What does the law say?

Age and watching porn:

Before the rise of the internet things were fairly simple when it came to getting your hands on explicit material. You could buy ‘top shelf’ magazines, which contained soft pornographic images of naked ladies showing off their bits. There aren’t any age restrictions on these types of magazines but a shopkeeper is within their rights to refuse to serve you if they wish. If, however, you wanted anything ‘hardcore’, involving images of actual sex, penetration and depictions of hard-ons – then you had to visit a licensed sex shop, which you have to be over 18 to enter.

Today, however, things are not quite so simple. The majority of pornography is viewed online these days – in fact 1 in every 4 searches on Google is for pornography! That’s a lot of porn. Any adult site must state that you have to be over 18 to enter and view its contents. That’s all well and good, however legally they simply have to have a button on the home page that you click on if you are over 18 – the computer does not ask you for ID. In reality then if you are 14 years old and you have some free time on the family computer there is very little stopping you from accessing hardcore pornography for yourself from the comfort of your sofa. This is what concerns a lot of adults and politicians.

This is one reason that the Government is talking about bringing in blocks for all home computers to censor adult content – unless people sign up to receive it. The trouble is with this is if you block sites that have sexual content or are about sex – you would block educational sites that support young people like this one too!

The fact that hardcore porn is so readily available these days means that it is easy for you to forget that by law it is still illegal for a young person under the age of 18 to watch pornographic material. The trouble is it is common place for young people, to have clips on their mobile phones that they pass around and show each other as a bit of a laugh – with very few of them realising that they may be committing a criminal offence. For example, if you Bluetooth a porn clips or photos to your mates, technically you are distributing pornographic material and could be charged.

Indeed, in January 2009, there were further changes to the laws around possessing certain types of extreme pornography. These changes were made to help combat paedophilia and other sex crimes. Further to this, it an offence for an adult to show a young person, or allow a young person to view pornographic material too, so your big brother letting you ‘borrow’ his secret DVD collection is not ok either.

Sexting and the law…

While we are on the subject, most of you will have a mobile phone; most of which will be able to take photos and send video footage on too.

And here is where the problem arises. Legally if you are taking naked images of yourself and sending them to your boyfriend or girlfriend, even if you are over 16 and legally able to have sex, it is still a crime as in pornography terms you are still classed as a child until you are 18.

Indeed, this is the same if you happen to video yourself having sex too.  You must be 18 to appear in any pornographic material, even if it is only homemade and you are not paid for it. And remember, if you then send it to someone – you are distributing child porn too (as you are under 18) which is an even more serious offence.

Obviously, these laws are set up to prevent paedophile rings across the world from operating in and around the UK and are not there to stop two young people from flirting and being rude together – however they do still apply to you.

To find out more about sexting click here

But will I get into trouble?

The law is on your side and was not designed to punish young people for making mistakes whilst experimenting with their sexuality. The law is aimed firmly at those who choose to trade or profit from sexual pictures of children.

Even though (if you are under 18) the image(s) you have sent may constitute an indecent image of a child (sometimes called child porn), the Association of Chief Police Officers have clearly stated that young people will be treated as victims in the first instance and only extreme cases may be reviewed or looked at differently. They clearly state “First time offenders should not usually face prosecution for such activities, instead an investigation to ensure that the young person is not at any risk and the use of established education programmes should be utilised”. The advice can be found at here…

© Going off the Rails 2014. Adapted from ‘Playing Downstairs’ by Jonny Hunt

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