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Online violence bothers children more than porn

kids with laptop

By Nicole Kobie

Posted on 4 Feb 2013 at 12:15

Young children are upset by violence and cyber-bullying when using the internet, according to a report, suggesting MPs' focus on banning online pornography is "too narrow".

The report by UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) - a body associated with the Department of Education - surveyed 24,000 children, asking what online content they found most upsetting.

"Upset is caused by a broad range of issues, very varied, and not all sexual content," said Andy Phippen, a professor of social responsibility at Plymouth University who worked on the survey, according to a report in the The Observer.

Upset is caused by a broad range of issues, very varied, and not all sexual content

The "Have Your Say" survey found children under the age of 11 used the internet most often to play games, do school work and talk to friends, and said they were upset by violence, such as cruelty to animals.

"I think, in this age group, violent images and upset from abusive nasty comments from their peers are the concerns," Phippen told the newspaper. "It is spoken about as 'so and so is so mean to me'. Cyber bullying – they don't use that term."

For older children and teenagers, pornography wasn't a primary concern, but the report said so-called "sexting" was a genuine problem.

Online filtering

The report follows efforts by MP Clare Perry to have adult content blocked from the UK internet, after a campaign that focused on pornography rather than other potentially unsuitable content. Those plans were blocked following a report that showed filtering wouldn't work.

Phippen pointed out that none of the issues raised would be easily managed via filtering, and called for more education. "There is no silver bullet to crack child safety online," Phippen said. "Government's obsession with filtering is okay, but too narrow."

The full report will be released Tuesday as part of Safer Internet Day.

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User comments

Its a complex issue

This report seems at least to have tried to unravel some of the complexity surrounding 'blocking' or (as it should be called) censorship of the Internet.

I'm not surprised that younger children aren't 'upset' by porn, but that's not to say that it won't lead to the child being 'disturbed' by it at some time.

Most 10 year olds don't have either the physical or emotional 'equipment' to relate to sexual imagery.
Unfortunately it seems that a lot of contemporary porn isn't 'only' sexual, it overlays the sex with varying degrees of abuse and\or violence. The immediate effect of that (on a sexually immature 10 year old) might not be too great. But those images, and the underlying sexual violence may, if only partially, inform and influence the child's early sexual experiences. Further exposure to porn at this stage will tend both to validate, and reinforce that earlier imagery.

The conflation of sex & violence that seems to characterise modern 'Internet porn' might be one of the reasons why the 10 year-olds who are 'upset' by violence seem to become inured to it as they grow up, and (so we're told) start to view porn themselves.

Ultimately it all comes down to us educating children and young adults to be able to deal with both violence and pornography, and with violent, sexual porn.
Simply trying to censor or block access won't work.

It is a job for schools, parents and society at large. A job for us all to try and mediate children's access to violence, porn and all the other potentially damaging components of modern living, in such a way as to allow them to develop the moral and philosophical tools and outlook to deal with them.

In most cases, good old-fashioned parenting and school-based 'education' is enough. The problem lies with those many children deprived of proper parenting and\or a decent school to go to. Censorship will have even less effect on them than on the majority of kids.

I don't have a single 'solution', indeed I reject the simple-minded authoritarianism which proposes there can be one. As a start, right-wing newspapers which are promoting a porn ban might like to consider removing the "sweet 16" type commentaries from their own websites: where they publish sexy photos and suggestive text of girls as they 'come of age'.

More practically this is a holistic problem and needs a complex and holistic set of processes to ameliorate (not 'solve') it.

By wittgenfrog on 4 Feb 2013

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