Caritas also wants proposals to cover websites featuring extreme violence and promoting self-harm

Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN), the social action agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, has welcomed Government plans to restrict access to online pornography.

In a speech at the headquarters of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children on Monday, Prime Minister David Cameron set out a number of proposals, including one that would see every internet user forced to opt in if they want to access online pornography.

Possessing violent pornography showing simulated rape scenes would also be criminalised in England and Wales under the Prime Minister’s plans.

In a statement CSAN said that if the proposals were put into action they would be “important steps” towards making the internet safer for children.

“We welcome the proposals to filter potentially harmful content unless an adult ‘opts-in’ following age verification and the steps further taken to make public Wi-Fis safer for children; namely the participation of the six companies which provide 90% of public Wi-Fis to introduce family friendly filters and adopt a ‘family friendly Wi-Fi’ symbol,” the statement said.

“We feel these are important steps in assisting parents to keep their children safe online, which should be complimented with education on online safety.”

The statement went on to call on the Government to widen its proposals to incorporate curbs on websites containing “extreme violence or promoting self-harm, suicide and eating disorders.”

“At this point it is important to recognise that inappropriate online content is not solely limited to pornography,” the statement said.

“Websites containing extreme violence or promoting self-harm, suicide and eating disorders also present great risk to children. Government figures show that 13,231 childhood admissions to hospital last year with the primary diagnoses of deliberate self-harm and 1,141 childhood admission to hospital with the primary diagnosis of an eating disorder.

“We hope these safeguards will work to ensure that children are protected from the dangers posed to their development, mental health, relationships and self-esteem from harmful and explicit online material.”