Won’t somebody think of the children
More than four in ten UK parents say that their children have been exposed to internet porn, an official survey reveals.
In the fifth paragraph we find
The Daily Mail is campaigning for an automatic block on online porn to protect children
which should make any reader sceptical about the numbers. This is a scare story from a foreign source notorious for its creative use of numbers and its obsession with sex, and a story where they actually admit they are lobbying. It’s bad enough getting science stories from the Daily Mail; this sort of thing really suggests a news shortage.
We don’t get told what actual questions were asked, how the sample was gathered, or any of the other basic survey details. More importantly, we don’t even get told anything about the age range of the children, which makes a big difference in this case. We do learn
Almost a third say their sons or daughters have received sexually explicit emails or texts and a quarter say they have been bullied online or on their phones.
Neither of these issues would be affected by the proposed internet filtering, and both are very different from internet porn in that they are almost exclusively between kids who know each other in real life.
Perhaps the journalists are too young to know that porn existed before the Internet, and teenagers were occasionally exposed to it. You can get a more useful perspective from danah boyd and from a report from Harvard’s cyberlaw clinic that contains actual research.
Thomas Lumley (@tslumley) is Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Auckland. His research interests include semiparametric models, survey sampling, statistical computing, foundations of statistics, and whatever methodological problems his medical collaborators come up with. See all posts by Thomas Lumley »