However, it does present some extremely complex challenges in addressing such issues, particularly if we are trying to balance rights to information with protection from harm. In recent times, the policy spotlight has turned onto issues of online safety, arguably stemming from the Byron Review  which was the first UK government commissioned report on child online safety.
However, while claiming to adopt recommendations from this report, from onwards the policy approach, which was initially looking at self-regulation, seemed to refocus from the broad approaches to online safety detailed in the review toward one that focused entirely on content control.
The fact is that the growth of the Internet as an unregulated space has thrown up 2 major challenges when it comes to protecting our children. The first challenge is criminal and that is the proliferation and accessibility of child abuse images on the Internet. The second challenge is cultural; the fact that many children are viewing online pornography and other damaging material at a very early age and that the nature of that pornography is so extreme it is distorting their view of sex and relationships.
The above comment comes from a speech David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, gave in July  around online child protection that focuses entirely on preventing young people from accessing harmful content. This demonstrates a particular attitude toward online child safety and, therein, a particularly governmental attitude toward the rights of children to access information online.
Content is the only issue — there is no acknowledgement of problems such as sexting, cyberbullying, privacy or identify fraud. This view is very direct and simple — service providers are facilitating access to such content, therefore they should stop it. The solution to this problem was to put filters in place to ensure young people cannot access such material.
Certainly, it is shocking to hear that a third of 10 year olds are accessing pornography and clearly something needs to be done. And it also seems to contradict a lot of experience in the field — I certainly speak with many primary aged children about content that has upset them when being online and it is extremely rare anyone will mention sexual content. The pornography debate is a complex one and the research on its influence on children, and adults, equally difficult.
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Certainly from my own conversations with teens, many, both girls and boys, are concerned about too much access, desensitization, issues of disrespect, unrealistic expectations, body image, etc. The choice of these three words is deliberate. While all of these words could be used to describe sexual content, they could equally be used to describe some other form of content, such as sexuality, gender or even ornithology. Article 13 Freedom of expression : Children have the right to get and share information, as long as the information is not damaging to them or others.
Article 17 Access to information; mass media : Children have the right to get information that is important to their health and well-being. However, potentially more interesting was the reported take up by new subscribers for these services:.
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Which does raise questions about the level of trust in such services but also means we have to face up the fact that parents may wish to preserve their right to access pornography too. There are many others such as it appearing on social media sites, shared via mobiles, self-generated, etc. When talking to young people about how they feel we could address these they are very clear where more effective approaches to addressing these issue should lie, illustrated by a snippet from some work with some year 10s I spoke to a while ago in a discussion on online issues and gender differences:.
What is still missing from the debate around legislation to protect from the harm of pornography is effective awareness and education. In my own experiences visiting schools and talking with young people about these issues I am struck by a number of things:. This, we might argue, is once again failing on the rights of children.
It should encourage children to respect others, human rights and their own and other cultures. It should also help them learn to live peacefully, protect the environment and respect other people. However, generally issues around global citizenship, rights of others, respect and similar are lost in a curriculum focussed around academic results and league table positions rather than the development of the whole child.
It was encouraging to observe that before the May election the Education Select Committee produced a report calling for compulsory sex and relationship education in schools . However, it is more worrying that this is something that has been resisted by the Government and House of Lords for a number of years.
Most recently, the House of Lords voted in January against an amendment to the Children and Families Bill, which would have made compulsory SRE a requirement across all state funded schools. They seem to be saying, in addition, that it is bad -and perhaps also that its badness is not redeemed by other artistic, literary, or political merit the work may possess. This suggests a third definition: pornography is sexually explicit material designed to produce sexual arousal in consumers that is bad in a certain way.
This definition of pornography makes it analytically true that pornography is bad: by definition, material that is not bad in the relevant way is not pornography.
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It might be that all and only sexually explicit material is bad in a certain way e. But it might be that only some sexually explicit material is objectionable e. And, of course, it is possible that no sexually explicit material is bad in the relevant way e. A number of approaches define pornography as sexually explicit material that is bad—although they disagree as to the relevant source of its badness, and consequently about what material is pornographic. A particularly dominant approach has been to define pornography in terms of obscenity.
For critical discussions of this approach see Schauer , Feinberg , MacKinnon If all sexually explicit material is obscene by whichever of these standards is chosen, then all sexually explicit material will be pornography on this definition. This is the definition of pornography that moral conservatives typically favour. But the badness of pornography need not reside in obscenity.
Pornography might be defined, not as sexually explicit material that is obscene, but as that sexually explicit material that harms women. See Longino , MacKinnon Of course, women may not be the only people harmed by the production or consumption of certain sorts of sexually explicit material. The consumption of sexually explicit material has often been thought to be harmful to its mostly male consumers: for example, by corrupting their morals or by making them less likely to have loving, long-term sexual relationships.
This class of sexually explicit material is widely regarded as objectionable because it involves the actual sexual exploitation of children, together with a permanent record of that abuse which may further harm their interests. But it is worth noting that there is an interesting fourth possibility. It is possible that some non -sexually explicit material might also turn out to be bad in the relevant way.
It might be that some non-sexually explicit material is obscene in the relevant sense e. Or it might turn out that non-sexually explicit advertising that depicts women in positions of sexual servility in such a way as to endorse that subordination is also bad in the relevant way. As many philosophers might be inclined to put the point, the sexually explicit materials that subordinate women via their depiction of women as subordinate may turn out not to form a natural kind.
In this case, there are two options. The former option would clearly stick more closely to the everyday conception of pornography as involving the sexually explicit. But it might be that this ordinary conception, on reflection, turns out not to capture what is of moral and political interest and importance.
There may thus be a theoretical reason to conceive of pornography more broadly than simply sexually explicit material that is bad in a certain way, or perhaps simply to invent a new term that captures the theoretically interesting kind. Some feminists seem inclined to this broader approach, suggesting that material that explicitly depicts women in postures of sexual submission, servility or display in such a way as to endorse it counts as pornography See Longino and MacKinnon This may include some non-sexually explicit material that would not ordinarily be thought of as pornography: for example, photographs in artwork, advertising or fashion spreads that depict women bound, chained or bruised in such a way as to glamorise these things.
For further discussion, see Rea It seems to me that we do not need to choose between these different definitions, for all of them capture something of the term's everyday use. What matters crucially is that we know which definition is being used in a particular case. Here is one topical example of how this might happen. Some feminists object to pornography on the grounds that it harms women. Other feminists claim that pornography may not always be harmful to women, and may even sometimes be beneficial.
It seems that there is genuine disagreement here. But is there? Not necessarily. So pornography, for them, is that subset of sexually explicit material that in fact harms women.
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This definition makes it an analytic truth that pornography, wherever it exists, is bad from a feminist point of view. There may thus be no genuine disagreement here. For both sides might agree that sexually explicit material that harms women is objectionable. They might also agree that there is nothing objectionable about sexually explicit material that does not harm women or anyone else.
Two really substantive issues at stake in the feminist debate over pornography are 1 whether any sexually explicit material is in fact harmful to women; and, if so, what should be done about it? Until comparatively recently, the main opposition to pornography came from moral and religious conservatives, who argue that pornography should be banned because its sexually explicit content is obscene and morally corrupting. According to conservatives, the sexually explicit content of pornography is an affront to decent family and religious values and deeply offensive to a significant portion of citizens who hold these values.
The consumption of pornography is bad for society. It undermines and destabilizes the moral fabric of a decent and stable society, by encouraging sexual promiscuity, deviant sexual practices and other attitudes and behaviour that threaten traditional family and religious institutions, and which conservatives regard as intrinsically morally wrong. Furthermore, pornography is bad for those who consume it, corrupting their character and preventing them from leading a good and worthwhile life in accordance with family and religious values.
According to conservatives, the state is justified in using its coercive power to uphold and enforce a community's moral convictions and to prevent citizens from engaging in activities that offend prevailing community standards of morality and decency. Governments also have a responsibility to prevent citizens from harming themselves.
This is true, even where the citizen is not a child who may not yet be competent to make responsible judgements for themselves about what is in their own best interests , but a mature adult who is voluntary engaged in an activity which they judge to be desirable and which causes no harm to others.
Conservatives therefore think that it is entirely legitimate for the state to prohibit consenting adults from publishing and viewing pornography, even in private, in order to protect the moral health of would-be consumers and of society as a whole. See Baird and Rosenbaum Traditional liberal defenders of pornography famously disagree, rejecting both the principle of legal moralism and the principle of legal paternalism, at least where consenting adults are concerned. This is not to say that liberal defenders of pornography necessarily approve of it.
Indeed, they frequently personally find pornography-especially violent and degrading pornography-mindless and offensive. But this does not mean that it should not be protected-quite the opposite. A vital principle is at stake for liberals in the debate over pornography and censorship. The principle is that mentally competent adults must not be prevented from expressing their own convictions, or from indulging their own private tastes, simply on the grounds that, in the opinion of others, those convictions or tastes are mistaken, offensive or unworthy.
Moral majorities must not be allowed to use the law to suppress dissenting minority opinions or to force their own moral convictions on others. For liberals, there is a very strong presumption in favour of individual freedom, and against state regulation that interferes with that freedom. The only grounds that liberals typically regard as providing a legitimate reason for state restrictions on individual freedom is in order to prevent harm to others.
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Hence, in debates over censorship and other forms of state regulation that restrict the liberty of individuals against their will, the burden of proof is always firmly on those who argue for censorship to demonstrate that the speech or conduct in question causes significant harm to others. It must either be shown to directly cause actual physical violence to others e. For further discussion of these different conceptions of harm to others see e.
Liberals have traditionally defended a right to pornography on three main grounds. Firstly, on the grounds of freedom of speech or expression , which protects the freedom of individuals in this case, pornographers to express their opinions and to communicate those opinions to others, however mistaken, disagreeable or offensive others may find them. Few liberals nowadays think that the negative right to freedom of speech is an absolute right: a freedom that can never legitimately be restricted by the state.