Culture, Media and Sport CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Kirsty Hopley

Online pornography is free, easily accessible and the content is extreme. Anyone can access any type of pornography including, violence, rape, acted child pornography, s and m, extreme degradation of women and more. There is no log in page and no age check. This is unacceptable. This is not tolerated in pubs or strip clubs so why is it freely available online? A simple answer is to make online pornography sites operate account only sites, the use must provide their details and have a user name. This will reduce the amount of times people stumble upon online porn without affecting the freedom of choice for users of online porn.

Secondly, internet filters are great for parents and I am in favour of the automatic filter. It makes sense that those who wish to view pornography should be the ones making the choice rather that everyone getting it and then having to choose not to have access. However, there are serious concerns.

I have Talk Talk Homesafe settings which are good in theory. They allow the user to turn on and off filters. In practice this rarely works. I need to turn filters off to read material for my work but usually when I want to turn it back on, it freezes or takes hours. Secondly, some sites are blocked which do not contain pornography such as rape support sites. Similarly, even with my homesafe settings on I could still type in sex or porn and get some extreme sexual images through google images. It is crucial that this is monitored and dealt with swiftly. Clearly the technology is already there, it just needs monitoring.

Next issue is advertising. Many sites have pop ups which can lead to sexual material. I have seen instances of this on school approved websites and on kindle children’s books (Alice in Wonderland was one). Advertising that is aimed at adults should never appear on sites that are aimed at children. This should be a criminal offence as it is grooming.

Online safety is something parents need to understand to take seriously. With channels such as Cebebies encouraging very young children to go online and the rise of little children having tablets, education of parents is key. My suggestion is that this is discussed by Health Visitors in the early years checks. It should be a face to face discussion of the dangers and a leaflet given of how to keep up. Every device that is sold must have an easy to understand guide for parents to set blocks and this should be discussed at purchase. This needs to be regulated so that it happens every time. It is not like the days when parents had to make sure toddlers didn’t choke on a piece of lego, parents do not understand the technology that their kids do. The digital age has approached so quickly. Following this, schools should offer compulsory help for parents to understand keeping children safe online. The world has moved on and parenting needs to catch up.

This is an issue which the government needs to support parents to protect children. The starting point is to regulate the porn industry (like we do with tobacco, alcohol and gambling industries). It is unbelievable that the porn industry is given such a free reign to provide such an unrealistic and harmful portrayal of what is actually a wonderful act that humans should enjoy.

September 2013

Prepared 18th March 2014