Online (Child) Pornography a Public Health Risk

This article from the UK’s Daily Mail echoes what many child development and sex abuse experts have begun to realize: youth exposure to pornography is not just a personal issue, it is a public health problem.

The piece, by Dr. John Woods, ran over a year ago. Sadly it’s even more relevant today than it was in 2012. The article makes the following excellent points:

Woman looking at cell in friend's hand

  • Although the internet doesn’t create these problems, it can release interests which would never have surfaced otherwise.

  • For every young person who has come to the attention of police or social services, there will be tens of thousands more who manage to keep their habit under wraps — but who still face long-term consequences for their mental and emotional health. After all, we are rearing a guinea pig generation — a generation of boys and young men raised in a world where internet porn is freely on offer at any time.

  • The advent of the internet — and particularly broadband over the past decade — means that never in human history has such a vast and relentless amount of pornography been so easily and freely available to all.

  • The scale of pornography exposure is so vast that four out of five 16-year-olds regularly access porn online—while one in three ten-year-olds has seen explicit material.

  • Any child who has started to feel vaguely curious about sex can tap that same three-letter word into a search engine, and in a split second  have access to thousands of graphic video clips.

  • The contest to push the boundaries means that straight intercourse is considered too boring; images of brutal anal sex and women being humiliated and degraded by two or more men at any one time are the new norms.

  • For many young boys, this means their first sexual experience is not a nervously negotiated request for a dance from a girl at the end of the school disco, it is watching  grotesquely degrading images of women, all too often mixed in with violent abuse.

  • Once these brutal images have formed a child’s first sex lesson they can be difficult to erase; the more hardcore the material, the more intense and long-lasting the effects.
  • Instead of seeking out meaningful, romantic relationships, voyeurism may become a substitute.

  • Intense internet use alters brain chemistry, encouraging instant gratification and making young people more self-centered.

  • it is also from porn that boys are forming their views of what women should look like, and how they should behave sexually.

  • Females who exist outside of cyberspace have needs of their own that boys resent having to consider.

  • When magazines were the main way for people to access porn, our society never allowed them to be legally sold to minors.

  • Drink and cigarettes are banned from sale to children because we know all too well the harmful effects.

  • Young people may become child-abusers while they are still children themselves, especially as the desire for hard-core porn drives them to child pornography.

  • Boys and young men may come to prefer simulated sexual relationships with porn stars rather than real women.

Congress has given the internet service providers almost complete legal and social immunity to publish anything, anywhere at anytime to anyone. Whether it’s revenge porn or child porn, snuff films or rape scenes, the multinational and hugely profitable internet companies have escaped any meaningful regulation—let alone legal liability—and can engage in almost any activity to drive viewers and dollars to their sites.

The reluctance to impose even basic record keeping requirements on the ISPs is what led to the NSA’s immense spying operation. While the internet continues to grow exponentially–for good and evil–our freedom, our sanity, and our pocketbooks remain the ultimate victims of Big Data, with our children sacrificed along the way.

For more critical analysis of this growing problem, read Big Porn Inc–Exposing the Harms of the Global Pornography Industry by Melinda Tankard Reist and Abigail Bray.

Watch this award winning film.

For more on the film check out the Huffington Post.

Here’s even more on this topic from today’s Los Angeles Times:

While those most likely to report initiating unwanted sexual contact in their early to mid-teens were boys, girls were among the perpetrators as the age of respondents increased. Latino and African American youths, and those from low-income families, were less likely to have coerced another person to engage in sex than were whites and those from higher-income families, the study found.

And among perpetrators of sexual violence, consumption of X-rated materials specifically those depicting physical harm in the context of sex — was notably more common than it was among youths who did not report efforts to coerce or force someone else to engage in sex.

The study also found that perpetrators of sexual violence of all types were unlikely to accept responsibility for their acts. One in seven believed that he or she was “not at all responsible for what happened,” and almost 4 in 10 said they considered the victim somewhat or completely responsible for the reported incident. And only two of the respondents reported being arrested for the transgression.

The authors said that the rarity with which perpetrators either are caught or assume responsibility for their actions underscores the importance of “bystander” training and intervention in U.S. high schools and colleges. Such training emphasizes the responsibility of peers not only to discourage and prevent negative behavior within their group or community, but also to recognize, stop or report such behavior when they witness it. Widely used in anti-bullying campaigns, bystander intervention is now gaining ground on college campuses as a means of reducing sexual violence.

Read the entire story here on the Los Angeles Times website.

Read the JAMA Abstract here.

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