Put porn in its place
Show us your support: Email us at porncampaign@psychologies.co.uk and tell us what you think we can do

Put Porn In Its Place
What you can do at home
What you can do at school
• What you can do outside your door   

Over the past five years Psychologies has forged strong bonds with some of the best psychologists and therapists in the business. So when they began telling us how concerned they were becoming by the rise online of increasingly harder, darker pornography and the effect it was having on our children we sat up and took notice.

We’ve had plenty of letters from concerned readers on this very topic, and when we decided to canvass the views of 14- to 16-year-olds at a north London secondary school, the results took us by surprise.

• Almost one-third first looked at sexual images online when they were aged 10 or younger.

• 81 per cent look at online porn while they are at home.

• 75 per cent say their parents have never discussed online porn with them.

For many of today’s children, the first introduction to the adult world of sex and sexuality is hardcore porn. Our experts agree that this exposure will inevitably shape their sexual lives and affect future relationships.

That’s why in the July issue of Psychologies we featured an extensive feature by Decca Aitkenhead on the issue. We think you will be as shocked as we were by what she discovered.

It’s time to do something about it.

THE .xxx SUFFIX

ICANN has announced its decision to create a .xxx suffix for pornography websites as an alternative to .com. Reports say the suffix will make filtering out pornography easier.

We contacted participants from our roundtable debate to see what they thought about the decision.

John Carr, UK Children’s Charities’ Coalition for Internet Safety (CHIS)

‘CHIS supports this decision. It is both illiberal and impractical to call for legal pornography to be banned from the internet — but it ought to be harder for young people to access it. 

From now on, those publishing pornography on the internet outside the .xxx domain cannot plausibly argue that they are doing everything to ensure that only those who want pornography can get it. 

Creating .xxx alone will not solve the problem but it provides a great platform on which we can build or integrate other approaches.’

Jon Brown, NSPCC

‘Moving to this suffix will help in terms of monitoring. However, it is important to bear in mind that .xxx could act as an easier signal for young people looking for porn and enforcement will be a challenge. We need to continue to lobby for greater regulation of the internet and of ISPs.’

Jerry Barnett, Strictly Broadband

‘I think .xxx is a red herring. Filtering adult content is already possible using technology such as Restricted to Adult. The suffix adds nothing new in terms of filtering capability. 

No adult business will change to .xxx, we may add .xxx domains to our existing stock if it makes commercial sense.

For people worried about child protection, everything required already exists, except perhaps the education that parents need to implement it correctly.’

CAMPAIGN UPDATE

From our round-table discussion (which you can watch below), it was clear that internet service providers were key to controlling young people’s ability to easily, and without payment, view extreme pornography on the internet. As one of the participants, Janice Turner, pointed out in her column in The Times, ‘What if ISPs simply changed their assumption that we all want adult content streamed into our homes? Couldn’t the default setting for porn instead be ‘off’ …rather than expect parents to jump through techno hoops to make the internet safer?’ So Psychologies’ editor Louise Chunn wrote to the nine top ISPs (including Virgin Media, BT and Talk Talk) with a few questions. Not one of them answered. Neither did David Cameron.

However, two other internet service providers did get in touch:

- Zen Internet uses an old system that already filters content for a very small number of cutomers, mainly for business. Zen managing director Richard Tang supports our campaign. As a result of it, he has set up a research project to investigate the feasibility of providing the ‘off” option to all its  broadband customers, and promises to let us know the outcome.

- Aspire Internet also responded. Aspire has national presence and capability – and is able to provide family-safe internet. 

Founder Tim Longton has developed Clean Web, a network-centric content filter that he says ‘blocks over a billion images, links and websites containing race hate, drugs, guns, violence and pornography’. You can switch it off, but only if you are the person who pays for the broadband. ‘Unlike filtering software, which needs to be downloaded on individual PCs, our system is constantly updated,’ he told us. ’We believe no one is doing enough. Product development such as content filtering is not a priority for the industry now. We believe Aspire is different. We are continually investing in our content filter — it’s our moral responsibility.’ 

CAMPAIGN REPORT

6–7 June: The News Of The World, The Mirror, The Daily Mail Online and New York Daily News covered our survey and the campaign.

7–8 June: Psychologies editor Louise Chunn discussed the campaign on BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Radio Newcastle.

8 June: Psychologies hosted a round-table debate, in conjunction with Mumsnet, to discuss the effect of online porn on teens, with representatives from Kidscape, the NSPCC, The Times, the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships, the Children’s Charities Coaltion for Internet Safety, and an internet porn provider. You can watch videos of the debate below.

• 12 June: Janice Turner wrote an excellent piece in The Times about the campaign.

• 15 June: Louise Chunn wrote to David Cameron, asking what he will do about easy access to internet porn. All those who had attended the round-table discussion signed a letter to the top nine internet service providers in the UK asking that blocking porn be the default mode on their service.

15 June: Susanna Abse from the Tavistock Centre and Jon Brown from the NSPCC appeared on BBC Woman’s Hour with Jane Garvey, discussing our campaign.

ROUND-TABLE DEBATE

Panelists at our debate, held in conjunction with Mumsnet, discussed what can be done to reduce access to Internet pornography, and debated the effect it is having on young people.

Guests at the event: Louise Chunn, Psychologies; Janice Turner, The Times; Justine Roberts, Mumsnet; Susanna Abse, The Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships; Peter Bradley, Kidscape; Jon Brown, NSPCC; John Carr, UK Children’s Charities’ Coalition for Internet Safety; Jerry Barnett, Strictly Broadband. 

Video 1: Teenage kicks – are they hooked on porn?

Video 2: Protecting children online: “We shouldn’t have to jump through hoops.”

Video 3: Internet Service Providers urged to Put Porn in its Place



What can you do?

First, learn how we can manage exposure of unsuitable online content. The genie is out of the bottle, so a blanket ban on online porn is unlikely to work, but we need to learn how to manage this threat and put pressure on schools, politicians and corporations to make this a priority by introducing measures that will help reduce the threat to the next generation.

What you can do at home…

Download sex filters onto your personal computer

Most internet service providers offer parental control filters. These are available for download, and often allow you to personalise your level of control. Alternatively, you can download one of these recommended software packages:

CyberSentinel (£25)
Initially used in schools throughout the UK, this sophisticated software, endorsed by Professor Tanya Byron, monitors emails, internet chat and social networks accessed by children. It also blocks pornographic websites.

K9 Web Protection (free)
This software does not have all the features of its competitors, such as different settings for different users, but it is free.

Talk to your children

It is important to discuss sex with your children, although some parents find this hard to do. Here you can read our feature advising you how to talk to your children about sex.

There are also many useful resources for educating your children, and yourself, about pornography. Things You Didn’t Know About Porn is a simple and comprehensive set of videos describing how and why our brains are programmed to react to pornographic material. 

What you can do at school…

Does your child’s school have an e-safety policy?       

We contacted the Department of Education, which told us the minimum we can expect schools to do to prevent students accessing pornography at school is: 

  • Prevent access to content on the Internet Watch Foundation’s list of illegal websites
  • Use content filtering, to prevent access to a wider range of inappropriate content

In addition to this, your child’s school may have appointed an e-safety co-ordinator or at least have put an e-safety policy in place. Ask if they do and if you can take a look at it. If there isn’t a policy in place, direct them to Kent County Council’s excellent policy template.An e-safety policy document outlines how a school manages filtering, complaints, assesses risk and authorises access, including access to social networking sites and email accounts. Ask how parents can get involved with the school’s efforts. Perhaps there is an e-safety agreement to sign as part of parents’ home safety agreement, maybe the school is offering parents’awareness sessions. How could you offer your help?

What you can do outside your door…

Lobby big business and government

1. Write to Sarah Teather MP, the new Minister for Children and Families

DOWNLOAD THE DRAFT LETTER TO SARAH TEATHER

2. Contact your mobile phone and Internet service providers

DOWNLOAD THE ISP DRAFT LETTER

DOWNLOAD INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER CONTACTS

USEFUL WEBSITES

Internet Watch Foundation
The IWF website allows you to report illegal content.

Child Exploitation and Online Exploitation Centre
Allows parents to report offensive material.

Thinkuknow
Advises parents on protecting children from online pornography.

NSPCC
Offers practical advice for helping children safely surf the Internet.

RELATED PSYCHOLOGIES ARTICLES

Are teenagers hooked on porn? Thanks to the internet, the average child sees their first explicit images by the age of just 11. How will this affect their future relationships?

The porn virus: What was once a guilty past time for teenage boys is now so pervasive we barely blush.

Too much, too young: ‘Tweens’ are increasingly exposed to a highly adult world, but to what effect?

How to talk to your child about sex: It’s a years-long conversation that prepares them for life and love. Here’s how to start talking.