WHAT ARE OUR CHILDREN WATCHING ONLINE?
Pornography is a subject which can evoke strong responses – both for and against. But let’s look at the issue of pornography use amongst teenagers and children – and specifically internet pornography. The difference between internet pornography and other forms of pornography is the speed at which the images are available, the ease at which the images can be accessed and the hardcore nature of the images.
We know that the average age globally that a young person first views pornography on the internet is 11 years and that mirrors our findings here in Kerry. We carried out informal research in 4 secondary schools in Kerry and young people (age 16/17) have told us that most of them will have seen their first image by the end of 1st year in secondary school and some will have viewed their first image by the age of 8, 9 or 10 years of age. Our statistics tells us that
54% of male students and 38% of female students viewed their first image on the internet. The majority just came across it and did not go looking for it. Most young people are viewing their first image on a mobile phone. A worrying statistic is that 9% of male students watch it once a day with 45% of male students watching it a couple of times week. 12% of male students watch it once a week and13% of female students watch it a couple of times a month
Exposure to pornographic material at a young age can be a traumatic, confusing and disturbing experience. Add to this the actual content our young people are viewing – this is not just ‘mild’ pornography but rather images and videos of rape, sexual violence, degradation and extremes in sexually deviant behaviour. Pornography creates a powerful biochemical ‘rush’ in the user that actually mimics the brains’ reaction to alcohol and drug use so therefore the viewing of pornography is highly addictive. The negative effects of pornography include modelling and imitation of inappropriate sexual behaviours, unhealthy interference with normal sexual development, residual feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety and confusion and development of misleading and potentially harmful attitudes toward sex.
So what can a parent do? Plenty!! First of all let’s talk about the conversation with children (if we warn children, they will be more comfortable in letting you know when they come across an image. So the conversation might go like this:
‘…you might come across something on the computer, or someone might shows you a picture on their phone that might upset you…the people might be naked or they are doing stuff that looks very strange! If you see something please let me know and we’ll talk about it…’
Next week we’ll discuss how to deal with the older teen who might be viewing pornography.
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