A new consultation document has recently been released by the UK Government entitled ‘Child Safety Online - Age Verification for Pornography.  The paper outlines the fact that whilst we as a society have measures in place to protect children from pornographic magazines and films, there is nothing in place to ensure that young people don’t inadvertently find adult material online.

"In May 2015, 1.4 million unique visitors under 18 years old accessed online sites classified as containing pornographic content from their desktop. Approximately half (732,000) were users aged 6-14” and goes on to say that the aims of the new verification system will be to "to protect children from distressing or unrealistic images of sex. Clearly, these images risk harming their ability to develop healthy personal relationships based on respect and consent.”

Now whilst I don’t disagree with the sentiment and concerns of the paper, what does bother me is that there is no mention at all of the potential risk of compulsive use. Pornography addiction is contentious and there is still insufficient research for us to be sure that it is an ‘addiction’ or if another label would be more accurate.  But few people now doubt that compulsive use is a problem for many young people. And like many counsellors and therapists, we are seeing an increasing number of young people reach out for help through our services. 

The paper is currently open for comments and I would like to strongly encourage anyone reading this post to respond and stress the importance of recognising the potential risk of addiction. We know that not every young person who views porn will get hooked, but it is my belief that we have a moral responsibility to educate young people about the risk and how to notice the warning signs.  

Blocking alone will never work, there must be education. You can access the paper here.