Child protection being compromised by Brexit limbo.
While the British public might not agree on the outcome of Brexit, there is a consensus that the resulting political stasis is having a negative impact on other important issues.
In a survey of 1,000 UK adults carried out this month by AgeChecked, 71% agreed that crucial matters were being pushed to the bottom of the legislative pile as a result of the ongoing debate around Brexit and how to solve the impasse.
Amongst these concerns is the lack of progress on implementing online child protection measures using age verification.
This was one of the major concerns identified by just under a quarter (23%) of those responding to our survey, coming just behind education (37%) and the environment (31%) as the issues where delays were causing most public alarm.
The introduction of age verification for sites containing adult content is seen as a critical step in creating a safer online environment for young children.
Earlier this month a report published by the BBFC underlined the urgent need for such measures. It reported that children as young as seven are stumbling across aggressive and violent porn that had upset them.
The introduction of age verification to prevent such harm was welcomed by all parties, including 83% of parents and 56% of 11 to 13 year olds.
The NSPCC also called for swift action.
Andy Burrows, NSPCC’s head of child safety online policy, said: “Too many children unintentionally stumble across online pornography and we know viewing it can be deeply damaging to young people’s views about sex, body image and healthy relationships. The BBFC’s findings echo our own research on this issue and underline how important it is that the Government gets on introducing age verification to protect children from this sexually explicit content.”
And yet, despite these findings and the widespread view that measures need to be taken, the solution keeps being delayed.
In June 2019, it was announced that the UK’s age verification system for adult content was to be delayed again by a further six months, despite first having been proposed by Sajid Javid in the run-up to the 2015 general election.
Such delays, across this and other important legislation as a result of Brexit, are starting to have a demonstrably negative effect.
57% of people in our survey said that delays or lack of political focus on such issues had adversely impacted them personally, with 18% saying it had a significant impact.
People also reported that Brexit limbo was negatively affecting their mental health and well-being. 62% of people said that Brexit is making them feel more anxious, stressed or depressed. Those aged 25 to 34 are worst affected, with as many as 72% reporting that their mental well-being is being undermined by the political deadlock.
Alastair Graham is the CEO of AgeChecked, a provider of online age verification for websites that sell age-restricted goods and services.