The UK is suffering a tidal wave of ill-effects as a direct consequence of largely unfettered access to online pornography. In one recent survey, 53% of children aged 11-16 said they had been exposed to online pornography, rising to 65% among 15-16 year olds.
Its impact among young people, especially in light of the extensive reporting of sexual assault in school contexts, is as distressing as it is predictable. Alarmingly, in another survey, 53% of boys who had seen pornography thought it was ‘realistic’.
A major 2014 literature review concluded that ‘access and exposure to pornography affect children and young people’s sexual beliefs’. It is hardly any wonder therefore that this ease of access has led to an explosion in sexual abuse complaints in schools and universities.
The 2015 Conservative manifesto promised that “we will stop children's exposure to harmful sexualised content online, by requiring age verification for access to all sites containing pornographic material and age-rating for all music videos.” Sadly this commitment was dropped in 2019 in favour of focusing on user-generated content instead.
This problem urgently needs more effective measures:
- The tragic murder of Sarah Everard on 3 March 2021 resulted in an outpouring of stories of women being followed, exposed to, harassed, catcalled and assaulted.
- The situation in schools has reached crisis point, with the website Everybody’s Invited receiving so many testimonies of abuse that it had to stop naming schools. The Department for Education has committed to strengthen guidance, which will help address the consequences, but do absolutely nothing to constrain access to pornography.
- The Education Secretary has called for a ban on mobile phones in schools which, again, may help tackle the consequences of access to pornography but not the root cause of this problem.
As the father of teenagers, I am appalled at the apparent indifference in tackling this issue and I want my children protected.
Please help us to bring massive pressure to bear on the Government, by a huge lobbying and PR effort, so that age verification can be introduced as soon as possible.
As well as large numbers signing the campaign to indicate their support, this will also need substantial funding so please give generously to help protect our children and young people.