Myles Jackman: Don’t criminalise the selfie-generation

Cross-posted from Myles Jackman

By criminalising young people between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, our political and justice systems show how disconnected they are from technological change and social values, which is especially worrying so close to an election where politicians have been exploiting selfie culture.

After an NSPCC survey claimed, earlier this month, that a tenth of twelve to thirteen year olds had reported the ‘fear’ that they were ‘addicted’ to pornography, the Culture Secretary pronounced that the Conservatives would impose age-restrictions to “protect our children from harmful material”. Three problems presented themselves.

Firstly, Culture Secretary Sajid Javid’s suggested ‘solution’ of credit card age-verification turned out to be unfeasible, since children over the age of fourteen but under eighteen can be added to an adult guarantor’s account as an additional cardholder. Or perhaps simply beg, borrow or steal an adult’s credit card.

Secondly, as Frankie Mullin identified in VICE, the ‘unsettling headlines’ that the NSPCC’s ‘inflammatory findings’ generated were founded on dodgy data. The survey was merely an opinion poll, conducted by OnePoll: a self-proclaimed “creative market research” group, who have been criticised for presenting the type of “dishonest marketing concocted by PR firms” as genuine research.

Finally, as Jerry Barnett of the Sex & Censorship campaign suggested in a letter published in The Independent, the NSPCC had relied on contentious concepts like ‘porn addiction’ to deliberately manufacture “a moral panic”. In his response to these accusations, the NSPCC CEO Peter Wanless did not even attempt to refute them.

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