/ Parenting, Technology

Morning madam, do you want to watch porn online?

What an impertinent question. It is of course none of my business whether you like watching porn. But apparently it is now the business of both the government and your internet service provider.

After the Bailey Review, a report released in June about the sexualisation of children, we’ve had a tough question to answer – to what extent should we curb adult rights in order to protect our children?

Apparently one of the answers is to change the way your internet service provider (ISP) restricts adult sites. The idea is that if you block porn from computers, you prevent children from seeing it and thus reduce the amount of sexual content they are exposed to.

Parental controls: opt-in or opt-out?

At the moment there is some confusion about whether the blocking of porn will be an opt-out system (i.e. porn is automatically blocked and you need to have a rather embarrassing phone call with your ISP to ask them to lift that restriction) or whether it will be opt-in (i.e. when you sign up for a new broadband deal your ISP asks whether you’d like to have porn blocked).

The first of these is naturally extremely restrictive, and results in censorship by companies of services that individuals have paid for.

But I also think the second one – what TalkTalk calls an “active choice” – creates problems. If people are prompted at the point of sale to make a decision about pornography, you’re effectively asking adults to discuss their internet-usage habits with a complete stranger.

Even if you do decide to keep porn blocked, the choice as to what’s blocked will be in the hands of the ISP, not the individual.

Is Parentport appropriate?

What children watch should be in the hands of their parents, not ISPs. But accompanying the proposals is the announcement of a new website – Parentport – where parents can report content (including posters, programmes and films) that they think are inappropriate for children.

Am I missing something here? We’re floating the idea of ISPs censoring porn so that parents don’t have to – why are we now saying that parents should be able to make suggestions about inappropriate content? What we’re doing is removing the responsibility of individual parents, while at the same time giving them power over what is and is not appropriate for others.

I don’t have children (can you tell?!) but I am an adult. I am old enough to pay for my own broadband connection, old enough to have a contract on my phone, old enough to not have to talk to my ISP about what I do and don’t watch. And, above all, I’m old enough to know that (children or no children) what’s “appropriate” should be decided by individual families and should not be imposed on us all.

Do you think we need to make an “active choice” to watch porn, or is there a better way to educate parents about relevant blocks and controls?

Comments
Member

I don’t think that ANY adult rights should be curtailed in order to “protect the children”. This is the mark of a fascist and a level of censorship that we MUST fight to the death.

It is down to the parent, if you have a computer/tablet at home then it is your responsibility to restrict content if it can affect your children. This can either be done via the firewall or from BT themselves.

Good on BT and talktalk for fighting this, it’s not about porn, it’s about the censorship of the net, it just can’t be done.

Member

Just to say, BT and TalkTalk have both signed up to this, as well as Sky and Virgin.

Member

I’d like to see porn banned at source. It’s not needed and feeds desires that are not good and healthy.

However it does exist and I don’t want my kids to get access to it. In fact I don’t want access to it. I have put in place technology that for their current age and usage will block access to sites deemed porn by the mechanism I use. They don’t need to know about porn at their age. We also when we can stay with them when they use the computer and keep track of messaging. Currently I’ve had no issues getting to any site I need to get to.

The problem with handing the filtering to the ISP is when they “get it wrong” either way. Letting porn through or blocking non-porn (could apply to any topic though). As an example one system has categorised bbc.co.uk as an adult site including CBeebies. And as mentioned what if a future government wants to restrict some other information.

On the more specifics of the topic, I have no problem if people wanting porn need to make an embarrassing call to their ISP.

Member

Good point on the tech tweetiepooh – as it’s not an exact science there will no doubt be websites that are blocked that shouldn’t be (apparently sexual health charities have problems with this sometimes) and also sites that are pornographic that aren’t picked up by the filters. Another reason, I think, why control should be given on an individual level. And just as an addition – parents do already have this element of control – they can block adult sites if they want to, it’s just that they won’t be prompted by their ISPs to make that choice.

Regarding whether porn is inherently a bad thing and should be banned… well, that’s probably not a discussion for me to have on this thread. I’d say given that it is legal it should be available to adults who have paid for the service without them having to opt into it.

Member

Meanwhile, would I get a prize for being the first to ask to opt in ?

Member

While this is a similar debate to the one Patrick raised recently about TV censorship for children, I feel that it’s much more clear-cut when considering TV. It’s easy for parents to censor TV – and they should be the ones responsible for doing so. TV is so invasive that only ‘bad’ parenting (TVs in bedrooms/using it as a babysitter while you’ve got no clue what they’re watching etc) would lead to the wrong stuff slipping through.

But it is harder with computers. As kids get older they use them for homework, often unsupervised. As computers are quiet, portable and don’t sit on view to the whole room, it would be much harder for parents to always know what’s being looked at. The speed at which you can surf between sites and pages also makes supervision difficult.

I’m not disagreeing that this move is taking away certain people’s rights, but getting internet censorship right for everyone is a fine balance. I’d be happy to opt-in to censorship so long as it was made clear to me by my ISP that this is what is required. I think communication about this issue is pretty poor from ISPs (mine at least) and they should be helping parents to censor their kids online if an opt-out approach was adopted.

Member

That would set a very dangerous precedent

Member

What would? I wasn’t disagreeing with you…

Member