Lets eliminate access to pornography for minors this Internet Safety Day
The 7th February this year marked, Safer Internet Day. The aim of this day is to join globally to build awareness of the importance for children to be cyber smart. Being cyber smart includes learning about issues such as cyberbullying, consent awareness when posting images, and addressing online safety and grooming.
The theme of Internet Safety Day this year is: “Be the change: Unite for a better Internet”.
Internet safety for children and young people is profoundly important given the continual advancements in online technologies. This week however, grassroots campaign, Porn harms Kids highlighted that despite the need, there was no focus on the reality that children can readily access hardcore pornography on the Internet in this year’s awareness day.
Pornography is a billion dollar industry which is easily accessible (either intentionally or not). With the explosion of online technologies in recent years, it has reached a critical level in exposing children and young people to serious harm through free and easy access to pornography.
Pornography exploits and commodifies women and men; devalues people; alters the perception of sex, gender and relationships; and is linked to a range of interpersonal difficulties in relationships.
The Australian Psychological Society has stated that because of this proliferation, pornography increasingly plays a significant role in shaping social norms in relation to sexuality, particularly among young people. This is associated with increased confusion and anxiety as young people feel pressured to behave in particular ways or meet sexual expectations or body image commonly displayed in pornography.
The Australian Medical Association has also expressed concerns stating that children viewing highly sexualised pornographic material are at risk of negatively affecting their psychological development and mental health by potentially skewing their views of normality and acceptable behaviour at a critical time of development in their life. Children for example, who are accessing harmful images online and then acting out on other children - predominantly in schools.
Further, the American Psychological Association has raised concerns about the links between exposure of children to pornography and the sexual abuse of children, and between pornography and sex trafficking, including trafficking for the purpose of producing pornography and the potential for pornography to fuel trafficking via increased demand.
Given this evidence, which is really just the tip of the iceberg, the risks of pornography for children and young people ought to be deliberately highlighted on such awareness days.
We also need to be doing much more to raise awareness of this issue, such as finding better ways to safeguard homes and schools from illicit content, and also effective ways to equip parents, teachers and children to be able to navigate the online landscape safely.
As Porn harms Kids, stated this week, a Safer Internet will never be a reality while pornography is so accessible to children and young people.
Our governments in Australia and New Zealand have a specific obligation to address this urgent public health concern. As signatories of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both governments have a duty of care towards protecting children from psychological, emotional and physical harm, as laid out in the Convention (CRoC). Both, Australian and New Zealand governments have a responsibility to protect children from all forms of violence, injury or abuse, including sexual abuse, including through forms of prevention.
Late last year the Australian Senate published the findings of the Environment, Communications and Reference Committee report on the harm being done to Australian Children through access to pornography on the Internet. Four recommendations are outlined in the report highlighting how the Australian government can do more to ensure the safety of children online. The recommendations include dedicated research into the exposure of Australian children and young people to online pornography and other pornographic material. The report, however, lacks a sense of urgency of addressing the immediate problem of how to remove harmful pornographic imagery from the eyes of children.
We already have documented evidence of the negative public health consequences of pornography observed in young people’s relationships and attitudes towards sex. Clearly, providing education and awareness to parents, teachers and children themselves is not enough to limit a child from exposure to illicit images. A multifaceted approach must be taken to tackling the issue and our federal representatives have a fundamental role in taking this responsibility seriously. Provision of information to parents, teachers and schools a valuable way to deal with exposure but it is not enough. Internet Service Provider (ISP) level filtering provisions to eliminate illicit content need also be introduced across Australia and New Zealand in order to begin to address the problem.
This is a public health crisis and a concern for the whole community. Please sign the petition now that will be sent to the Federal Communication Ministers in both Australian and New Zealand. This issue requires immediate attention. The government must take a lead on this issue.
Sign this petition now!
Urgent action required to eliminate access to pornographic materials for children and young people