Why Parental Controls Are So Much Better Than Age Verification Laws

5 min readJun 19, 2024


Emily Pennington // SpankChain

As you might have seen across the headlines, a swath of new age verification laws is currently being proposed across the United States, claiming to protect children from pornographic content by forcing adults to upload or scan a government ID to any site containing 33.3% of content that could meet a state’s vague definition of “harmful to minors.”

Why are age verification laws so bad, though? No one wants minors accessing adult content, right? Unfortunately, these laws have been proven to be unconstitutional, time and time again, because they significantly impact adults’ free speech and access to legally-created and distributed content. In 1997, the case of Reno, Attorney General of the United States, et al v. American Civil Liberties Union, et al, the Supreme Court ruled that content on the internet is entitled to the same high-degree, First Amendment free speech protections that are given to print media. This case also ruled that certain provisions in the 1996 Communications Decency Act were overreaching and vague, violating adults’ access to legally-protected free speech.

In the case of Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, back in the wee early days of the internet, the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 was overturned, as the court found that the government cannot create “overbroad” bans on content by interfering with the First Amendment rights of adults. In other words, the government can’t restrict the free speech of adults with the vague claim that it “might help minors.” The court also noted that internet filters were an effective and already extant means of dealing with explicit content. Further down the timeline, in Louisiana, a proto-age verification law was blocked in 2015, after a lawsuit was brought on by book sellers.

These new, unconstitutional laws put unrealistic censors and costs onto legal adult websites, which could, ultimately, plummet traffic and make them go out of business. Mike Stabile, Director of Public Affairs for the Free Speech Coalition, explains that this age verification software can cost $1 per uploaded verification. “Now, if you’ve got a million visitors to your site, that’s a million dollars in a month, right? That’s a lot of money. That’s going to end pretty much any business,” he says.

Oddly enough, some content providers, like social media, are exempt from these age-verification mandates, because their feeds contain less than the requisite 33.3% of content deemed “harmful to minors” in the bills being proposed. This can make it seem like sex workers and adult websites are being unfairly targeted by the right wing for political gain, as Facebook is being overrun by porn livestreams, with little being done about it.

Stabile says that “this is part of a larger, broad anti-LGBTQ and anti-sex-ed battle that’s going on in the state legislatures.” Even Steven Greenhunt, Western director for the conservative think-tank R Street, told Arizona lawmakers in a recent session that the its age verification bill would give parents a “false sense of security,” because the ID checks themselves can be easily circumnavigated by a VPN (virtual private network), which encrypts a user’s data and masks their IP address, so that it looks like someone is accessing a site from a different state or country.

Parental controls, on the other hand, unilaterally block unwanted sites and content from a specific browser, login, or child’s device. How do they work? Well, content filtering apps allow parents to maintain a blacklist of websites that a kid cannot visit, or allow an adult to block a minor from an entire genre of sites, such as gambling or pornography. If your child tries to click on a blacklisted site, the connection simply won’t complete. Some apps will even alert parents when a child has attempted to access an off-limits website.

Third-party apps like Net Nanny, Aura, Qustodio, and Mobicip are easy to install and customize on your child’s phone or computer, while many browsers, cell phone manufacturers, and software companies offer their own bespoke content filters, like Google Family Link and Microsoft Family Safety. In many cases (like with iPhone’s included iOS), the parental controls come pre-installed, and all you have to do is log in and update the settings to include content and sites that your child is not allowed to consume.

Still unsure how to get started? SpankChain teamed up with director and 25-year veteran of the adult film industry, Holly Randall, made this fantastic video to show you the (metaphorical) ins and outs of parental controls. As if that wasn’t enough, we here at SpankChain have also launched a series of fun, educational videos under our Spank University platform, to get you up to speed on everything from boundary setting to VPN info. Performer and activist Allie Knox says that SpankU is dedicated to “humanizing the horrors” of the adult industry, “so that people can see us as experts in our industry, as opposed to just titties on a screen.”

These parental control apps offer a much better solution for kids’ online safety and wellbeing, because, unlike age verification laws, which are location-specific and can be easily avoided with VPNs, the content filtering apps control potentially harmful content at a device level. “You can also add in things like Twitter or Reddit that host adult content, if you don’t want your kid accessing it,” says Stabile.

Unfortunately for sex workers and lovers of explicit content everywhere, seven new age verification bills have passed since March of 2024, in Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Perhaps most shockingly, Tennessee’s bill, includes criminal penalties (in the form of a Class C felony) for non-compliance with the law. Seven additional states (California, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey) are still in the middle of active legislation regarding age verification bills. Even worse? The Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, has already sued three companies in reference to the state’s age verification law.

How about a little good news? The Free Speech Coalition (FSC) is actively engaged in the fight against pending age verification bills, especially in the case of California’s AB 3080, which could levy up to $7,500 in civil penalties if violators are convicted by public prosecutors. But that’s not all; back in April, Arizona’s governor, Katie Hobbs, actually vetoed an invasive age verification law, after successful lobbying from the FSC, ACLU, and other organizations dedicated to fighting for citizens’ civil liberties. In addition, five other bills in Alaska, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Missouri were brought down by the FSC in April and May, bringing the total number of defeated bills in 2024 to 11 so far.

Feeling inspired to help out? For starters, the Free Speech Coalition needs donations to continue to fight these important constitutional battles in court. You could also join the FSC as a member and glean important benefits for creators and producers in the field.

Lastly, it’s more critical than ever that we get the message out about these vicious and unconstitutional laws that threaten to upend the sex work industry as we know it. Share this article with your followers, follow Free Speech Coalition and SpankChain on Twitter/X to stay informed, and go live with your own story about how age verification bills have or could affect your business. Let’s not let the adult industry slink back into the dark ages.




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