Restriction of children’s exposure to illicit and harmful content online

What is it?

  • Systemic restrictions and education to prevent child access to illicit content.

Why is it important?

  • With open access to exploring the internet, and the vast amount of information it offers, children can be exposed to content that is sexually explicit, extremely violent or inappropriate for their age and cognitive and development stage. Other potentially damaging content can include sites which encourage or normalise harmful behaviour such as eating disorders, self-harm or terrorism, age inappropriate social networks, playing games and using apps that are not age-appropriate, joining unregulated chat rooms and watching livestreams which may show inappropriate content or may result in a child to taking part and being exploited without them knowing.
  • Exposure to content that is inappropriate can be psychologically damaging. Moreover, such exposure can be frightening, confusing and difficult for a child to comprehend or balance. In some instances such exposure can also normalise harmful behaviour.
  • Open access to the internet may expose children to potential contact with strangers, this can include adults and children using a false profile and/or adults and children who may have harmful intentions.

How can it be implemented?

  • In analysing online restrictions, it is important to remember the benefits and opportunities of online access for children (see capabilities 2 and 3) and the importance of building an evidence base. The focus in implementing restrictions should be on enabling children to have healthy, safe and empowering access to quality digital products and services.
  • Age-based restrictions, including age-verification, and control settings can be built into products and services, requiring parental or caregiver consent if necessary prior to registration and purchases. Methods to mitigate efforts to bypass control settings and to manage potential false profiles (e.g. a child or adult using a wrong date of birth or providing false details for consent) should be explored at the design stage (see capabilities 14 and 15).
  • Specified parental controls and filters can be utilised to block access to particular products or services and manage the content that children search for online. Time limitation controls can also be added.

Further resources: