A child’s legal right to porn? I don’t think so.

Pornhub is not an aid, comforter or reliable source of advice, guidance, support or information for children who are anxious or inquisitive about sex, their own sexuality, or relationships. Neither is any other porn site I know about.

The fact that some children may say they go to sites like Pornhub because they are anxious or curious about sex, their own sexuality and relationships, or are looking for support or guidance in relation to such matters, is simply a terrible indictment of the poverty of 21st Century societies’ approach hitherto. It does not give Pornhub a tick.

Delegating your child’s sex education to Pornhub. Bad idea.

There has probably never been a time when it was exactly easy for parents or schools to find the right way to help children and young people through that part of their lives when sex, their own sexuality and relationships loom so very large in their developing consciousness and self-awareness.

There  has long been a tendency, at least for parents, to dodge the “difficult conversation”or,  consciously or otherwise, to delegate it to “someone else”.

The problem is today the “someone else” is often a ubiquitous, money-making business with so few scruples that, despite acknowledging none of their materials are suitable or meant for children they do nothing to prevent children accessing them. Even though they could. Pornhub is the 800lb gorilla in the room (with apologies to the many gorillas who may be reading this).

The internet has changed everything. Dramatically.

Porn ain’t what it used to be

One of the world’s leading commentators in this field, Gail Dines, said she almost (note, “almost”) felt nostalgic for the porn of the early 1980s and before.

“There has always been porn but there has never before been a porn industry such as that which the internet has created.”

Gail points out the porn today’s parents and grandparents saw when they were younger is likely to be a million miles away from Pornhub’s everyday offerings both in terms of  its nature, quantity, ease of access, which is constant, and cost, which is zero.

Like their parents and grandparents some of today’s children might say “porn has done me no harm” or “I can handle porn” or “porn helped me, it was useful” . These are not convincing reasons for continuing to accept the status quo.

Consequences may only become apparent later in life

Many of the problems associated with porn use, particularly excessive porn use, do not manifest themselves immediately.  They may not do so until a person reaches their mid-20s or  it could be later than that.

And by the way, in several studies substantial numbers of children said porn was either the most upsetting thing they had encountered online, or it was one of the most upsetting things. Alternatively they felt that while they, personally, were “ok with it”,  they felt really strongly other, younger kids, shouldn’t be looking at it. “Just saying, for a friend”.

A parallel with smoking?

When I was a kid, in England the legal age at which you could smoke was 16. As I reached the magnificently mature age of 15 I could see no good reason to wait an extra year to do something that was so obviously enjoyable and cool.  What did these idiotic oldies know about anything anyway? They had never even seen The Beatles live. Or The Rolling Stones. I had done both. Twice.  I had a unique insight into the meaning of life. That proved it.

The pleasures of smoking were plainly wasted on the gerontocrats. They just needed to step aside.  And this was at a time when lots of people claimed the harms associated with smoking were vastly exaggerated or non-existent. Twenty years later I realised what a terrible mistake I had made and after a lot of pain I quit.

The adult world is charged with doing stuff that is in children’s best interests, even when not all children see it that way.

Not a silver bullet but a big bullet nevertheless

Children do not have a legal right to access porn. Children have a legal right to good advice and access to a range of sound, inclusive and comprehensive information about and support in relation to sex and sexuality.

States have a legal obligation to provide that and  it would probably be best provided in the context of a public health and education framework.  However, an inescapable part of states’  obligations includes a duty, on the basis of the best available scientific advice, to restrict children’s access to stuff that harms them. Pornhub and the like harms kids.

When introducing age verification to restrict children’s access to porn it is essential we get right and respect both children’s and adults’ right to privacy. And we certainly should not see age verification as a silver bullet.

Yet it definitely is a bullet. I think a big bullet. It is a bullet aimed specifically at denying the Pornhubs of this world any role in determining the sexual socialization of the young.

 

About John Carr

John Carr is one of the world's leading authorities on children's and young people's use of digital technologies. He is Senior Technical Adviser to Bangkok-based global NGO ECPAT International, Technical Adviser to the European NGO Alliance for Child Safety Online, which is administered by Save the Children Italy and an Advisory Council Member of Beyond Borders (Canada). Amongst other things John is or has been an Adviser to the United Nations, ITU, the European Union, the Council of Europe and European Union Agency for Network and Information Security and is a former Board Member of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety. He is Secretary of the UK's Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety. John has advised many of the world's largest internet companies on online child safety. In June, 2012, John was appointed a Visiting Senior Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science. More: http://johncarrcv.blogspot.com
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2 Responses to A child’s legal right to porn? I don’t think so.

  1. Pingback: Following the debate about age verification? – Ditch The Porn

  2. Pingback: A child’s legal right to porn? I don’t think so. | Liz Walker Presents

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