Underage access to online pornographic content biggest fear for Lancashire parents

Picture: PA
Picture: PA
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Three quarters (75 per cent) of parents worry about their children accessing – or inadvertently stumbling upon - inappropriate adult content online, according to new research.

The study of 1,500 parents, by leading age-verification provider, AgeChecked, found that websites containing pornographic material were the biggest concern for children’s safety and wellbeing. This was ahead of gambling platforms (51 per cent) and shopping sites that sell restricted items such as knives and alcohol (40 per cent).

The worrying impact of adult content on young people’s mental health was recently highlighted in a report by the NSPCC. The charity cited widespread confusion over what constitutes “normal” intimate activity as a cause for increasing peer sexual abuse.

However, despite this clear need to safeguard minors against viewing inappropriate content online, fewer than half (43 per cent) of the parents surveyed believe that current age restrictions in place are working effectively.

Better online age checks form a key part of the Digital Economy Act, which will require the adult industry to check the age of all online users when it is implemented in April 2019.

This is in addition to growing pressure on social media platforms to better regulate their content. The research found that 59 per cent of children have used social media by the age of 10, even though many of these have a minimum age requirement of 14.

Currently, the adult industry is able to promote explicit content via certain social platforms that are easily accessible by children. However, there is nothing within new Digital Economy Act regulations to stop sites from continuing to advertise their services in this way.

Alastair Graham, CEO of AgeChecked, said: “Pressure is mounting for adult content providers to ensure they are operating entirely within the law. Although parents have a responsibility to protect their children, it’s almost impossible to constantly monitor exactly what they are doing online. The onus is therefore also on the adult industry to help safeguard young people – who can be too-easily warped by what they see on the internet.”