Church in England Backs Legislation to Make Internet Safe for Kids

Automatic Block Would Require Adults to ‘Opt-in’

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LONDON, AUG. 24, 2012 ( CSAN, the social action arm of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, has called for legislation requiring Internet service providers to automatically block potentially harmful content and give adults the option to «opt-in» upon providing age-verification.

Responding to the Department for Education’s consultation on new mechanisms for keeping children safe online, CSAN stated that an «opt-in» system would «provide a thorough safeguard against children being inadvertently exposed to [harmful] content, whilst maintaining personal choice for adults.»

Emphasizing the role of service providers, the organization noted that «whilst parents have a clear responsibility to protect their children’s online safety, businesses also have a responsibility to support, not undermine, parental safeguards.»

Helen O’Brien, chief executive of CSAN, stressed the importance of adequate protections: «Whilst the internet is often beneficial to educational and social development, evidence shows that sites containing pornographic images, promoting self harm, encouraging eating disorders or depicting gratuitous violence, can have a devastating impact on mental or even physical health.»

An «opt-in» system is viewed as the most effective option by a range of organizations concerned with child welfare, on the basis that it would be comprehensive, administratively simple and would not require parents to have technical knowledge in the same way that other filtering systems often do.

Rosaleen Griffin, head of Children and Family Services at Caritas of the Diocese of Salford, described an «opt-in» system as a «robust measure for protecting children from the significant harm which results from their accessing pornographic and offensive material on line.»

CSAN’s support was welcomed by Peter Kerridge, CEO of Premier Christian Media, co-organizer of the Safetynet campaign: «We are very pleased CSAN is supporting the ‘opt-in’ proposals regarding Internet Safety. We believe this is the best way to protect children and young people from pornography and other harmful content online. The Catholic Church’s involvement is absolutely crucial to ensuring a united Christian perspective is brought to bear on this issue.»

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