Each year, millions of children are exposed to violent online pornography before they’ve even had their first kiss. This can effectively alter their neuropathways to create emotional and behavioural problems — particularly later in life, where we see increasingly high rates of adults experiencing pornography addiction and problematic sexual behaviour.
Children who accidentally stumble upon porn have not consented to it; nor can they, as their brains are still developing and, thus, are incapable of giving informed consent.
But there is a simple, yet effective, solution that will protect millions of kids from the neurological damage caused by unrestricted access to harmful online content: age verification (AV) technology.
WHAT ABOUT PRIVACY?
AV technology requires users to verify that they are aged 18 or over before accessing a particular website. As there can be significant stigma attached to pornography use, it’s imperative that we protect users’ personal information. Users must have assurances that their information will not be shared with pornography companies nor tied to their user data.
HOW IT WORKS
John Carr is one of the world’s leading authorities on youth internet use, Secretary of the UK Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety, and Senior Adviser to Bangkok-based ECPAT International. As a featured speaker at Connecting to Protect (C2P)’s inaugural global virtual summit on Oct. 13-15, 2021, Carr advocates for AV technology that is provided by third-party companies to ensure the protection of personal information. He describes how it works in this example:
John Smith navigates to Entity A (a third-party AV company) on his web browser. He satisfies Entity A that he is over 18. They give him a digital token which he can then present to websites that offer products or services for adults 18 and over, including alcohol, cannabis, weapons, gambling or pornography.
This digital token does not hold any information about John Smith; only a simple acknowledgement that the pornography website is legally entitled to assume that the presenter of the token is aged 18 or older. The token cannot be linked back to the user’s individual identity, even by Entity A.
On Carr’s personal blog, he says:
“Age verification is not a panacea, not a silver bullet, but it is a bullet. It has worked outstandingly well in respect of keeping children away from all the traditional forms of online gambling. There is absolutely no doubt it could do the same elsewhere, including protecting children from porn and other online harms where there is a legally defined or contractually prescribed minimum age.”
Carr and other leading experts — including Dr. Gail Dines, Dr. Donald Hilton, Dr. Jennifer Johnson, Dr. Marc Potenza, Dr. Stefanie Carnes, Maree Crabb, Lisa & Jason Frost and more — are coming together for C2P’s world-first virtual summit on Oct. 13-15, 2021, to strategize and coordinate a public health response to find new ways to safeguard the wellbeing of our children and communities globally. C2P is a global coalition of mental health, medical neuroscience, education, legal, technology and policy experts addressing the harms associated with early childhood access to harmful pornographic content online.
Join us to to learn more and help develop research-based best practices to protect children. Register today!
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Dr. Jocelyn Monsma, Chair of Connecting to Protect, is a clinical therapist with over 40 years of experience and director of a private Addiction Continuing Care Program for Adults specializing in chemical, gambling and sex addiction. Megan Eichhorn is a writer and content creator with a focus on trauma-informed communication, social justice and social responsibility.