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Many children in the UK are seeing explicit sexual images using internet or mobile devices and commercial pornography distributors could do more to limit such exposure, says a new report, led by Dr Victoria Nash of the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford and commissioned by the Government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Preventing children from accessing online pornography

Photo credit: Shutterstock

The report by a panel of experts lays out the scale of the problem and possible measures to limit and mitigate risks. Published alongside a new government consultation setting out possible measures to reduce such exposure, the panel's report sets out the many ways in which children can encounter such material online. It also points out that there is an obvious mismatch between the regulation currently governing distribution of pornography in the offline context and its equivalent for online material.

To date, most interventions in the UK aimed at stopping minors accessing potentially harmful content have been voluntary. However, the report notes that there are obvious gaps where government might intervene, such as in bringing the responsibilities of commercial online pornographers into line with those in the offline world. The government consultation published today builds on this recommendation and further accepts the report proposal that age verification tools should be more widely employed.

The report provides further background information for the consultation. It reviews available UK and international data, but notes that it is difficult to know the real numbers for children who are accessing porn given the ethical and practical challenges of studying children's experiences on this issue. Historically, the most common means for under-18s to access explicit sexual content were via TV, films, magazines and books which may now be viewed digitally as well as via traditional routes. Common online routes include video and photo-sharing sites or pop-up ads and social media sites.

Read more on the University website (opens new window)