New report reveals how young children are tricking parents and viewing porn at alarming rates

By: Carly Hoilman

Porn is a topic that no parent wants to discuss with their child. But with the proliferation of social media usage among even elementary school children, now is not a time for blissful ignorance. In a recent column for The Boston Globe, Gail Dines explains what’s at stake when it comes to the mental health of youths who view porn.

“As the president and CEO of Culture Reframed, a health-based nonprofit dedicated to building resilience and resistance in young people to porn culture, I’ve spoken with thousands of parents at schools across the country, and many are deeply concerned about the time their kids spend in front of a screen,” she writes. “They worry that their kids might be surfing free porn sites such as Pornhub when they are alone. However, most parents are unaware that porn is also infiltrating mainstream social media sites such as Snapchat and Instagram.”

Dines notes that many boys begin watching porn at age 11 or 12, though some studies indicate the average age of exposure is much younger. The substance of what we call porn has also evolved significantly with the dawn of the internet and social media.

“Instead of reaching under the mattress to score a magazine of naked women with coy smiles, teenagers are just a few phone swipes away from hard-core videos in which women are sexually abused and humiliated,” Dines writes. “Porn is now more affordable, accessible, and violent than ever before … .”

She cites one report from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner in England, in which a teen told researchers, “Basically, porn is everywhere.”And while parents might be inclined to dismiss this comment as an exaggeration, Dines offers some compelling reasons for why it’s spot-on.

How are kids accessing porn?

Noting that Snapchat is the most popular social media platform for teens, with Instagram following closely behind, Dines explains how pornographic material has slipped into the seemingly harmless platforms, despite claims that they don’t allow “adult content.”

She begins with Instagram, which 63 percent of 13- to-17-year-olds visit daily, for an average of 32 minutes.

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On Instagram, porn is often hidden behind hashtags and emojis that appear innocuous but are used as secret code to tag and search for particular types of porn,” Dines writes. “If teens type a specific fruit or vegetable emoji into the search bar, a list of links pops up to images ranging from women barely clothed to women in sexual bondage restraints. Those images lead directly to pornographic accounts, which are used by many porn performers to build their fan bases.”

She adds that although Instagram claims to employ “automated technology to continually detect and remove nudity and pornographic content,” it’s obvious this isn’t the company’s top priority.

For Snapchat, which one study found teens visit “more than 20 times a day,” for at least 30 minutes daily, Dines notes that “a whole ecosystem of online businesses help budding entrepreneurs manage and monetize ‘premium’ pornographic accounts.”

How do these businesses get around Snapchat’s “no adult content” policy? Dines explains:

To lure traffic, the premium account is linked to a more innocuous “teaser” Snapchat account and other platforms, including Twitter and Facebook. One of the biggest companies, FanCentro, serves as a channel to a whole universe of private Snapchat accounts and boasts that if one account is taken down, it will seamlessly set up another and redirect traffic. FanCentro also facilitates links from Snapchat to Pornhub, the major pornography site, in just a couple of clicks.

What are the effects on our children?

The devastating effects of porn are widely known within the scientific community today, but what many don’t consider is how exposure to porn at an early age can lead to long-term negative social, emotional and cognitive effects.

“Studies show that the earlier boys view porn, the more likely they are to experience anxiety, depression, poor academic performance, addictive behavior, and unhealthy relationships,” Dines writes. “They also exhibit lower empathy for rape victims and a higher likelihood of committing sexual assault.”

Girls, on the other hand, are more vulnerable to being sexually objectified on social media, with increased pressure to post sexualized photos and engage in sexting, usually on Snapchat.

Many girls feel “safe” using Snapchat to send explicit images because the platform advertises that photos disappear a short time after being viewed. Dines notes, however, that “the images can be saved in a hidden folder on phones and can be retrieved.”

“This leaves girls vulnerable to sextortion, bullying, revenge porn, sexual harassment, and suicide because they are more likely than boys to be pressured into sexting and humiliated as ‘sluts,’” she explains.

Dines goes on to cite a 2007 report by the American Psychological Association, which found that “exposure to sexualized material leads to body shame, intentionally trying to appear more sexually appealing, appearance anxiety, eating disorders, and low self-esteem.”

What can we do to fight this problem?

The first step to combatting porn exposure and the damage it causes is to be aware of what we’re up against.

“While some pornographic social media accounts will ask users if they are over 18, teens can simply lie to get around these flimsy age restrictions,” Dines writes. “Though parents can install programs on kids’ devices that block pornography, today’s tech-savvy kids know how to get around these (and they can always use their friends’ unblocked phones instead). The reality is that most teenagers will inevitably be exposed to porn — and parents must talk to them about it.”

Dines’s organization, Culture Reframed, commissioned an update of the 2007 APA report, released last month, which looked at studies from the last 10 years on how explicit online material affects young girls.

“The report, conducted by Dr. Sharon Lamb at UMass Boston, recommends media literacy education both in schools and in society as a whole to help girls critique sexist imagery. It also encourages parents to monitor their kids’ Internet use with greater vigilance,” Dines notes.

Culture Reframed has been working to provide resources to parents of tweens to help them take back some control of what their children are exposed to. Last year, the group launched a free online program that helps parents discuss the issue of online pornography with their kids.

Another obvious but crucial step to protecting our families from porn is to banish it from our own lives. If you or your spouse struggle with porn, help is available.

Faithwire recently launched Set Free, a brand new internet-based program designed to combat pornography addiction. Grounded in biblical truth, action and community, this seven-week video series and Bible study equips individuals with the spiritual tools needed to understand the dangers of pornography, build strong community and accountability, and break free from the chains of sexual sin.

For more information on this course or how you can enroll, click here.

This post originally appeared Faithwire and was republished with permission. 

 

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