spent online that parents can’t monitor everything they’re doing) equals boobies, if a teen is so inclined.

Let’s say that you use blocking or filtering software. What are you going to block? Porn, or at least sexual images and nudity, can be found on:

  • Regular, free porn sites
  • Some social networks such as Tumblr and Flickr
  • Some “dating” sites
  • Some video hosting sites
  • Some entertainment news sites
  • Lots of other websites

If you’ve heard about UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s plan to have opt-in porn blocking performed by internet service providers (ISPs) at any family’s request, you may think it’s a good start to tackling a thorny problem. Implementation as it appears to be happening is actually having some serious unintended consequences. According to an article this week in the New Statesman:

“As Wired reported back in July, Cameron’s ambitions extended far beyond porn. Working through secretive negotiations with ISPs, the coalition has put in place a set of filters and restrictions as ambitious as anything this side of China, dividing the internet into ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ categories, and cutting people off from huge swathes of it at the stroke of a key.

What clearly does have an impact on children though is denying them sex education, suppressing their sexual identity, and shutting off access to child protection or mental health charities. In all this talk of porn filters, the rights of the children campaigners supposedly want to protect have been ignored or trampled. Children should have a right to good quality sex education, access to support hotlines and websites, and information about their sexuality.”

That’s a lot of text to quote, but the article does a great job explaining the point we are trying to make. The internet is the go-to resource for research these days, especially for the young. If your child has an eating disorder for example, and goes online looking for help, having all eating disorder websites blocked is a horribly bad outcome. This appears to be what is happening in the UK.

There are good websites and there are bad websites, but no government does or should have the ability to decide on a case-by-case basis which are bad for your family.

In the U.S., at least for now, it is left to the parents to decide which types of content are appropriate for their kids. If you find pornography or nudity or extreme violence or anything else distasteful, talk to your children about it. Acknowledge its existence and insist that they avoid it. Relying on a filter is not foolproof, and could have serious repercussions, especially if the filter is designed and implemented by the government rather than parents.

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.

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