Australian Government fails to protect children ​ from online porn

Australian Government fails to protect children ​ from online porn


The registered charity, Porn Harms Kids, addresses the impact online pornography can have on children and young people, and holds the government accountable

Worldwide, pornography is now being framed as a Public Health Crisis by many governments, health, violence prevention and advocacy organisations. The harms of pornography to children and young people are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. Messages that children and young people learn from pornography, shape themselves and the culture we live in. The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission acknowledges there is a direct correlation between access by adolescents to pornography and risky sexual behaviour, as well as links to negative mental health outcomes. The Health Promotion charity, Porn Harms Kids, is purposed with raising the profile of this issue.

The Australian Government tabled a response to the Senate Enquiry on 20 April 2017, Harm being done to Australian children through access to pornography on the Internet. The report responded to recommendations that the Senate Committee considers will help address the harm being done to Australian children through access to pornography on the Internet, however, does not accept responsibility or adequately address preventative measures.

The Australian Government has a duty of care towards protecting its children from pornography harms and should immediately introduce Digital Child Protection Buffers to stop children accessing adult material on their phones, iPads and computers. states Chair of Porn Harms Kids, Liz Walker. The overall response thus far of the government has been to refer the weight of the burden to parents, whereas a public health crisis acknowledges the gravitas and need for as many proactive responses as possible.

The protection of children from online harms requires a whole of government approach, including education and prevention. Walker welcomed a parliamentary motion discussing Internet Content on 22 May 2017, however, she states the pressing issue of children accessing extreme adult content, is a separate issue to children being groomed by predators. “While ever kids have ready access to hard core pornography, they are normalised into violent themes, exploitation and predatory behaviours.” Walker welcomes the introduction of Carly’s Law that offers tools to enable law enforcement to act against online predators sooner, yet she indicates that without reduced access to violent sexual themes online, the sexual harms projected onto children will only compound.

The government report refers to a range of programs it provides through the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner, the AFP’s ThinkUKnow program, and the Department of Education and Training’s Student Wellbeing Hub. However, Walker indicates it is misleading for schools to rely on the national Student Wellbeing Hub, and says “The ‘School Audit Tool’ fails to specifically mention pornography or adequately address sexually harmful behaviours. These government-recommended resources need a drastic overhaul to keep up with pornography harms impacting young people.

Schools are often unprepared to deal with the onslaught of porn culture; outdated policies, inadequate resources and staff confidence, all need addressing. A public health lens informs the activities of the 3-pronged PREVENT – EQUIP – RESTORE approach taken by Porn Harms Kids. Given the extensive data available on the harms of pornography on children and young people, including negative sexist attitudes, sexual aggression, violence against women, and child-on-child sexual abuse, work must commence with prevention; policy, tougher industry codes, mobile device restrictions and age-verification are all vital. Walker says that “if the UK can implement a range of online child protection measures, it’s well overdue that Australia adopts similar measures.”

It’s time to call upon the Australian Government to stand by their commitment as signatories to the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child, and exercise their bipartisan due diligence responsibility to protect children from online harms being perpetrated against them. Pornography is a social problem and hence cannot be simply addressed by focusing on an individual level and expecting parents and schools to fix this problem.

Wed 31 May 2017


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