Children's Commissioner warn porn is as dangerous as giving kids a GUN

Online pornography is as dangerous to youngsters as handing them a weapon, the Children’s Commissioner has warned.

Dame Rachel de Souza said the nation will one day reflect with horror at the ease with which children can currently access extreme sexual images on the internet.

‘We’ll look back in 20 years and be absolutely stunned that our children were exposed to so much harm online,’ she said. 

‘I wouldn’t leave a weapon laying around in the offline world and yet we’re doing something equally as dangerous in the online world.

Dame Rachel de Souza said the nation will one day reflect with horror at the ease with which children can currently access extreme sexual images on the internet

‘I’m seeing eight-year-olds and nine-year-olds – a massive percentage of underage children – on these websites and social media…If parents actually knew what their children were seeing they would be really worried.’

With almost half of children exposed to inappropriate content on social media and free-to-use websites, Dame Rachel is urging the Government to crack down on porn purveyors.Laws planned as part of the forthcoming Online Safety Bill will require porn websites to verify the age of users, but critics say it’s not enough.

The former headmistress, who has called for tech bosses to face personal fines and even prison if they break such rules, recalled harrowing stories on online abuse.

‘I was so concerned that I got a group of 16 to 21-year-olds and brought them to the Department for Education and asked them about their experiences of online harms,’ she told The Mail on Sunday.

‘There was one girl who talked to me about her first kiss with a boyfriend and how he put his arms around her neck and tried to choke her.It was her first kiss. He had been watching porn and thought that was what you do.’

With almost half of children exposed to inappropriate content on social media and free-to-use websites, Dame Rachel is urging the Government to crack down on porn purveyors.A stock image is used above

Another young girl described being harassed for naked selfies up to ten times a night.

‘The difference is that when I was at school something might happen…but we could go home and it was over, whereas it is 24/7 now,’ said Dame Rachel, a mother-of-one who was appointed Children’s Commissioner a year ago.

In a wide-ranging interview ahead of the launch of her Cabinet Office-commissioned review into family life in England, she warned that a perceived wokification of schools over issues such as lessons about the British empire should not stymie debate.‘It’s really important that we ensure children are taught really well and know when we are looking at an argument and showing both sides of an argument,’ she said.

‘We must say, “This is a contentious issue and there are two sides to this.” We need to be making it really clear if we are teaching something as a fact or a truth…or if there is something where we are having a debate about it and we’re looking at the two sides.’

She added: ‘I am very supportive of some of the moves we’ve made in the curriculum in the last ten years, but we also have to be really careful about – I don’t want to say indoctrination – but we must avoid that at all costs.’

The daughter of a Scunthorpe steelworker father and Hungarian refugee mother, Dame Rachel, 54, worked in schools for 30 years, carving out a reputation as a traditionalist who insisted on discipline.

She banned mobile phones in classrooms and famously deployed teachers to drag children out of bed to attend classes.

She is determined to act on the estimated 100,000 ‘ghost children’ who have vanished from the education system since the start of the pandemic, and is working with the Government to introduce a unique identifier number for each child to help track missing youngsters.

Reflecting on her childhood, Dame Rachel said there were times when she and her siblings would rely on free school meals and ‘didn’t know where dinner was coming from’. She added, however, that what her parents lacked financially, they made up for in love – a quality that she believes passionately is the bedrock of family life.

‘When children talk to me about family, that’s what they’re talking about,’ she said.

‘They’re talking about love and that is what it is all about.I think it somehow inoculates children from some of the harms they face.’

Dame Rachel – whose grandfather was a Ukrainian journalist expelled from his homeland during the Soviet era – will this week visit sick children evacuated from Ukraine to Britain. ‘Any child that comes into this country, I’ve got an interest in,’ she said.