So many kids stumble upon pornography everyday, that sadly we’ve come to expect it as the norm. At Parents Aware we believe kids have the right to enjoy safe online experiences without the risk of exposure to hardcore pornography.  This is why we fully support the petition to adopt meaningful age verification put forward by MP, Arnold Vierson.

warning sign on a brick wall reading 18+ adult only = meaningful age verification Marilyn | Parents Aware

In this post you will read about one proactive mom and her approach to helping her kids prepare to reject pornography before they see it.  Her experience illustrates why every family, regardless of how vigilant, will want meaningful age verification to be implemented on all adult websites across this country.

But before we get to her story let’s explore more about meaningful age verification.

Sign the petition and pass it along!

If you’ve seen me in person this summer, you’ll know that I come toting a clipboard with a petition for you to sign. Yes, I am in your face but for good reason.

When we unite our voices by signing the Meaningful Age Verification petition we are sending a clear message to the Canadian Minister of Health, Jane Philpott, that we expect the Government of Canada to take action and provide better protection for our children from online pornography.

Download the petition here!

What does online meaningful age verification mean?

I’ll admit, the first time I heard the term meaningful age verification, it went right over my head. To understand the significance of the term we first have to understand how adult websites are currently regulated.  —Basically, they are not! Although it is illegal for retail outlets to distribute pornographic material to minors, adult websites get away with it everyday online.

That’s because online, 100% of the regulatory responsibility has been put on to the consumer —and that extends to children. As absurd as it sounds to anyone with common sense, all you need to access an adult website is to click the “over 18” box. After that, you’re in! Countless amounts of hardcore violent and degrading sexually explicit videos and images are available online to anyone regardless of age.

Listen as thirteen-year-old Joseph explains why it’s extremely difficult for kids to avoid the trap of pornography. Check out the following video from our friends at Hope for the Sold

With meaningful age verification instead of just clicking the “over 18” box, consumers would have to prove their age with a valid ID, for example a credit card or drivers license.

Everyone I’ve spoken with agrees that this makes perfect sense. If one were to walk into a retail location asking for cigarettes, alcohol or pornography, not only would they be asked to prove their age but the store owner could face severe penalties for selling to minors. There is no reason we shouldn’t expect the same protection for children online. But many ask if it’s even possible?

Can online meaningful age verification be done?

By all accounts the technology is available to regulate websites regardless of where they originate if we follow the model set by the UK.

Earlier this year the UK successfully established the Digital Economy Act, which includes implementing age verification nationally. The new legislation means that a regulator will be allowed to block porn websites that fail to show that they are denying access to under-18s. The process is explained by UK’s Digital Health Minister, Matt Hancock in the following video: The new regulatory system is expected to be in place by April 2018.

Are you a meaningful age verification sceptic?

Some of you may be thinking that asking for ID will do little to solve the problem of children accessing pornography. And in many ways you are absolutely right. We know that requiring ID to purchase cigarettes does not stop kids from smoking. We also recognize that this is in no way a comprehensive solution.  But what meaningful age verification could do is quite remarkable! When we act to require ID to access pornographic websites:

  • We begin a national conversation about the health related concerns that accompany adolescent use of pornography.
  • We send a clear message to Parliament that we expect our government to strengthen the laws of this country to keep violent and degrading sexually explicit material out of the reach of CHILDREN.
  • We push back against well-funded lobby groups, whose agenda it is to expose children to a wider spectrum of sexual expressions and identities without the consent of their parents.

But isn’t it the parents responsibility to keep their kids safe online?

The UN ​Convention on the Rights of the Child, requires Canada —as a governing body— to develop the means to protect children from forms of media that are ‘injurious to his or her well-being…’ Meaningful age verification is a first step towards creating a safer online experience for all children across this country.

As is the case with all filtering systems there is no such thing as a set it and forget it solution. Even with the implementation of meaningful age verification, parents will still need to take the lead in establishing safe internet practices at home. You can read great articles here and here about how everyday parents teach their children early to reject online pornography.

As it stands now we are asking individual families to fight a 97-billion dollar industry with their own resources.  As a nation that’s an extremely irresponsible approach to take. The health of children impacts the health of our future. We need a multi-level approach to make a real and lasting impact in this arena.  That approach should include government, communities, schools, businesses and parents working together for the protection of children.

Why it takes a village

Let me tell you about a conversation I had last week with an awesome mom we’ll call Joanne.  Joanne is not afraid to take on tough subjects. In fact, she has had several discussions with her children (age 5 -12) about the dangers of pornography. Whoo-hoo! Way to go!

Not only does this family filter their home internet, they’ve also read books together about online safety. They even have a plan on what to do when they see pornography. Part of that plan is to go immediately to mom or dad if they ever come across images that look like pornography.

Recently, Joanne felt impressed it was time for her kids to have a refresher course. So after dinner one night they had a family discussion reviewing all they knew about what pornography is and how to stay safe online. The conversation was going really well and everyone was participating and feeling like it was a safe place to talk. So much so that the 10-year-old daughter piped up, “Oh ya, I’ve seen pornography.”  

Taken aback, but remaining calm, Joanne asked when and where her daughter had come across the images. “I was looking something up on the ipad when I accidentally saw two pictures that I knew were pornography.”

Even though her daughter failed to come to her immediately, Joanne considers the experience a victory.

  • First, because her daughter knew enough to recognize that the images were pornographic.
  • Second, her daughter moved past them quickly knowing that they could cause her harm.  
  • Third, although it was quite some time after seeing the images she still felt comfortable enough to talk with her mom and dad about the experience.
  • Fourth, because her daughter was not completely caught off guard.

She then followed up by reminding all her kids that when we see pornography it sends really confusing signals to our body. That’s why it’s best to always go to mom or dad right away if you come across any kind of disturbing image at home or elsewhere.

Later Joanne told me that it was quite a wake up call to realize that even kids who have a plan to deal with pornography do not always remember how to follow it. This experience has confirmed for her the need for ongoing conversations with kids.

Action Items

  • Download and sign the petition to adopt meaningful age verification
  • Get at least 10 more people to sign the petition with you
  • Mail to: Arnold Vierson, MP/ House of Commons/ Ottawa On/ K1A 0A6 (Mr Vierson has requested that we submit the petition in hard copy so that he can present the names in person before Parliament this fall)
  • LIKE and SHARE this post asking your friends to sign the petition

As always, it’s our goal to support one another as we work towards the same objective. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us:

Still need more information?

Marilyn is also available to do live workshops about meaningful age verification or any topic found on our website. To book a speaking engagement, contact us:




Marilyn Evans lives east of Toronto with her husband and five sons. Concerned with the ease of access to online pornography, she began searching for ways to address this subject with her own children. The lack of support and information available to parents at that time compelled her to begin speaking out publicly on the subject. It's her hope that will provide families with a resource they can turn to for answers on how to speak openly and honestly with their children. You can follow @parentsaware on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.