Education & Family

Better child blocks on porn call

A young girl browses the internet
Youngsters are exposed to porn and sexualised marketing on the internet, campaigners say

Parents need much more help in protecting children from online porn, a review commissioned by the prime minister is to say.

The Bailey Review says parents should be able to buy computers, devices or internet services with adult content already blocked, rather than having to impose controls themselves.

The review, into the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood, also calls for age-ratings on music videos.

It also suggests more advert controls.

It says this should keep advertising with sexual imagery away from schools and playgrounds.

The review was carried out by Reg Bailey, the head of the Mothers' Union, and the findings are due to be published on Monday.

He describes the plethora of explicit adverts, videos and television programmes as a "wallpaper of sexual images that surround children".

Mr Bailey says parents are worried about "the increasingly sexualised culture we live in".

He says they need more support to protect their children and "help them deal with the pressure this brings".

Mr Bailey said parents were concerned about heavily sexualised imagery in outdoor advertising as there was no way of avoiding it.

"It wasn't as though these were something in a newspaper or in a magazine, they were in a public space. And parents felt that public space wasn't as friendly as it might be towards families.

"So one of our key recommendations is to say that parents views should be heard very clearly when it comes to determining sexualised imagery and the usage of that in advertising messages in public space."

Manufacturers and internet service providers could do a lot more to help parents block adult content from children including developing better ways of checking the age of users, the report says.

Mr Bailey is expected to say: "I have heard a lot of concerns from parents that their children can get easy access to pornography on the internet.

"Whilst most parents regularly check what their children are viewing online, and set up parental controls and filtering software, they remain concerned because they are not as internet savvy as their children.

"That's why I am calling for a new approach where all customers have to make an active choice over whether they allow adult content or not. This is something internet service providers have told me is workable."

The internet industry says it is already aware of the problem of young children accessing inappropriate websites.

The Mobile Broadband Group, said it supported "network based and device based solutions" to limit under-age access to online pornography.

Mr Bailey recommends music videos should carry age ratings and underage children should be banned from buying them.

'Challenge industry'

Rosemary Kempsell, the worldwide president of the Mothers' Union, said that while she welcomed the report, the government needed to take firm action to tackle the issue.

"We cannot agree with the review that a purely consensual approach will be the most effective, and that further regulation or legislation would necessarily disempower parents," she said.

"As the review points out several times, parents want help and support to address the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood, and government intervention is one way of achieving this. We should not be afraid to challenge industry when the welfare of our children, and their future, is at stake."

Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, who has put forward a private member's bill about teaching abstinence in sex education lessons, says the amount of sexual imagery made available in society must be cut back.

"The problem is that we have the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in the UK, the highest rate of abortion," she said. "We have an over-sexualisation of this culture which is everywhere.

"It is in Sky television, in video games that children now can access, on computer games, mobile phones. It's on billboard advertising, it's in teenage magazines, it's everywhere and it is too much. And we have to now say, enough."

Government deadline

Katherine Rake, chief executive of the Family and Parenting Institute, said: "Developments in technology, media and commerce mean the current generation of UK children are being subjected to some entirely new pressures.

"Parents are concerned children are experiencing too much too young in terms of sexualised images and aggressive advertising. Steps must be taken to make parents feel they are regaining some control of the messages their children absorb."

The Advertising Standards Authority and broadcasters are being urged to pay more attention to parents' views.

The government says it will implement all the recommendations and regulators and retailers have been told they have 18 months to clean up their act - otherwise legislation may be introduced.

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