Australia moves to Protect the Age of Innocence

Australia moves to protect the age of innocence

The future for Australia's children is looking brighter. 

At eChildhood, we are super excited about today's announcement by the Parliamentary Committee of its  support for the implementation of online Age Verification for online pornography here in Australia.

We are so grateful for all the support from our volunteers, supporters and partners over the years. It's so inspiring to see the fruit of passionate people collaborating to bring a strong and clear voice for the children's right to a porn-free childhood. 

The next steps will see the eSafety Commissioner leading the development of a road map for bringing in mandatory age verification of online pornography sites.

In one of the submissions to the inquiry, an Australian school counsellor stated that “In a meeting with 140 year six children (aged 11), 90 per cent said they had viewed pornography.”

Reportedly, sexting and pornography are rife. Children as young as seven are asking classmates for 'naked selfies', most students have seen explicit images or videos by year seven, and there’s concern about the number of young children with porn addiction. It’s clear that this is not a problem that parents and kids can solve alone. 

Today’s announcement is a big step in the right direction for Australia's children. Parents and carers will soon be able to feel that their kids are less likely to access online pornography when using the internet, as access to online pornography becomes more difficult. 

However, we know that Age Verification is not a silver bullet. Filtering, child settings, comprehensive sex and relationships education—as well as having the important conversations — are key to build resilience, and provide support for our kids, against the potential harms of pornography. 

We also note some of the concerns associated with Age Verification. The Committee states, ‘in order to ensure any Age Verification legislation is effective, ‘thorough consultation with all key stakeholders and digital experts is imperative. This will enable a robust, flexible and researched outcome that includes safety, security, and privacy.’

It’s clear that we have an important role in ensuring Australian communities: children and young people, parents, carers and professionals, are equipped with the right resources and information. 

Access to the internet, and therefore porn, is not just in the home, it’s everywhere. Protective behaviours, critical porn analysis, comprehensive sex, and relationship education need to become common knowledge in our society now for the wellbeing and basic human rights of our kids. 

Research states that kids are being harmed in a number of devastating ways; eChildhood’s recently updated (2020) statement of research can be found here: The literature reveals links between children’s access to pornography and a non-exhaustive list of outcomes

eChildhood will continue to work with Government and related stakeholders in this consultation phase and are dedicated towards our mission of Australia being a place where kids can grow up without unrestricted access to graphic, violent online pornography and sexual exploitation material on the internet.

at eChildhood, our mission is to connect the community to protect, support and equip children, and young people, to be free from pornography harms, through the promotion of Digital Child Protection Buffers and mobilising a Public Health Approach.

For those that are interested in the finer details - we have summarised the recommendations below: or you can click on the link for the full report.

The Committee lists six recommendations

The report, entitled—Protecting the age of innocence found that evidence to the inquiry revealed widespread and genuine concern among the community about the serious impacts on the welfare of children and young people associated with exposure to certain online content, particularly pornography.

  1. Develop standards for online age verification for age-restricted products and services that specify minimum requirements for privacy, safety, security, data handling, usability, accessibility, and auditing of age verification providers. [This is to be achieved by considering existing technical standards in Australia and overseas, along with opportunities for consultation with industry, including private age-verification providers, and members of the public.]
  2. The Digital Transformation Agency extend the Digital Identity program to include an age-verification exchange for the purpose of third-party online age verification.
  3. The Australian Government direct and adequately resource the eSafety Commissioner to expeditiously develop and publish a road map for the implementation of a regime of mandatory age verification for online pornographic material, setting out:
    1. a suitable legislative and regulatory framework;
    2. a program of consultation with community, industry, and government stakeholders;
    3. activities for awareness raising and education for the public; and
    4. recommendations for complementary measures to ensure that age verification is part of a broader, holistic approach to address risks and harms associated with the exposure of children and young people to online pornography.

The remaining three recommendations addressed age verification as a mechanism to protect children from online wagering and related services.

The Committee recognised that age verification is not a silver bullet, and that protecting children and young people from online harms requires government, industry, and the community to work together across a range of fronts. However, the Committee also concluded that age verification can create a significant barrier to prevent young people—and particularly young children—from exposure to harmful online content. The Committee’s recommendations therefore seek to support the implementation of online age verification in Australia. The Committee hopes that together these recommendations will contribute to a safer online environment for children and young people.

The report was tabled in Parliament by the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs, in response to the Inquiry into age verification for online wagering and online pornography. eChildhood attended the Canberra hearing on December 6, 2019, to provide evidence and answer questions related to our inquiry submission which can be found here