Porn Lock

According to the Guardian, Ed Vaizey MP, Communications Minister, is set to talk with leading internet service providers in the UK about changing the way that pornography ‘enters’ UK homes. At the moment any internet customer can access any legal pornography. They would have to use filtering controls such as Cybersitter or Bumpercar if they wanted to prevent children and young people from accessing pornographic or sexually explicit materials.

Now first and foremost I’m worried about what effect this is going to have on me and on my websites. Look around. Look how much the word porn is used. In a sex and relationships education website aimed at teens it would be pretty remiss of me not to tackle porn head on. If you look here, you’ll see loads of posts about porn which aim to give young people the knowledge, skills and values to enable them to be critical about porn and sexy imagery. Often broad brush approaches to filtering mean that sites like mine are also affected, which would mean that young people would not be able to access my site.

So far so me me me.

However even if it wasn’t going to have an effect on me I’d still be very dubious about whether this would work at all.

Evidence

There is very little reliable evidence about the extent to which young people are watching sexually explicit materials and whether there any harms for children and young people in viewing such material.

Yes there was that ropey research in Psychologies magazine which involved one secondary school¬† and there was that You Gov poll conducted for an entertainment television programme about young people and porn called ‘The Sex Education Show’

However even the briefest look on Google Scholar will show you that there is not a lot of rigorous academic research in this area. Arguments about porn, such as arguments about sexualisation, are usually values rather than evidence based. There is certainly no consensus in the academic world about young people and porn.

I would encourage you to read what I believe (I’m a practitioner, not an academic) to be the most thorough recent paper http://www.springerlink.com/content/c1k7r32gj9q72248/ It points out the lack of evidence of the extent of porn consumption and harms from previous research. In their own work the authors find that the effects on individuals may in some cases be negative, but that these are very small effects.

Some small qualitative studies suggest that porn can be harmful to young people , whilst others suggest that it can have beneficial effects.

In my view, as a practitioner, there is not enough evidence to suggest that porn is being used extensively by young people and there is not enough evidence to suggest that porn is harmful or beneficial for young people. Certainly there isn’t enough evidence to base government policy on it.

Sex Education

What all academic research into porn seems to agree is that there needs to be more research into porn, but also more sex education about porn (da, daaaa!). There is a lot of concern about the consumption of pornography by young people, which may be driven more by personal and anecdotal experience, rather than be grounded in robust academic evidence. Preventing access to websites such as mine, which aim to provide this education, has obvious problems.

Sex education needs backing. It needs incentives for teachers to teach it, it needs money for specialist workers, training and resources and some also think it needs to be on the National Curriculum. We await the results of the education and public health white papers from the coalition on this, however the mood music I am hearing is not filling me with hope.

Porn Lock Is Unlikely To Prevent Access

Some young people really want to watch porn. Some are curious but aren’t really into it and some ‘are exposed’ to it.

Porn is available on phones via bluetooth, on the telly (Babestation, freeview adult channels for example), but also in magazines, national newspapers and candid sexual shots of celebrities (on the Daily Mail website). Porn and sexually explicit materials are still going to be available, except, under these proposals, sites like mine but also other sex bloggers who critique porn are not going to be available. So we’ll still have the problem but with no access to many of the tools to help solve it.

In my view internet controls need to remain in the hands of the parents, not ISPs. Parents and carers can have more control and can decide which sites they want to exclude or include in their filters. I’m sure that ISPs will feel the same way.

For further reading, read this excellent excellent article by Dr Petra

Read this excellent article by Violet Blue http://www.zdnet.com/blog/perlow/britain-considers-isp-filters-to-save-the-children-flawed-logic/14978?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TechBroiler+%28Tech+Broiler%29

This is also an interesting take on the situation from Ms Naughty

Also thanks to @robmanuel and @quietriot_girl who have been campaigning about this on twitter today.

Thoughts? Comments?