This Will Safeguard the Web for Children?

I was recently tagged by ilkeryoldas to support an initiative by a group of bloggers to request that adult webmasters require password protection on their websites in order to access the adult material. Currently, adult webmasters are required to by law to display a plain page with the warning that the content of their website contains adult material only to be accessed by the legal age limit set by the state. When you click the link, visitors are taken to the actual site where they are bombarded with all the nekkidness they could ask for. What these bloggers want is for these webmasters to require their visitors to register and have to enter a password to even enter the site.

This is what they would like you to post on your site:

Please require a password-protected login before allowing even free access to explicit adult content. We understand that selling porn is your business and we respect your right to make a legal living. But understand our legitimate concerns and work with us. You already have the “warning adult content” on your websites. Yet kids, who are not legal customers of your product, ignore the warning. So to prevent them from having direct access to explicit images, texts and sounds, the simplest way is to have a password-protected login. No more “free tours” before a visitor supplies basic information.

Blogger Power

Now let me preface my criticism by saying this is a noble cause and their hearts in the right place but I can’t quite shake the feeling as I read their open letter to bloggers around the world of being transported back to a time when I used to go to church and listening to the minister thump at the pulpit and extolling the dangers of pornography around the spittle dripping down his chin. They claim that this isn’t an attack against free speech and commerce but this is a slippery slope they’re treading and I’m not quite sure they realize that. Today’s it’s porn, tommorow it’s Michealangelo’s David.

In true fanatical style, they first scare you with statistics that look like they were pulled from someones backside. According to the site:

• Average age of first internet exposure to pornography: 11 years old
• Largest consumer group for Internet pornography: 12-17 year olds
• 15-17 year olds having multiple hard-core exposures: 80%
• 8-16 year olds having viewed porn online – 90% (most while doing homework)

These numbers come from the Top Ten Review Website, a product review website, with no obvious link to any page that details how and when these numbers were crunched. Where are these reviewers getting their data? In the United States it is illegal to sell pornography to anyone under the legal age limit so who is telling these guys that they are selling porn to 12-17 year olds? If they went straight to the teens and asked them face to face, how many teens did they talk to in comparison to how many adults they spoke to come up with this statistic? It is difficult for me to believe the numbers when the all important question of how the data was extrapolated remains unanswered.

The biggest problem I have with this is that the website does very little to impress upon the parents the importance of their role in “Making the Web Safer for Children”. In the whole sales pitch only one paragraph is devoted to giving parents tips on how they can prevent their kids from gaining access to pornographic sites. They suggest things like, putting the computer in a public place and installing filtering software but openly admit that parents can’t control everything their child does, which exposes the big gapping flaw in the plan they are proposing.

Now I know that some pornmasters do some pretty underhanded things to lure children into their websites. They hijack sites and they register domain names similar to popular cartoon show names. This is despicable and those type of webmasters need to be flogged. But the real million dollar question is that even if we are able to use social pressure (read bullying) to get adult webmasters to cooperate with this request, what would stop a child from just registering for an account to access the free porn?

Blogger Power’s answer:

A password-protected login prevents small kids from having direct access to extreme pornographic images. It will not stop older kids from actually making accounts to the porn sites, but until the children reach the “let me make an account” age, we’ll have enough time (or should have enough time) to educate them.

And

It’s true that children might login as well, but not so many as one may think. The fear and shame of being caught are still crucial stoppers.

But didn’t they just get done saying:

But understand our legitimate concerns and work with us. You already have the “warning adult content” on your websites. Yet kids, who are not legal customers of your product, ignore the warning.

I’m not quite sure I follow. Are you trying to tell me that a child who is old enough to understand and yet still ignore the first warning is going to be daunted at having to register to view the porn? I’m not so sure about that especially if there is no adult supervision. The only children, I think, that would be put off by having to register would be the ones truly too young to understand and thus too young to be surfing the net unsupervised.

I’m sorry but this open letter sounds nothing more than anti-pornography propaganda thinly disguised as an initiative to help the poor, exploited children of the world. I think that children accessing pornography probably is a problem here in America and I’m not advocating that we do nothing about it. However, I think efforts to stem the problem should probably be focused where it will be most effective. In the home.

Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, and according to research done by the National Child Care Information Center, children do much better when both parents are actively involved in their lives. That includes making a concerted effort to know what your kids are doing and who they are doing it with. Buy the filtering software and install it on all the computers in the house. Move the computer to a public place. Password protect it if need be to prevent access when you are not home. View the history and stored cookies to see what sites have been visited. Get keylogging software and most most all TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN!

And this:

And children do need their private sphere. They need to be able to express themselves freely, without being afraid of having their intimacy invaded.

…is complete crap. These people seem to be under the impression that a family is a democracy where everyone has a say in how the household is going to be run. It isn’t. It’s a dictatorship ruled by the parents. Your child may be entitled to privacy when they do a few things like sleep, or go to the bathroom but what they do on the internet is not one of them.

So then to end the post they put out a call to the collective:

Let’s see if what collective power there is in our united voices (and keyboards!), shall we? We are a strong community; we should prove that our voices matter. And the porn webmasters will listen, eventually. They depend on adult paying customers who are in our on-line communities as well. Those webmasters who demonstrate civic awareness and responsibility will benefit in the market, just as any corporation must be mindful of its reputation.

The thing is, the law of supply and demand favors the adult market. Do you really think the people who are surfing for porn is going to care if they are complying with Blogger Power’s request? You may get a few webmasters who will do it but not nearly as many as you’d think especially since it is not a legal requirement. And as to being mindful of their reputation…They sell porn! They are already thought of as being the scum of the earth. I’m thinking that particular piece of motivation will fail to inspire.

I’m supposed to tag 20 other people to support this meme but I’m not because I honestly believe this is wasted effort. I would much rather participate in a meme that educated parents (and also emphasized their responsibility) on the dangers of the internet and passed on tips and tools to help them in their fight to protect their children. However, I would love to get your thoughts on the subject. Feel free to leave a comment both pro and con.

Some helpful websites:

GetNetWise

Top Picks: Parental Filtering Software

Talking to kids about Porn

Kid’s Privacy

[tags]Blogger Power, Safeguard the web for children, politics[/tags]

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