Porn Block Or Not – It's Time To Ask Your Children If They Are Watching Porn

The porn block has been delayed. But how effective will it be in the first place? There is a whole world of sexual experience online, and teenagers are viewing it.
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Does your child watch porn online? This is a question every parent should be asking. It is estimated that over 20 million people in the UK watch porn, and we can’t know how many of them are underage. Gone are the days when schoolboys passed around dog-eared copies of Penthouse and Playboy. There is a whole world of sexual experience online, and teenagers are viewing it.

This is a problem which the government hopes to tackle. It had announced that from 15 July, users would not be able to access adult content unless they could prove themselves to be over 18. But this was today delayed for up to six months because of unforeseen difficulties. Whenever it happens this will be a welcome move, but how effective will it be?

There has already been an increase in searches for Virtual Private Networks or VPNs in preparation for this change in the law. Porn viewers can evade privacy checks by setting up a network which makes it appear that the user is outside the UK.

As a Head, I have seen the damage that the exposure of under-eighteens to these sites can do to teenagers’ body image and expectations of female behaviour in particular. Some struggle with boundaries, while others risk becoming addicted. Also gone are the days when the worst that happened on computers in teen bedrooms was too many hours of Minecraft or Call of Duty. Images on the dark web make such games look tame by comparison.

Phone companies all offer guidance on how to set up parental controls on your home wifi. A good hub for such advice can be found at the Safer Internet Centre online. But if your child is using a VPN, they can easily avoid such checks. Our digital native teens are often more technologically skilled than we are. You might also be surprised to discover what your child is searching for on their 4G. Again, mobile phone companies offer guidance, but they are not responsible in law for what their underage users access on their networks.

The best advice isn’t technological at all: have a conversation with your children.

Agreeing the boundaries means not just when and where devices are used, but what they are used for. Keep the lines of communication open. Talking through what your teen might have seen online is vital. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this ― or even if you do― please enlist the help of your child’s school. Schools are, of necessity, increasingly knowledgeable in this guidance, and keen to support you.

So is your child watching porn online? Please don’t just ask yourself this question—ask them.