With many parents allowing their young children to play with mobile devices, exposure to pornography lurking via those devices has become a problem.
Enter state Rep. Jim Gregory (R-Blair).
Gregory’s legislation, House Bill 1501, would ensure children are protected from accessing pornography on mobile devices.
“While we certainly should be concerned about children having access to inappropriate sexual content and pornography in the school setting, we must also be diligent to ensure children cannot access the same material on mobile devices outside of the school setting,” Gregory said. “When children are exposed to explicit sexual content at an early age, either by accident or indoctrination, it has a significantly negative impact on their future development and ability to have a successful outcome. It is imperative we protect our children.”
Gregory’s legislation, the “Protection of Minors from Unfiltered Devices Act,” would require new smartphones and tablets activated in the commonwealth to have a filter enabled that would protect children from finding harmful material online, such as pornography.
This technology already exists and can be easily placed on devices. The filters can also be disabled by adults, meaning requiring activation of filters at purchase will not prevent adults from accessing anything on their phone or tablet.
Rep. Kristin Marcell (R-Richboro) is a co-sponsor.
“Safeguarding kids from internet pornography is an important step in promoting their healthy development, ensuring their safety, and helping them navigate the digital world responsibly,” Marcell said. “We must do everything we can to protect them.”
Rep. Craig Staats (R-Quakertown), who is also sponsoring the bill, said, “The moment I saw this bill, I knew I had to be a co-sponsor. We see stories every week about how pornography negatively affects children and leads to physical, psychological, and social issues. The fact is it’s too easy for children to accidentally stumble onto pornography on the internet, and can lead to a serious addiction. This bill would be a huge step in protecting children from pornography and protecting their mental health.”
In addition, support for protecting children from internet pornography was the subject of a recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial.
“Studies — and the everyday experience of anyone who works with today’s teenagers — show that early exposure to pornography is associated with regressive attitudes toward gender roles; early sexual experimentation and aggression; poorer mental health; and dangerously unrealistic views of sex and sexuality,” the newspaper’s editorial board wrote.
Other states, including Louisana, Arkansas, Montana, Mississippi, Utah, Virginia, and Texas, have passed similar laws; the paper noted 16 others have introduced bills.
However, Mike Lake, a Radnor dad with daughters ages 13 and 15, does not believe this bill is the right solution.
“While the bill’s authors have good intentions, the phone must ultimately be activated by an adult able to enter into a contract,” said Lake. “The bill places a burden on the manufacturer to support a patchwork of state laws. Ultimately, it is the job of the parent or legal guardian to ensure a suitable and already available filter is in place, and not the role of the commonwealth,” said Lake.
“Furthermore, I wish state legislators would first take a close look at the pornography available and promoted to minors in public school libraries before considering filters on personal devices,” he added.
Gregory said, “Ensuring children are protected from exposure to pornography should not be a partisan issue. I hope more colleagues from both sides of the aisle will join my effort to ensure children can be children and be protected from this explicit content.”