Late last year, the General Assembly passed legislation that required pornographic websites to verify the age of those visiting the site. We didn’t want anyone under the age of 18 to have access to such content. This was a commonsense measure, and I was proud to help get it across the finish line.

Our message was clear: We need to be protecting our children.

That law took effect on Jan. 1. But shortly before that happened, one of the largest pornography sites in the world, Pornhub, announced it would be blocking user access in North Carolina. Other sites have since disabled access as well. This is a positive development for children and families in North Carolina. It also shows that the conservative-led General Assembly is keeping true to its mission of protecting the youth.

Our nation is plagued with debauchery and far too often children are the victims. Children are being subject to grotesque sexual imagery in schools, libraries, on television, and online. Parents are rightfully raising their concerns, standing up to government bureaucrats, and demanding accountability.

Unfortunately, it’s easier than ever to access pornographic material on a cellphone, and parents are struggling to monitor what their children are viewing. Parents need help and at a certain point it becomes the responsibility of the state to assist.

Age-verification is a simple, yet effective, way to protect children from online pornography. It puts websites on equal footing with physical stores that sell such material where you are required to prove you are 18. We’ve seen success in other states from age-verification legislation. In fact, pornographic websites in Louisiana saw an 80% decrease in traffic after a similar law was passed.

I proposed this provision because we need to be treating online pornography as the health crisis it is. We cannot afford to turn a blind eye to such a massive and destructive industry. Not many parents may know the scope of the issue. A recent report found that 73% of teenagers 13 to 17 have watched pornography online, and 54% said they first saw pornography by the time they reached the age of 13.

Online pornography websites like Pornhub have disturbing levels of engagement, and the content is far more obscene than many realize. Last month the owner of Pornhub admitted to profiting from sex trafficking and has been ordered to pay multiple sex trafficking victims. The website had posted and profited from pornographic material resulting from “coercing young women into engaging in sexual acts on camera” without their consent.

Simply put, we could not let websites like Pornhub, which target the youth and exploit women, operate without basic age-verification guardrails. The legislation also provides measures for parents to sue the providers of online porn if their minor child can access the website.

While it’s unfortunate that our society has fallen to such lows that protecting children requires legislative action, we did what was necessary to make North Carolina a safer state for minors.

I will continue to fight to protect children in North Carolina and stand up to those lining their pockets by turning minors into porn-addicts.