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PA Dominic Lipinski
PA Dominic Lipinski
UK News

Adult websites visited by 26 million people in Sept 2020, as plan to protect children is proposed in Parliament

by Cara Bentley

Around half of UK adults – 49 per cent or around 26 million people – visited an adult website or app in September 2020.

The largest, Pornhub, was visited by around a third of online adults (15 million people) in September 2020, representing half of all UK men who are online and 16 per cent of UK online women.

The statistics about the prevalence of pornography come as a bill seeking to protect children from adult material got its first reading in the House of Lords this week. 

The Private Member's Bill proposed by DUP peer Lord Morrow would force the Government to enact Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act, which has passed but never been implemented. Part 3 forces commercial pornography websites to verify the age of their visitors and establish a regulator. The regulator would be empowered to take action against any site showing illegal 'extreme pornography', such as sexual violence. 

In May, a letter to the Prime Minister signed by 60 groups and individuals, including children's and women's charities warned that the failure to implement Part 3 has become "unsustainable":

"The last two months have raised very serious concerns about the safety of women and children in relation to sexual violence. While it is too early to talk in depth about what happened to Sarah Everard, it is clear from the outpouring of stories from women across the country following her death that a very large proportion of attacks on women are sexually motivated.

"We have also witnessed the impact of the 'Everyone's Invited' website, with over 10,000 rape culture testimonies and revelations about its impact on children through the recent Centre for Social Justice report."

"In this context, given the growing body of research (including research commissioned by the Government) demonstrating a clear association between pornography consumption and a higher incidence of violence against women and girls, the failure to implement Part 3, in the absence of alternative protections, has become unsustainable."

The Online Nation report by Ofcom into internet usage looked into dating apps and buying habits as well.

Despite most social media platforms setting their minimum user age at 13, nearly two-thirds of UK children use social media by the time they are 11. By age 15, use increases to 95 per cent, the survey found.

About nine in 10 children aged eight to 15 said social media helped them feel closer to friends during the pandemic. But a similar proportion said it prompted popularity pressures. Two-thirds of boys and three-quarters of girls aged seven to 16 also agreed that social media could cause worries about body image.

More than half of 12 to 15-year-olds reported having a negative experience online in 2020. The most common experience, cited by 30 per cent, was someone they did not know attempting to befriend them online.

A significant minority (18 per cent) had seen something “scary or troubling”, or content of a sexual nature that made them uncomfortable (17 per cent).

Andy Burrows, NSPCC head of child safety online policy, said: “This report makes it clear that for even the youngest children the online world is an integral part of their daily lives, but far too many are being exposed to harmful content and behaviour.

“And with two thirds of 11-year-olds using social media there’s even more evidence that companies are setting their own rules and not enforcing them.

“The Online Safety Bill can change this but must be more ambitious. Successful regulation must understand that as children switch from app to app, harm and abuse follow, and compel firms to work with each other to prevent risks that spread rapidly across platforms.”

 

Additional reporting from PA 

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