Since 1993, when the porn industry first started to exploit the internet for their financial gain, pornography on the internet has grown exponentially and was estimated to be a 97 billion dollar worldwide web industry in 2010. Today, any child with unrestricted internet access via computer or cell phone is just two clicks away from viewing sexually explicit material online that can include adult pornography, graphic sex acts, live sex shows, orgies, bestiality, pedophilia, and sexual violence. Popular culture with our youth, both online and offline, has become hyper-sexualized, or what some experts like Pamela Paul have called “pornified,” which unfortunately just feeds and plays into the hands of the pornography industry. Pop culture icons such as Lady Gaga and Christine Aguilera hyper-sexualize their songs and videos, so it is no surprise that youth today will mirror these icons, experiment with their sexuality, and express themselves anonymously in ways that they would not otherwise do in their offline social circles. This seismic shift in sexual attitudes in our youth today is what the porn industry drills into.
As mentioned above, the pornography industry works hard to attract Internet users to their on-line sites using different marketing tactics and tricks such as stealth sites. Other tactics used include:
Innocent Word Searches: Here, the industry will use words or phrases that are commonly used in search engines such as Google that have nothing to do with the sexual content of the actual site.
Free Teaser Images/Video: Here, the industry will offer free virtual tours of their sites where users can also see free live sex videos or images.
Popups and Ad Banners: Many popular sites and social networks that our youth frequent often have advertising banners that the porn industry have purchased in the hopes that the user will click the popup or banner, which will then immediately re-direct the user to a XXX site.
Porn-napping: Similar to a stealth site, here, the porn industry will purchase an expired domain of a popular internet site so that when clicked, it re-directs the user to a pornographic site.
Typo Squatting: Here, the industry will create pornography site names similar to favorite sites frequented by our youth, where the name is slightly misspelled. An example might be “Dizney” rather than “Disney.”
Unfortunately, pornography on the internet has become more acceptable, accessible and freely available, which is resulting in the unhealthy sexual desensitization of our youth that can often foster sexual addiction, sexual mis-education and even sexual violence.
In a 2002 article called, “Pornography’s Effects on Adults and Children” by Dr Victor B Cline, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Utah, noted a negative progressive pattern specific to the ongoing viewing of pornography:
1. Addiction: once hooked the consumer will come back more and more
2. Escalation: to reach the same emotional and psychological high the consumer requires more and more visual stimulation.
3. Desensitization: material that was once seen to be shocking by the viewer is now acceptable.
4. Acting Out Sexually: here the consumer will now begin to act out sexually the behaviors that they have been viewing on-line
To a young developing mind, this addictive behavior is very powerful, and the pornography industry knows it, and taps into it for their financial gain. Not unlike a drug dealer who hooks new clients up with free samples of their product (drug), so too, does the porn industry with their free videos and pictures. Once hooked, the internet porn user, like the drug user, wants more and is willing to pay for it. This is one reason why some experts have called internet pornography a “cyber drug.”
At its worst, internet pornography is often violent, planting the seed in the child’s mind that sex and violence are somehow connected. Studies have indicated that early exposure to pornography may play a role in later deviant sexual behavior. Internet pornography has the effect of making people seem like objects, like a radio or TV. This is what psychologists call “objectification.” Those who commit sexual crimes rarely feel remorse for their actions because they don’t see themselves as hurting people; they are simply using objects.
In Dr Cline’s study mentioned above, he also found that 91% of teenage males and 82% of teenage females admitted having been exposed to x-rated, hard-core pornography. Over 66% of the males and 40% of the females reported wanting to try out some of the sexual behaviors they had witnessed. Among these high school students, 31% of the males and 18% of the females admitted actually doing some of the things they had seen in the pornography viewed within a few days after exposure.
A Canadian company, safeexplorer.com, conducted a study of 24 boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 13 years of age and found the following:
All 24 children reported stumbling onto pornographic sites
20 children reported receiving pornographic e-mails
All 24 children reported being involved in sexually oriented communication in chat rooms
6 children reported that they were considering to meet a cyber friend without supervision
Only one child reported that their household enforced any kind of internet safety rules
None of the children reported any kind of parental supervision while online
So, are there warning signs that might indicate my child may be viewing pornography?
Some of the signs that parents should be aware of that indicate that your child may be viewing pornography include:
Sexual language or behavior that is inappropriate for the age of your child.
Unexplained or unusual credit card charges.
Increased spam, popups or inappropriate emails that have a pornographic element.
Your child quickly changes the computer screen when you walk in the room.
Noticeable change in behavior in their computer use or interaction with family.
So, what can we do as parents?
It is important to understand that children are naturally curious about sex and sexuality and because of this fact, the internet has now provided an unlimited access point to explore this curiosity. Although most parents are uncomfortable about discussing sex and sexuality with their children, it is so important that we do. To help parents overcome this discomfort, an author by the name of Meg Hickling has written and excellent book entitled, “Speaking of Sex.” Meg’s book is a blueprint to help parents educate younger children, in an age appropriate manner, how to talk about what she calls “body science.” This is a book that we highly recommend all parents to read. Open those lines of communication with your children and ask them:
Have you ever seen anything online of a sexual nature that has made you feel uncomfortable?
Have you ever accidentally come across sexual pictures online?
Have you or your friends ever accessed pornography either intentionally or accidentally?
Do you think that pornography is actual healthy sexuality?
Remember to open those lines of communication, and educate your child about healthy sexuality and respect for themselves and the opposite sex. Not to have these types of discussions, only allow the pornography industry to further entice our children into their world. Also consider installing appropriate filtering and monitoring software on all computers.
For more information on the dangers of online pornography and the negative effects it has on our children, please visit www.pornharms.com. This site is dedicated to providing the most accurate peer-reviewed research on the harm caused by pornography, along with relevant news and expert opinion on the topic.
Digital Food For Thought
Darren Laur AKA #thewhitehatter