Search
  • thewhitehatter

Online Porn Filters: Does Feeling Good Equal Doing Good?



As social media safety and digital literacy advocates, we at The White Hatter turn to evidence-based research to help guide us in both the content of our programs and with the online safety and security recommendations that we provide to parents. One question that is often asked in our parent presentations is, “What kind of software or hardware solutions are available to allow parents to block pornography?” We believe that software and hardware in isolation do not work. But as we have discussed in a previous article (1), when combined with parental participation and communication these tools can play an important role.

Online pornography is estimated to be a 97-billion-dollar industry (2). It is also estimated that between 19 to 30 percent of 14 to 17 year-olds claim to watch online pornography regularly (3). We also know that about 1 in 5 youth will accidentally come across pornography online while surfing freely (4).

Although, from our experience, there are no software or hardware solutions on the market that are 100% effective, there are several products that we believe do a good job at helping to minimize the risk of accidental access to online pornography, especially when it comes to younger kids and pre-teens. These include KidsWiFI, NetSanity, and Boomerang. We have used these products and they do a sound job of minimizing the risk of accidental access to online pornography. Notice we said, “accidental access.” An example of accidental access: when a youth Googles “Barbie” thinking they will see pictures of the Mattel doll, but instead they’re met with pictures or videos of an adult entertainment star who goes by “Barbie.” If our youth are being specifically intentional in their access to online pornography, then most software or hardware solutions can eventually be bypassed.

Today, we became aware of an evidence-based research study that was published on July 1st, 2018 entitled, “Internet Filtering and Adolescent Exposure to Online Sexual Material” (5). This article has caused us to rethink our communications strategy in recommending software and hardware solutions to reduce this challenge.

The researchers of this study reported, “Results suggested that caregiver's use of Internet filtering had inconsistent and practically insignificant links with young people who reported encountering online sexual material.” This study is built upon a 2015 study by the same researchers (6).

In reading both studies, it is still unclear to us if the researchers separated accidental access and intentional access, which we believe is an important distinction to make in a study such as this. We have sent an email to these researchers in the hope that they can clarify this important question. We do believe that online pornography software and hardware filters have a precautionary role to play in minimizing the risk of younger youth from accidentally, not intentionally, accessing online porn. However, based upon the above-noted studies, it is clear to us that the evidence-based research specific to this issue is still developing. Given this fact, we believe that parents should err on the side of caution, particularly with potentially vulnerable ages who are at risk of harm from accidental access to online pornography and that they consider installing a software/hardware filter.

Often, we have found that parents who install software or hardware filters in isolation feel good at taking a proactive role in helping to prevent harm to their child. Just because one feels good doesn’t necessarily means that what they are installing is doing good, as the above-noted research has reported out. It is important for parents to understand that technology has its limitations, nothing is 100% effective and there is no digital snake oil that can cure all the ills of the online world. This is why parental participation and communication needs to be the foundation. Tech solutions such as KidsWiFI, NetSanity and Boomerang can be ancillary safety peripherals that can assist in specific instances, such as accidental access to online pornography, especially when it comes to our younger kids.

Some software and hardware filtering vendors will minimize this research, given that it is in their best financial interest to do so. Be that as it may, we do believe that vendors that acknowledge and embrace evidence-based research and use it to help supplement the principles behind their product development will provide families with best practice options. No, parents shouldn’t just do what the research shows (7). Online child safety decisions are a parent’s responsibility and not the responsibility of “experts” who publish a study. However, we believe that strong evidence-based research should be used to help guide parents as to best practices for keeping our kids safer.

The fact remains that online pornography is a clear and present concern to our kids, and the porn industry is always looking for ways to bypass technology that is designed to filter their content. This is another reason why talking to kids about the differences between healthy human sexuality and pornography is such an important topic for discussion. Even so, it has been our experience that parents shy away from these types of family discussions because it’s uncomfortable to bring it up. This is one reason why we have found that parents will often look to software and hardware filtering solutions, falsely believing that such a digital fix will relieve them from their parental discussion responsibilities.

Digital Food for Thought

(1) https://www.thewhitehatter.ca/single-post/What-The-Research-Actually-Said-About-Parental-Monitoring

(2) https://www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/things-are-looking-americas-porn-industry-n289431

(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26951609?dopt=Abstract

(4) https://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(18)30134-4/fulltext

(5) https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/cyber.2017.0466

(6) https://www.jpeds.com/article/S0022-3476(17)30173-7/fulltext

(7) https://medium.com/@rickhess99/no-educators-and-policymakers-shouldnt-just-do-what-the-research-shows-6c0e9664893a


Call

250-478-9119

Toll-Free

1-855-478-9119

  • YouTube - Grey Circle
  • White Twitter Icon
  • White Instagram Icon
  • White Facebook Icon

Located

2611 Rainville Rd, Victoria, BC,

V9B 3N2

© 2017 Personal Protection Systems Inc