What The State Can Practically Do To Protect Children From Porn

03/09/2015 8:26 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
Anatolii Babii / Alamy

Have you YouTube-d Barbie of late? Chances are you will find some very "exciting" content past the first page. If you're an adult, that is. However, that excitement might turn to dismay if your six-year-old chances upon the same content.

Recently, the government's attempt to block 857 pornographic sites led to a major furore, with audiences of adult content and moral inspectors locking horns. The majority won and the ban was retracted; the government instead asked ISPs to take down sites containing child pornography, a task easier said than done.

For a moment, though, let's forget about our freedom to satisfy our physical urges as we please and let us once again put our focus back on the original intention of the ban, which was to safeguard children, the most vulnerable section of society. Would your opinion change? Narrow mindedness? Hypocrisy? Invasion of privacy and choice?

You are probably in a dilemma, and so am I.

"We need to take a leaf out of other governments like Mexico wherein all Telco operators have been mandated to provide parental guidance applications..."

However, I think most of us can unambiguously agree that children below a certain age (I would say less than 13) have no business/need to consume porn. We live in an era (fortunately or unfortunately? dilemma again!) where online entertainment for our kids is an active engagement tool and an escape mechanism for parents and children alike. Google is the biggest conduit for porn, and a random search will reveal that 857 sites is not even a drop in the ocean. If your kids have a connected device, chances are that they'd come across sexually explicit material sooner rather than later. As it is more and more kids between the ages of five and 17 are heavy users of mobile devices, making them more susceptible to online predators.

So what should we as parents do? And what does the government need to do?

At an individual level, a parental guidance application is definitely recommended. Despite of some retaliation that you may face from your kids, consider the parental application as a helmet equivalent. The question we need to ask ourselves is: if you monitor and manage your child's homework, soccer classes, birthday parties and food, what do you do when they get their first device?

A simple search on app store/play store will result in quite a few options, including a few customised for the Indian market, like Nischint. Others like Net Nanny, Qustodio, Quick Heal and Mcafee have clubbed up the service with their antivirus, giving you plenty of choices.

At a governmental level, much awareness is required in terms of regulating access for the youngest section of the society. While a philanthropic campaign (similar to No Smoking) on spreading the word would be a very proactive approach, it needs to be cautiously amalgamated with discretionary rights given to parents. After all one size doesn't fit all.

We need to take a leaf out of other governments like Mexico wherein all telco operators have been mandated to provide parental guidance applications (read point 6.4 here). In gist, the Mexico Telecoms, Media and Internet Laws and Regulations 2015 puts the onus on ISPs and telecom providers to provide the option to parents.

So in essence what it provides is the right ecosystem for the end customers, communication providers and regulators.

The paradigm of threat in the last two decades has transcended the realm of the physical world to also include the digital space. It is time that we as parents look at digital assurance an inherent part of our child's insurance. After all we are Indians and we ought to know "beta, kahan ho?" even when they are sitting right in front of us, absorbed in their devices.

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