Momentum is gathering for available technology to be used to protect children from porn after a New South Wales parliamentary inquiry this week recommended the introduction of internet filtering.
The parliament’s report into the sexualisation of children and young people called for State Attorney General, Gabrielle Upton, to advocate for a national opt-in internet filtering program through the Law, Crime and Community Safety Council which advises the Council of Australian Governments.
The NSW committee’s recommendations come as a Senate inquiry also considers the harm being done to Australian children through access to pornography on the internet.
In welcoming the report’s recommendations, the Australian Christian Lobby’s spokesperson for the dignity of women and children, Wendy Francis, said there was mounting evidence that pornography had harmful impacts on children.
“Confirming widely available knowledge, the inquiry found that pornography is shaping young people’s sexual understandings, expectations and practices,” Ms Francis said.
“It is imperative that we act to stop the intergenerational damage this is causing, particularly through domestic violence and sexual abuse.”
Ms Francis said it was encouraging that the committee had recognised the need to take action to protect children.
“The ACL would like to see a universal ISP-level ‘clean-feed’ which allows adults to opt-out of the filter in a similar way to the UK regime,” Ms Francis said.
“The ACL believes it would be hard for Australian attorneys general to ignore the overwhelming evidence contained in this report which underlines the effectiveness of internet filtering.
“Talking to children about what they see online is important but it is often too little, too late given the ubiquity of children’s access to devices which are connected to the internet.
“As a community we must not only teach children healthy attitudes towards women and sex, we also need to protect children from unhealthy material which is beyond the ability of parents or guardians to control.”
Internet filtering has operated successfully in a number of other countries, including the United Kingdom.
The need for internet filtering has been building for the past decade in Australia particularly under the Rudd Government which in 2007, with the support of the ACL and other family groups, advocated for clean-feed internet filtering.
Under pressure from internet providers and the pornography industry, it decided not to proceed in 2012.
A UK Government commissioned report, titled, ‘the Bailey Report (2011)’, examined the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood. Flowing from that report, a voluntary ISP-level ‘clean-feed’ system was adopted and is now in place.
90% of the UK Internet Service market share is controlled by the four largest ISPs.
All four ISPs have voluntarily implemented network-level ‘clean feed’. New customers and existing customers now have either a ‘default on’ or an ‘unavoidable choice’ as to whether their account with the ISP will have a ‘clean feed’.
Research indicates that the rate of consumption of pornography by children and young people is at alarming levels. Studies have reported:
- 84 per cent of boys and 60 per cent of girls have been exposed to internet sex sites accidentally.
- 93 per cent of males, and 62 percent of females between the ages of 13 – 16 had seen pornography.
- 1 in 20 boys aged 16 or 17 watch X-rated videos on a weekly basis.
One popular porn website has revealed use statistics showing:
- Australia ranks 8th in the world per capita for porn consumption.
- 56% of Australian traffic to the site is from smartphones, and 15% tablets; meaning less than 29% of Australians are using a desktop computer to access their website.
 The extent of exposure to pornography among children and young people; Flood, M; Child Abuse Review; Volume 18, Issue 6, pages 384–400, 2009; DOI: 10.1002/car.1092
 ‘Youth and pornography in Australia: Evidence on the extent of exposure and likely effects,’ Michael Flood and Clive Hamilton, The Australia Institute Discussion Paper Number 52, February 2003.