Editorial: Child pornography is a menace the law can't prevent

Not all social problems have solutions; this may be one such

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Can we protect children from exposure to pornographic or violent videos? To a large extent we cannot.

Today, we publish a mother’s account of how her sensitive 11-year-old son felt coerced by his peers at school into watching a video on his phone. It left him not only depressed but convinced his childhood had been abruptly and involuntarily terminated.

This story is a reminder that phrases about children being robbed of their childhood don’t only relate to Syria or war-town parts of Africa. Many of our own children are experiencing something similar, owing to the porous nature of information in the internet age, as a result of which almost everything is accessible to those who seek it out. This wouldn’t be so bad if some of them didn’t then force their discoveries on others.

The response of most people to such stories will be to demand the passage of a new law. We cling to the notion that for every problem a solution must exist, even though that isn’t always the case and probably isn’t in this one. For good or ill, it’s all out there in cyberspace. Mostly, it’s for good.

But the flip side of people in authoritarian societies using the internet to break down the walls of official secrecy and disinformation is children in our society gaining access at the press of a button to shockingly inappropriate, exploitative and even psychologically damaging material.

However unpopular it makes them, parents have to be vigilant – intrusive even – about what information their children are sharing with others. They have to get tough in insisting on the constant use of strict filters on smartphones and computers. For the most part children are several steps ahead of adults in computer technology, so monitoring what children are looking at is always going to be hard.

The unpalatable alternative is just to give up, and abandon the hope that we can make more of a collective effort to protect children from this insidious menace.

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