Google: parents to blame if kids view porn

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London - A Google executive says it is a “myth” that laws can protect children from internet pornography.

Naomi Gummer insisted it was up to parents to keep their children safe from disturbing material.

She told a conference that legislation would be a blunt instrument because of the pace of technological advance. And she accused many parents of being “complicit” in helping youngsters use social networking sites such as Facebook even though they are not old enough.

Provocatively, she also cited research claiming that the extent of sexual content online had been exaggerated and that only a tiny minority of children are “upset” by what they see. In the last few days, the Daily Mail has highlighted concerns over the ease with which children can access online porn and today we launch a campaign demanding an “opt-in” policy for adult content on the internet.

This means that users would be automatically excluded from porn sites unless they specifically declared their wish to see them.

By contrast the industry wants an “opt-out” policy but critics say this would act as much less of a deterrent and protect far fewer children. Miss Gummer, a public policy analyst with the internet giant, was until recently a political adviser to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, the man in charge of internet policy. Her father is Lord Chadlington, a close ally and neighbour of David Cameron – and significant Tory donor.

Her candid comments will spark concerns that internet firms arguing against legislation have the ear of the government, while those campaigning for tougher action to protect children online find it more difficult to be heard.

Mr Hunt was criticised yesterday when it emerged that his department was ready to reject calls for web access to online porn to be automatically blocked.

Last year the minister threatened to legislate if the internet service providers refuse to act but there is no real sign of any new laws.

Ministers now appear to be pushing for a less stringent “opt-out” scenario, where computer users are asked whether they want to be able to access adult content.

If they do not answer, the material will still be available – potentially putting their children at risk.

Miss Gummer’s remarks were made at a conference of child welfare experts on Friday in Bath.

She said: “The idea that laws can adequately protect young people is a myth. Technology is moving so fast that legislation is a blunt tool for addressing these challenges.

“But also the truth is that parents are complicit in their kids using underage social networking sites. It is about education, and not using legislative levers.”

Miss Gummer insisted to the conference that the extent of sexual content online had been exaggerated.

“Twenty-five percent of kids have seen sexual images, but only 14 percent saw them online,” she said. “Of that, four percent say they were upset by the images, two percent of those images are hard-core and violent, and the rest is nudity in the same way as perhaps seen in the offline world.”

These figures strongly contradict the evidence put forward by MPs, who last week reported that one in three ten-year-olds has seen explicit material. - Daily Mail

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