Girls’ voices are behind a new measure to stop children from seeing pornography

We’ve campaigned since 2014 for the government to address children’s exposure to harmful sexualised content in the media. Advocate Elena charts this fantastic win

Elena Veris Reynolds
28 April 2017

I’ve just heard the amazing news – age-verification for online pornography sites has become law with the passage of the Digital Economy Act

This is something that’s very important to me. I believe all children should be protected against harmful and inappropriate material – and I’m not alone. Last year, three quarters of girls who took part in our Girls’ Attitudes Survey said they wanted age-verification on pornography too. 

How we got here

Since our 2014 Girls Matter campaign, we’ve been calling on the government to do more to stop children and young people being exposed to sexualised images, to curb the harmful effect they can have on our sense of self and our relationships.

Myself and 17 other young women have been especially involved as part of Girlguiding’s youth panel Advocate, speaking to the British Board of Film Classification and at events such as Dare2Care about how to stop children seeing unwanted sexualised images.

Last month, fellow Advocate Alice and I sat down with Baroness Jones of Whitchurch to tell her that we think age-verification for online pornography is a really important step towards protecting young people from the damage pornography can cause.

Although we know some people will still find ways to get onto these sites, we told Baroness Jones that making people prove they’re over 18 sends a message that children shouldn’t be viewing this sort of content. It was great to hear her mentioning what we talked about a few days later in a debate on the issue in the House of Lords.

What’s happened

Yesterday, the Digital Economy Bill became law, which means that age-verification for online pornography sites will become a reality. It’s also good to see that in this law, social media sites will have to have to follow a code of practice, as we know that a lot of the pornography young people see comes from places like Instagram and Snapchat.

Why it matters

At the moment, seeing pornography is a regular occurrence for many children and young people because it’s so easily available. A lot of pornography normalises violence against women and sends out confusing messages about consent – which is why this ruling is so important.

We hope this change will help to create a culture where children and young people like us can enjoy using the internet safely and comfortably.

Celebrate with us

We know this ruling means a lot to girls and young women – so tell us how you’re feeling! Tweet @girlguiding with the hashtag #DigitalEconomyAct #GuidingAdvocate 

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