Children And Pornography LIFELINE ” Dese children today bawn knowing how to use computa ” remarked an older lady as she passed a toddler scrolling on a Ipad. Indeed, children today are spending more and more time online. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that children spend as much as six to seven hours (6-7) a day behind screens -often surfing, engaging ins social media, watching videos , and doing research for school. While children have easy access to education and entertainment online, they also have access to something moreharmful– pornography, i.e explicit sexual material for the purpose of sexual arousal. In the pre-Internet era, pornographic material appeared in books or magazines, which were often kept hidden away from children’s view. In today’s digital age, however, children can access hardcore images as easily as typing the word ‘sex’, in an Internet browser. And many are doing so. A 2007 study reports that 92% of boys, and 62% of girls are exposed to pornography by age eighteen (18). With a largely unregulated Internet, pornography has flourished online in recent years, fostering concern over the medium’s effect on children and teens. According to research, pornography has several negative effects on its underaged audience, including: Over-exposure Whereas children in the past learnt about sex in a gradual and age-appropriate way, children who view pornography are bombarded with images that are not appropriate for their age, and which might be difficult for them to process. They may feel confused, disturbed, or stimulated by the scenes, but may not feel comfortable talking to anyone about the images. This may leave them feeling uncertain, unsettled, embarrassed, and overwhelmed. Over-stimulation and sexual experimentation Pornography is stimulating, and may awaken children’s sexual curiosity before they are mature enough to engage in responsible sexual activity. Some may be stimulated to ‘try out ‘ the acts seen in the images, perhaps with peers, or with more vulnerable children, such as younger family members or friends (thereby increasing the incidence of sexual assault and molestation). One study of American high schoolers confirms pornography’s stimulating effect. Of the high schoolers who had seen pornography, ” o ver 66 percent of the males and 40 percent of the females reported wanting to try out some of the sexual behaviors they had witnessed. And among high schoolers, 31 percent of the males and 18 percent of the females admitted actually doing some of the things they had seen in the pornography within a few days after exposure” ( ProtectKids.org ). Increase in Pregnancies and STD’s Pornography depicts sex as a fun, casual experience that can be enjoyed without consequences (e.g getting pregnant). This may influence youth to not only become sexually active, but to engage in risky sexual behaviour e.g unprotected sex with several partners. This may then lead to a a rise in unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases among youth. Unrealistic view of sex Pornography delivers an arousing but exaggerated view of sex, which may cause young people to have unrealistic ideas about sexual relations. Pornography caters largely to male tastes, and women are often pictured as submissive and willing creatures, excitedly catering to the sexual satisfaction of men. Boys, in particular, may see pornography as ‘sexual education’, and grow up with an unbalanced view of sex – later expecting their real-life partners to perform like ‘porn stars’ during sexual intercourse. Young women may feel inordinate pressure to ‘live up to’ these expectations. Pornography may taint attitudes in other ways, as well The cyber-advocacy website, ProtectKids.org, cites a study of men who were exposed to six (6) weeks of standard hard-core pornography. It indicates that these men ” developed an increased sexual callousness toward women, began to trivialize rape as a criminal offense or no longer considered it a crime at all, developed distorted perceptions about sexuality, developed an appetite for more deviant, bizarre, or violent types of pornography (normal sex no longer seemed to do the job), devalued the importance of monogamy and lacked confidence in marriage as either a viable or lasting institution, and viewed non-monogamous relationships as normal and natural behavior”. Addiction Pornography can become habit-forming, particularly in young people, whose brains are not yet mature. Pornography addiction is a risk factor for developing other sexual problems, such as sex addictions and other intimacy disorders ( The Impact of Internet Pornography among Adolescents: A Review of the Research, 2012 ). As outlined above, the negative effects of pornography are many and concerning. While all children may not be affected in the same way, experts suggest that urgent intervention is needed to shield children from harm. What can parents/adults do? Discuss it- With sexual material readily accessible, parents should educate children about sex at an earlier age, e.g ages six to eight (6-8). Those who wait till puberty to have the ‘birds and bees’ talk may find that the children have already been exposed to sexual content through friends, the Internet, and other media. Initiate conversations appropriate to the child’s age and level of understanding, and take the opportunity to share your views and values on sex, and to answer questions as necessary. More mature conversations could be held with teens, who may already be exposed to pornography, but who could benefit from better and more balanced perspectives on sex. *Persons who work with young people, e.g counsellors, teachers, youth leaders, pastors, should also initiate discussions and educate children on the topic. Supervise – Don’t assume that all of children’s online use is heathy. Let children know the limits of their online use (e.g for school research or Facebook only), and that their activity will be monitored regularly e.g by checking pages or browsing history If possible, keep computers in an open area of the house (dining/living room), and not in children’s bedrooms. Keep a regular check of Smartphones (and other devices that could be used to access pornography), and images shared with or stored on these devices. Give children tips for dealing with situations where they may be asked to view or share sexually explicit images. I nstall a filter on your computers/other devices to block pornographic content. Filters such as NetNanny and DansGuardian (as well as Internet Safe Search settings), can be put readily on most computers/browsers. If unsure, consult a technical friend for help. Set an example – if you regularly view pornography, your children may come across it. Set an example for your children by limiting pornographic use, or avoiding it altogether. Experts say it may be impossible to shield today’s technologically-savvy youth from pornography, and so efforts should be made to educate and engage children, instead. With the rapid rise in youth online activity, parents/guardians should not ‘stick their heads in the sand’ on this issue, but educate themselves to help buffer pornography’s negative effects. Submitted, Mrs. Jeweleen Manners-Woodley, Counsellor, Counselling Centre