Sunday 21 January 2018

State criticised for not protecting children with online porn filters

Pat Rabbitte
Pat Rabbitte
Aideen Sheehan

Aideen Sheehan

THE Government's failure to force internet companies to block pornography from entering family homes has been criticised by child safety groups.

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) said it was "disappointing" that the Government did not believe this should be a priority, even though the UK is currently taking steps to make porn filters the norm on broadband connections.

ISPCC Childline manager Marge Roe noted that a major report into tackling cyber-bullying had been published this week. But, she said, that was not the only technological threat to young people and the Government should take all steps necessary to guard children.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, right, told the Irish Independent this week that he was not planning to ask internet companies such as Eircom and UPC to block sexual material.

But Ms Roe said that children regularly contacted Childline to say they had been disturbed by pornographic images they came upon on the internet. This included young teenagers who had been encouraged to do so by peer pressure, and others who accidentally came upon disturbing images because they misspelled words.

While children would naturally be curious about sex, they were now frequently exposed to hardcore material which would make top-shelf magazines look tame, Ms Roe said.

AUTOMATIC

"It can be quite traumatic to see this kind of material and children often tell us they feel weird or uncomfortable about it," she said.

While parents needed to be open and involved with their children to monitor what they were accessing, many were not technologically savvy enough to install filters themselves.

This is why automatic filters were a better option, she said.

"It's also the case that it's not just one computer in the home with internet access any more, you have smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices as well," Ms Roe said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has backed measures in the UK to make internet service providers provide default filters blocking pornographic material.

Adults would be able to opt in to receive such material if they wished – to counter claims the measure limited personal freedom and freedom of expression.

Research has shown that 11pc of children here – including many as young as nine-years-old – have viewed sexual images on the internet.

This rises to one in five amongst teenagers aged 13-16, the Irish research for the EU Kids Online Report shows.

Irish Independent

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