Parenting and pornography

It’s not often a close friend posts something wildly silly (and no, I’m not going to say who, but they know they are), but I was so incensed reading the article that I thought I’d write something myself.

Now, as a teacher, I’ve been increasingly annoyed by the 11-13 year olds who have Playboy pencil cases, and the 15 year olds whose career pathway includes lap dancer, and the 10 year olds at Gosport who are happy singing songs in public that would get them in front of our Child Protection Officer at school etc etc etc.  I’ve also had to help kids with body image problems – the fact that they compare themselves with others is no surprise (teenage life!), but when those others are airbrushed and photoshopped it creates an impossible goal that drives teenagers to despair, and violence either against others or themselves.  Anyone who deals with kids on a regular basis knows this, and often feels powerless against the huge riptide of pressures.

So when this survey came out (and a fuller version here PDF) I thought “hooray”.  Something needed doing to allow parents to parent their children;  to lessen the rampant words and images that bombard our kids hourly, and the survey set out some of these ideas.

This story, a few weeks later, mentions some of these ideas.So, stopping certain posters near to schools may not be a massive step, but at least it reduces those images and pressures.  Reducing other pressures in terms of  banning some TV adverts before the 9pm watershed, some music videos, and assisting parents with IT are other ideas.

Today’s story, that caused the furore, is here.  My experiences of parents’ evening, and one to ones, have shown me that most parents are utterly clueless when it comes to IT:  they have no idea of virus checkers; have no idea of how to check simple things like internet history; and have an idea that precious offspring in bedroom, surrounded by DVD, TV, radio, iPod, Xbox, PSP and laptop will, of course, be doing nothing other than their homework.  These experiences have been gathered over two decades of teaching, and I suggest that the overall situation is getting worse each year.  So, when the suggestion comes in that, at point of internet subscription parents are asked if they want to bar adult sites, then surely this is a good idea.  This will help parents, who feel (yes they do) overwhelmed by the technology.

Now, there are going to be problems.  Of course there are.  I’m a Biology teacher, so I know intimately the issues of rubbish filters (ever tried getting a video of a sperm cell?  Impossible.)  I would hope responsible porn owners would switch to have the .xxx domain, and this would be a simple way of filtering.  That would remove some sites.  Other sites, towards the softer end could also  move to .xxx as well.  Naive?  Maybe.  Perhaps I have an idea that if owners run their sites for *adult* entertainment, then they may cooperate to try to limit access by kids.

Having an open screen policy (educating the parents) would also help, and build good internet practise (I just had a thought of the public information films from the 60s…)

One thing  I do know is that such a move, aimed at helping parents, is not censorship.  It’s not going to cause fathers to beat their wives.  It’s not going to turn men into raping monsters.  If anything you could argue the reverse.  I was interested to read this article recently and watch this.  And from there you can move to this site, which demythologises some of the silliness that exists (yes I’ve done sex ed, so yes, I’ve heard some pretty silly things).  And for more silliness, there’s this, and the more concerning ‘salt to a thirsty man’ idea that is suggested here.

There will always be sexual imagery whether it’s carved on Hindu temples, painted inside the houses of Pompeii, or in books like Justine by the Marquis de Sade.  You only have to hunt for ‘Rubens’ in Google to find voluptuous lovelies.  However, there is a difference between a ‘once in a while’ and a constant bombardment; and a difference between an adult experiencing these, and a child.  Anything that limits the input that a child can stumble across has got to be a good idea.

About grahart

I'm still working on being a teacher of 11-18s after 2 decades. Occasionally I spend time with my family. My son despairs when I have a camera in my hand around dragonflies. I'm currently experimenting with an iPad at school.
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9 Responses to Parenting and pornography

  1. While I’m here, I’d love to know how you currently cope with the “constant bombardment”.

    • grahart says:

      I spend my time working, and the TV has an off button. What do you do?

      • So why not suggest everyone apply that level of responsibility to control of their children’s Internet access, rather than complain of:

        “words and images that bombard our kids hourly”

        and

        “constant bombardment” [of pornography]

        Also: the thing about a hypothesis is that it will be uncited if it refers to a future event. There’s no such thing as time travel.

  2. grahart says:

    I agree completely with the parenting argument. But in the real world, as I said previously, there are parents who are technologically inept.

  3. Simon says:

    I think you are conflating issues.

    The issue of photo-shopped images probably arises more with non-porngraphic sites, or the fringes of erotica, so is a distraction from the question of porn or censorship.

    As regards “.XXX” not all existing porn sites will migrate there period, so get over it.
    Whilst the adult sites are run for adults I suspect many porn purveyors are wary of overt indications of the precise nature of their service that can be detected automatically since that is an open invitation to be blocked automatically, although some voluntarily rate their own content.

    As far as I can see the new announcement boils down to the ISPs offering their existing parental controls at time of sale of a broadband service.

    The classification of Internet sites by some vendors of Internet Content Filtering services can be very extensive and distinguish sex education material from erotica (for want of a better term) in their analysis but I have yet to see a mainstream system make that distinction in filtering (not one wants a thousand question category form, so “Masters and Johnson research suggesting many men have those kind of homoerotic fantasies”, are in the same box as videos of “nasty bisexual threesome with hot gays and one slutty chick”.

    Virgin Media categorisation doesn’t make this distinction.

    BT currently resell McAfee which doesn’t make this distinction and only runs on Windows AFAICT.

    Sky are selling McAfee as far as I can tell.

    I couldn’t find categories for the TalkTalk system (Kids Safe), I did find a note that HTTPS sites give an error because they can’t spoof the results from these sites on a network based system which isn’t their fault but…

    So basically all these systems are pretty appalling. Some inherent issues like HTTPS would need to be addressed by technology changes which are surprisingly hard to envisage for network based filtering. Half of them won’t work if your child uses anything but a Microsoft Windows box (does that fall under cruel and unusual? do any modern games consoles not have a web browser? Any phones? Mine was 9 quid from Orange and has a browser of sorts although it would be lousy for porn viewing).

    Realistically you can’t censor in any sensible fashion on the network link only (since so much is encrypted, and Internet connections may have more than one user), and you can’t censor at the client end without huge expense and cross platform work, so best to censor at what we affectionately refer to as wetware space, which is almost infinitely adaptable.

    Oh and a video search for “sperm cell” in Google, hit number one is probably the kind of thing you were after :)

    And yes I didn’t think it was Alec’s best post, but then no one seems to have any serious details about what Cameron is talking about. I think this was like new Labour re-announcing things they still hadn’t done (or in some cases has already done), except in this case it was free publicity for things four big ISPs are already selling, guess that is the Tory way especially when there is no money around for the government to announce it is doing things.

    As noted with the IWF and Cleanfeed where a child porn block was expanded by court ruling to cover what is probably a legal site in the UK; if you encourage this you’ll just make it easier for them to censor the rest of the Internet when they eventually turn even more control freakish than they already are.

    • grahart says:

      Absolutely, and I’ll make the same point as I made on Alec’s blog: some parents are technologically unsavvy and need help, and it’s to these parents that the help needs to go. Other parents are more savvy and know about open screen policy and internet logs, and possibly don’t need it. Regarding fliters, we have one at school that not only blocked my blog for this post, but also blocks sperm cell videos as well as Wikipedia’s entry on Orcas (I kid you not…) I wonder if the reason why the techs are so unhappy is because they know it’s going to cause huge issues with sex ed websites; as well as the issue of the ‘thin edge of the wedge’ for greater censorship elsewhere.

      • Simon says:

        I think this is why the wetware space is the best place for this sort of policy. Even if you know little about computers you can still form a pretty good idea if what is happening is healthy by watching what is going on on the screen.

        The techs are unhappy because we’ve seen how badly this stuff works, and there is nothing a tech likes less than having to try and sort out stuff which is broken by design.

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