The Child Rescue Coalition has warned parents about the risks of posting intimate photos of their children, as well as using certain hashtags that can be accessed and misused by predators. It is a reminder to parents to take great care when posting images of their children on social media, to consider their privacy settings and possible risks to their children.
#ToddlerBikini and the ‘adultification’ of children
Psychologists, health professionals and child advocates have spoken out about the harmful impacts of sexualisation and ‘adultification’ of children. Adultification occurs when children are deliberately posed and styled to appear much older than they are, as high fashion ‘mini-me adults’ in adult attire. There is substantial research to suggest that premature sexualisation or adultification negatively impacts children’s natural development and puts girls at risk of exploitation and abuse.
Given evidence of the harmful impacts of sexualising and adultifying children, the practice by some parents of posting pictures of their female toddlers in skimpy bikinis alongside the hashtag #ToddlerBikini is troubling.
Dr Emma Rush, co-author of the report Corporate Paedophilia, told ABC:
“Children are not a reflection of the adult’s personal style...they’re not a miniature adult, they’re not a fashion accessory, they’re a developing human being and they need the cultural space to be just that.”
Photo sharing and risks to children
Once the image has been shared publicly, the owner no longer has control over it. A study by Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) revealed that 88% of sexual or suggestive images and videos posted by young people on social media sites are being stolen by ‘parasite’ porn sites. Of the 12,224 images and videos monitored on 68 different websites, 10,776 were later found on parasite websites. Parents need to be aware that once posted online, they may no longer retain control of where their child’s image ends up or how it might be used.
The sharing of sexualised images of girls puts them at risk from paedophiles. In 2015 we published a piece by dance teacher and writer Jemma Nicoll, who exposed the exploitation of girls in the dance industry. Nicoll followed the Instagram account of a prominent US dancewear company, California Kisses, which featured highly sexualised images of young girls, as young as 5-7, sometimes alongside suggestive slogans.
(Note: ‘Pop that’ refers to the ‘popping’ of a girl’s cherry or the taking of her virginity. It is a popular porn genre.)
The company’s recklessness didn’t end there, with California Kisses failing to moderate frequent sexual and predatory comments from adult men directed towards female children, including requests for sexual acts.
The devastating emotional impact on children
Just this week, a woman has won her fight to get nude photos taken of her as a child removed from several prominent New Zealand art galleries. The victim claimed the photos, taken by her artist mother, were “child pornography masquerading as art”, calling on the Government to protect children from exploitation.
In her submission to the Film and Literature Board, the victim indicated the photographs represented her in a way that was harmful, and that as a naked child model she was subject to a power imbalance and unable to render consent.
The woman, who was also a victim of child sexual abuse, told the board that if the images were to outlive her they “will continue to remind her of that time of her life, oppressing and humiliating her.”
The Board banned two photos. The first picture suggested “sexual availability and experience”, with the victim “made up to look older than her years”, found the board. The second banned photograph was taken when the victim was 10.
Board President Rachel Schmidt-McCleave stated:
“The image seeks to make a statement about sexual availability and power that ought not to be made in the case of a child or young person. There is no doubt that depiction of a child in this way... is injurious.”
“The board is of the view that depicting young persons being older than they are and being sexually available normalises the sexualisation of young women and forms part of a continuous desensitising of the public to the sexualisation of children and young people and is therefore harmful to those children and injurious to the public good.”
Online child safety advocate Rachel Downie says parents are unaware of about 80 per cent of what their teen engages in on the internet at home.
Ms Downie, a former teacher, told ABC she had surveyed more than 20,000 students over the last five years, asking "what's something you do on the internet at home that you know you're not allowed to do?"
The results were concerning, with teens viewing violent real-life content, such as fights, muggings and pornography that looks non-consensual.
Photo by Rachel Downie
Ms Downie said 51 per cent of children, mostly boys, had viewed pornography or other illicit material, while one-fifth of respondents admitted to bullying, trolling and stalking for fun.
For some behaviours, the children themselves were screaming out for stronger regulation.
She said parents were often unaware of how far "down the spiral kids are".
"After every presentation, and it's usually with mums, they want to come chat to me afterwards about the fact that their 12, 13, 14-year-old son is addicted to pornography.
Ms Downie said it is a confusing, unchartered time for parents, exacerbated by the demands of school and society for children to be technologically savvy.
"What we're doing is 'ping, you're 12 here's your phone', 'ping you're 13, here's your own computer' and it's happening much earlier.
Ms Downie went on to give advice to parents on what they can do:
Ultimately, Ms Downie said adequate parental supervision and keeping conversations open is the key to tackling the issue.
"If you're not checking you wouldn't know, and it's not good enough anymore to say 'hey my 12-year-old daughter is a great kid, I really trust her'.
"I'm certainly not an advocate for banning everything because that's not the world we live in, but I am a very strong advocate for your need to know what they're doing.
"It's about being a grown-up and being the boss and getting your techno power back and saying, 'look we're going to set some boundaries around this stuff at home'."
Ms Downie said having those conversations with children and teens was crucial to building helping young people cope in the real and emotional online world.
Opening those lines of communication and setting boundaries should be done earlier, than later.
OPINION: Psychologists here say we're in the middle of a porn crisis.
Just last year an Australian study found 100 percent of boys surveyed were exposed to porn, and 85 percent said they viewed it daily or weekly.
In the US, six states are declaring pornography a public health crisis. Even The New York Times is calling on officials to ban it.
But while it's easy to tell the government they should be doing something, this is one of those issues where actually, it's what you do that counts.
I want to talk about pornography.
- Explicit porn being promoted on Instagram
- How to talk to your kids about porn
- Is free pornography destroying our brains?
Except, it's sort of an awkward topic, particularly on TV when kids might be watching, so I've come up with a solution.
For the next couple of minutes instead of the word 'porn', I’m going to say the word 'corn'. Just tell your children we're talking about corn.
When I was young, you never saw corn. Maybe some kid would bring his dad's corn to school and you’d pass it round, but it was pretty tame. Some of them were still wearing their husks.
Now as you probably know, corn is everywhere. You don’t even have to buy it from a dairy, you just open your laptop or phone and it’s there ready to go.
As a guy it's tempting and easy - like grabbing a cold beer out of the fridge. But it's this easiness that I want to talk about tonight.
Next time you start typing "cornhub" into your address bar, take a moment and remember this.
You are slowly destroying your own ability to have normal sex with another normal human.
Here's what clinical psychologist Dr Mark Thorpe, who deals with this stuff all the time, said.
"We are in the middle of a crisis. There is an extreme amount of sexual problems with young men under 25 - and that manifests as erectile dysfunction; delayed ejaculation; diminished libido with real life partners, not screen; and an avoidance of genuine relationships."
That's right, every time you go online to get off, you're making your own corncob look more like this.
Yep, that thing in the top left corner. Photo credit: The Project
The more corn you consume, the harder corn you're going to need.
Here's Dr Thorpe again: "The brain and internet porn are geared towards it, so there is the natural tendency to slide into more and more difficult things.
"It's a bit like what you mentioned with drugs, you need greater hits you need greater variety so it goes more and more into aggressive, difficult, punitive content."
These are real people in these videos.
Somebody's daughter, someone's sister. Some of them do a good job of looking like this is their first-choice career, but don't kid yourself.
At least admit that by using corn we're effectively helping a huge corporate to make women and girls do things they don't really want to do, so that men like us will feel good for a few seconds.
Take some ownership of what this is doing to New Zealand kids.
It is estimated 88 percent of online pornography is violent. By supporting this industry we're supporting our latest form of sex education, where boys learn that slapping, choking and hurting their girlfriends is a form of intimacy, and girls grow up thinking they're meant to act like the women in the videos because that's the only sex they've ever seen.
If hearing this stuff makes you want to make a change, I've been working with Dr Thorpe on a set of tips to move on from porn.
It's on The Project's Facebook page. If you're worried about it showing up in your history, just turn on your private browser first… pretty sure you know how that works.
And look, I'm not going to tell you what to do when the curtains are closed. But I am asking you not to consume pornography with your eyes wide shut.
The internet is messing with us in ways we'll never fully understand, but finding another way to get yourself in the mood is one huge thing you can do to have a positive impact on yourself, your relationship and on your children.
Jesse Mulligan is a presenter on The Project
Read full article here.
In the end, the porn industry is concerned with profits, not our kids
pic: Scythers via Getty Images
A French pornography performer has taken to Twitter to slam parents for failing to teach their children about sex. After receiving messages of a sexual nature from boys as young as twelve, Nikita Belluci wrote,
“I’m getting sick of educating your kids. There is a complete lack of teaching and prevention, and it’s not our job to educate your kids.”
“Reflect on what your kids are doing in private, and the consequences of that.”
When asked if the porn industry had a responsibility to depict healthy sexual relationships, Jeremy, who has been barred from the Adult Video News awardsafter multiple rape allegations, disagreed.
“I like what you’re saying, but what would you do? It’s not my call to tell a filmmaker ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do this, none of this’...you know, like, who are we to do that?” Jeremy concluded with a message to parents, “Watch your goddamn kids.”
Jeremy got one thing right - mainstream pornography is not where one might find healthy or positive approaches to sexuality. Rather, porn is a “distortion of respect-based sexuality” and a poor educational tool, one that routinely fails to depict consent, safe sexual practices or mutually pleasurable sexual experiences.
As Meghan Donevan put it in ‘Freedom Fallacy: The Limits of Liberal Feminism’, pornography
“portrays sex as an encounter predicated on submission and domination…in a fantasy world where women are always ready for sex, enjoy all types of sexual activity, including aggressive and degrading acts.”
Despite this, pornography has become the primary means of sexual education for young people, with porn serving as the introduction to intimacy for many children, and parents reporting feeling powerless to stop it.
While parents certainly have a responsibility to be engaged and to monitor their children’s internet access, it’s hardly a fair fight. Parents are going up against a massive almost $100 billion industry, one that has successfully embedded its product into mainstream culture. Media, advertising and popular culture have become increasingly pornified, Playboy is a global empire and porn performers are household names. Billboards for sex industry venues including strip clubs and brothels are positioned outside schools and government owned public buses are emblazoned with ads for live-streamed sex shows. Parents need to be vigilant, yes, but it’s impossible for parents alone to counter the dominant messages of a porn culture.
The porn industry also aggressively markets its product to children in a number of ways. These include studying children’s common keystroke errors in order to direct them to porn sites, and making pornography based on children’s favourite cartoon characters. The industry has also opposed measures like age verification on pornographic websites that could limit children’s exposure - and impinge on their profits.
According to the porn industry, when children and young people are harmed by their product- and they are- this is merely due to parental neglect, and not the dehumanising and abusive content they consistently churn out. Based on this logic, it is parents, not pornographers, who are responsible for pornography’s harmful impacts on kids.
In deflecting responsibility for harm to parents, the porn industry can continue unimpeded, releasing content like “punished teen”, “extreme teen humiliation” and “crying teen gangbang”, all categories found on Pornhub, the largest porn site on the Internet. The only problem with pornography premised on the humiliation, cruelty and abuse of women for men’s pleasure, then, is that children are accessing material intended for adults.
Performer Belluci rightly condemned the inappropriate behaviour from boys as young as twelve who approached her for nude photos and sexual favours. But where do twelve-year-olds learn to relate to women in this way? Where do they learn that they are entitled to women’s bodies, and that women exist for their sexual use and enjoyment? What industry grooms and shapes young people’s sexual expectations, attitudes and behaviours in this way?
This very disrespect of women is sanctioned in pornography. In porn, it is considered appropriate for men to view women in terms of male sexual gratification- that’s the point. But the porn industry can’t have it both ways. The sexually harassing and abusive treatment of women that is endemic to mainstream pornography can’t be unacceptable in the ‘real world’ and simultaneously endorsed when it takes place on a porn set. The abuse and degradation of women is either a barrier to women’s rights and humanity, or it isn’t.
In the end, the porn industry is concerned with profits, not our kids.
“The pornographers did a kind of stealth attack on our culture, hijacking our sexuality and then selling it back to us, often in forms that look very little like sex but a lot like cruelty. The only solution to this is a movement that is fierce in its critique of sexual exploitation and steadfast in its determination to fight for what is rightfully ours.”
-Dr Gail Dines.
Culture Reframed, founded by Gail Dines, has come up with a program to help parents talk about porn with their tween-age children. The Culture Reframed Parents Program currently offers three free online courses that are short and self-paced, equipping parents with the knowledge and tools to support and guide their children.
From the ‘Parents of Tweens’ course content:
“Research indicates that just over 40% of young people view pornography on their phones, with just over 50% streaming or downloading it on computers. Many parents feel overwhelmed by this and want to know, ‘What can I do to help my child?’”
“The Culture Reframed Parents Program is designed to help you have age-appropriate, nuanced, and compassionate conversations with your child. It will give you the skills to establish in your young person a grounded understanding of sexuality based on boundaries, respect and trust.”
The program includes 12 Step-By-Step Modules, scripted conversations, specialist videos along with a range of recommended resources. Areas covered in the course include information on how to teach boundaries, consent and privacy, managing technology, how to lead discussions skilfully and what to actually say.
You can follow Culture Reframed on Facebook to stay up to date on their great work in this space.
Editor’s note: This article includes references to graphic sexual content that may be inappropriate for some readers.
Today teenagers are viewing far more pornography than their parents realize. And the porn they’re watching is much more “hardcore” than moms and dads could possibly imagine.
These were the main messages of “What Teenagers are Learning From Online Porn,” a recent New York Times story by Maggie Jones. It quickly became one of the most read and shared articles.
While this may be a surprise to many American parents who perhaps imagine porn as merely a naked centerfold, it wasn’t to scholars like me who immerse ourselves in the world of mainstream porn. We know how widespread violent, degrading and misogynisticpornography has become, as well as the implications for the emotional, physical and mental health of young people.
In an effort to better understand the problem from a “front-line” perspective, feminist activist Samantha Wechsler and I have been traveling the world talking to parents about the issue. The question we’re asked most often is: “What can we do about it?”
‘Hardcore’ porn is everywhere
Surveys and our own experiences show that parents are deeply concerned about the easy access their kids now have to porn via mobile devices.
The statistics paint a dismal picture. A recent U.K. study found that 65 percent of 15- to 16-year-olds had viewed pornography, the vast majority of whom reported seeing it by age 14. This is especially problematic given the findings of another study that found a correlation between early exposure to pornography and an expressed desire to exert power over women.
Yet for all this concern, they know surprisingly little about what mainstream porn looks like, how much their kids are accessing and how it affects them. The Times article, however, cited a 2016 surveythat suggested most parents are totally unaware of their kids’ porn experiences. Jones called this the “parental naivete gap.”
This matches our own experiences. In the presentations we do at high schools, we ask parents to describe what they think of when they hear the word “porn.” They invariably describe a naked young woman with a coy smile, the kind of image many remember from Playboy centerfolds.
They are shocked when they learn that the images from today’s busiest free porn sites, like Pornhub, depict acts such as women being gagged with a penis or multiple men penetrating every orifice of a woman and then ejaculating on her face. When we tell parents this, the change in the atmosphere of the room is palpable. There is often a collective gasp.
It bears repeating that these are the most visited porn sites – which get more visitors every month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined. Pornhub alone received 21.2 billion visits in 2015. We are not talking about images on the fringe.
Ana Bridges, a psychologist at the University of Arkansas, and her team found that 88 percent of scenes from 50 of the top-rented porn movies contained physical aggression against the female performers – such as spanking, slapping and gagging – while 48 percent included verbal abuse – like calling women names such as “bitch” or “slut.”
Bad for your health
More than 40 years of research from different disciplines has demonstrated that viewing pornography – regardless of age – is associated with harmful outcomes. And studies show that the younger the age of exposure, the more significant the impact in terms of shaping boys’ sexual templates, behaviors and attitudes.
A 2011 study of U.S. college men found that 83 percent reported seeing mainstream pornography in the past 12 months and that those who did were more likely to say they would commit rape or sexual assault (if they knew they wouldn’t be caught) than men who said they had not seen porn.
Another study of young teens found that early porn exposure was correlated with perpetration of sexual harassment two years later.
One of the most cited analyses of 22 studies concluded that pornography consumption is associated with an increased likelihood of committing acts of verbal or physical sexual aggression. And a study of college-aged women found that young women whose male partners used porn experienced lower self-esteem, diminished relationship quality and lower sexual satisfaction.
It begins with parents
Fearing for their children’s well-being, parents at our presentations, whether in Los Angeles, Oslo or Warsaw, want to run home in a panic to have the “porn talk” with their kids.
But in reality, they often have no idea what to say, how to say it, or how to deal with a kid who would rather be anywhere else in the world than sitting across from their parents talking about porn. At the same time, public health research shows that parents are the first line of prevention in dealing with any major social problem that affects their kids.
So what can be done?
Most current efforts focus on teens themselves and educating them about sex and the perils of porn. Although it is crucial to have high-quality programs for teens who have already been exposed, the fact is that this is cleaning up after the fact rather than preventing the mess in the first place.
So a team of academics, public health experts, educators, pediatricians and developmental psychologists – including us – spent two years pooling research to create a program to help parents become that vitalfirst line of defense.
That’s why the nonprofit we set up – Culture Reframed – initially focused on parents of tweens, addressing a key question: How do we prevent kids from being exposed to images of sexual abuse and degradation at that critical stage when they are forming their sexual identities?
What took shape was a 12-module program that introduces parents sequentially to the developmental changes – emotional, cognitive and physical – that tweens undergo and the hypersexualized pop culture that shapes those changes and is the wallpaper of tween lives.
For example, boys learn from music videos, violent video games, mainstream media and porn that “real men” are aggressive and lack empathy, that sex equals conquest, and that to avoid being bullied, they have to wear the mask of masculinity. Girls, on the other hand, learn that they have to look “hot” to be visible, be as passive as a cartoon princess and internalize the male gaze, leading them to self-objectify at an early age.
Navigating the porn minefield
Helping parents grasp the degree to which hypersexualized images shape their tweens encourages them to understand, rather than judge, why their girl wants to look like one of the Kardashians, or why their boy, hazed into hypermasculinity, is at risk of losing his capacity for empathy and connection. This helps parents approach their kids with compassion rather than with frustration and anger that can undermine the parent-child relationship.
Navigating all the minefields of living in today’s toxic porn culture – from sexting and poor self esteem to porn and peer pressure – is very tricky terrain, and parents need all the help they can get.
But ultimately, the Culture Reframed project is about so much more than providing parents with newfound confidence and skills. It’s about taking power back from the porn industry, which is out to hijack the sexuality and humanity of kids in the name of profit, and giving it back to parents.
Samantha Wechsler, interim executive director of Culture Reframed, co-authored this article.
Full article at The Conversation here.