The public welcomes government's new internet safety measures to protect children from pornography

Safer Internet Day is in full swing, with the government announcing new measures to keep children safe from online pornography.

Pornographic websites in the United Kingdom will now be legally required to verify their users' ages under a new Online Safety Bill announced by Digital Minister Chris Philp earlier today on 8 February.

All pornographic websites will be required to implement strict control checks to verify that their users are at least 18 years old. Sites can use a third-party service to validate a user's age against government data, or age verification technology to ensure users have a credit card and are over the age of 18.

“It is too easy for children to access pornography online,” said Mr Philp. “Parents deserve peace of mind that their children are protected online from seeing things no child should see.

“We are now strengthening the Online Safety Bill, so it applies to all porn sites, to ensure we achieve our aim of making the internet a safer place for children.”

The much-welcomed change comes after years of lobbying by numerous organisations and parents. The government is working with Ofcom, which will oversee the new duties and have the authority to fine them up to 10 per cent of their annual worldwide turnover or block them from being accessible in the UK.

Journalist Mared Parry, 25, has been advocating for a change in the law for the past five years after she's experienced online grooming at the age of 14. Going as far as speaking to Westminster's politicians on how to make the internet safer for children, Parry is "over the moon that there has finally been some sort of move with it.

"Just myself, I have been campaigning for this for five years now, and I've been furiously ranting about it on and on in the hopes that something would hopefully change," said Parry.

"There's been a lot of empty 'what if' and 'we'd like to' and 'potentially', but this seems pretty certain. It's a shame that it has taken so long, and I'm just looking forward to essentially just seeing the full extent of everything that's going to be passed.
"If they do it properly, this could save hundreds of thousands of lives," Parry said.

According to an Internet Matters report, nearly half of parents are concerned that pornography will give their children the wrong idea about normal sex, as well as poor sex education. Fifty-three per cent of mothers is also concerned that easy access to pornography will give their children a negative image of women as victims of abuse.

Another report by the British Board of Film Classification also found that children are exposed to pornography at an early age, in some cases as young as seven or eight, and that the majority of them do so unintentionally.

Claire Jacobs, 37, from Single Parent Pessimist, told Kindred. she is pleased with the government’s decision. Jacobs, a single mother and an independent social worker, said that “as a mum of a boy approaching puberty I've worried about when he might access porn as it gives unrealistic ideas of sex and can show women in particular as objects to be used.

“I'd rather he's educated about sex and how that industry depicts it before accessing it,” said Jacobs. “It's good that it may be harder for him to see it before I've educated him, and he's had his own real experiences as a teen first. Being taught about sex in the real world, and love, can be done better if kids can’t access it [pornography].”