Because kids are not in school during the summer, they have more time to use the computer. Consequently, you need to make sure your kids’ summertime cyber experiences are positive. To help you, we’ve created a simple acronym as a guidepost for steps you can take and tactics you can implement to protect your children from online dangers.
And what acronym did we pick? Well, we picked SUMMER. Go figure!
A fistfight between an impatient person and a porn-viewing patron at the Brooklyn Public Library has reignited an old debate regarding whether adults should have free and easy access to hardcore pornography, or illegal adult pornography, known under the law as obscenity, at their local public library. A spokesperson for the library has explained that the library is complying with patrons’ First Amendment rights, and thus provides Internet access to pornography to adult patrons.
While libraries do not stock obscene videos of “Where the Girls Sweat” or “Fetish Fanatic 8″, patrons at the New York Public Library has easy access to this hardcore content through taxpayer-funded Internet access. Why? Because this particular library doesn’t understand the laws pertaining to this issue.
Abe Lincoln said it best, “What is morally wrong cannot be politically correct.” Yet the exponential pornification of our culture is contributing both directly and indirectly to the epidemic of child sexual abuse, and unfortunately, certain segments of our government are turning a blind eye.
The U.S. spends trillions in military engagements overseas to prevent, protect and defend, and yet, research indicates that in our own country, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually victimized before adulthood (the majority are victimized by family members or someone whom they know and trust). Illegal adult pornography (i.e. obscenity) remains unprosecuted, and every child with unrestricted Internet access is just one click away from viewing this material. In a recent study, 53% of boys and 28% of girls, ages 12-15, reported using hard-core, adult illegal pornography. Additionally, law enforcement is grossly underfunded to prosecute predators, and the $3 billion child pornography industry remains one of the fastest growing businesses online. Over 200,000 rape kits remain unprocessed, and over 100,000 registered sex offenders are “lost in the system”, allowing rapists and child molesters to repeatedly abuse and expand their wake of exploitation.
If you’re like me, you know David Schwimmer best for his role as the lovable paleontologist Ross in the hit NBC sitcom “Friends”. Suffice it to say, I was a bit surprised when we were approached about a new film, Directed by Schwimmer called “Trust”. The film is no comedy. Instead, “Trust” documents the raw social and emotional toll on 14-year-old Annie Cameron (Liana Liberato) as she is groomed and victimized by Charlie, whom she initially believes to be a 16-year-old boy.
Like many of the parents we work with at Enough Is Enough (EIE), Annie’s parents, Will and Lynn Cameron (played by Clive Owen and Catherine Keener), find comfort in the fact that they have raised their children to be thoughtful and responsible—their kids are “good kids”. With their alarm system on and their doors locked, the Camerons believe their children are safe. As a result, Annie’s parents are shocked and devastated when they learn their daughter has been manipulated by an online predator.
As a community or school leader responsible for marketing an Internet Safety 101 training event the work can seem overwhelming and leave you uncertain about who will attend. The best-attended and most successful events, however, all share certain characteristics. Effective marketing about the program will also provide an additional benefit—you have an opportunity to get plugged into your children’s school or your community more deeply and build stronger relationships with school administrators and other community leaders.
One year ago, Daniel A. Woolverton, 35, was known as a father, a husband, a U.S. Army Lawyer, and a West Point Graduate. Today, he is known among his neighbors, peers and kin as a pedophile, receiving a 37-year sentence for forcible sodomy with an infant. When the FBI executed a search warrant, they uncovered more than 30,000 images of child pornography and more than 1,000 videos, mostly of toddlers and infants, being sexually abused. Woolverton also made and distributed child pornography, videotaping, uploading and sharing his abuse of a several month-old boy. His wife, another US Army lawyer claims to have no knowledge of these events of her husband’s huge collection of child sexual abuse images.
Every week, a new case emerges of a lawyer, doctor, clergyman, teacher or other “outstanding” citizen who has secretly been engaging in outrageous and horrific acts of child sexual abuse. In the vast majority of these cases, the individual has had easy and anonymous access to a smorgasbord of child sexual abuse images (child pornography) through the Internet, images and videos depicting abused children ranging in age from infants to teens. This material merely whets the appetite and fuels the desire to act out sexually against an actual child.
This month’s New York Magazine included several articles under the banner “Drowning in Porn”, examining, in part, the impact the web-porn “tsunami” is having on the pornography industry, adults and children.
As the series explains, the Internet served as “a distribution chute liberating [pornography] from the trench-coat ghetto of brown paper wrappers and seedy adult bookstores, an E-Z Pass to a vast untapped bedroom audience.” What many of the early pornographers failed to foresee, however, was that the Internet would not only provide new avenues to distribute pay-to-watch content, but that the Internet would lead to an explosion of cyber-porn vendors, user-generated and amateur porn, and free porn sites. As one pornography industry executive noted, “ten years ago, total daily adult-site traffic averaged less than 1 million unique visitors—on the entire Internet. Today, [one of the popular user-generated sites] alone gets 42 million unique viewers daily.”
Internet security and Anti-virus group AVG recently released its latest piece of research as part of their Digital Diaries series, which examines the challenges of growing up in a digital age. The research highlights how dramatically technology and the Internet have reshaped the childhood experience. As AVG Blog author J.R. Smith writes:
Before the early 1990s, when the “information super highway” began appearing in homes, offices and dorm rooms everywhere, most childhood experiences were still indelibly linked to such “firsts” as learning how to swim or ride a bike. Our childhood experiences were less idyllic than many of those depicted by Normal Rockwell, perhaps, but we bore the same scraped knees, black eyes, and childhood crushes. We were outdoors—curious, determined and in constant motion.
True, many of us had television, Atari, and the ultimate destroyer of innocence, cable. But none of these distractions so drastically and quickly reshaped the childhood experience as the computer and what ultimately formed its heart and soul, the Internet. So much so, in fact, that about a decade ago kids began acquiring certain computer skills sooner than traditional real-world skills, such as swimming and riding a bike.
I recently came across Cosmopolitan’s 2010 Sex Survey, which reported that 36% of women use pornography as a “sex enhancer”. In another Cosmo article, the magazine essentially begs its readers to explore the many “benefits” of pornography. One standout paragraph said:
“While one must be aware of the dangers of porn addiction, [pornography] can be used as a healthy tool to stimulate one’s sex life. Caution: much of the material out there isn’t for the fainthearted. But then, Cosmo chicas don’t really need that warning, do they?”
While statistics vary wildly regarding the actual percentage of men, women and children viewing pornography, the theme is consistent: pornography use has become normalized in our culture. Porn stars are now mainstream icons; little girls wear the Playboy bunny with pride on their t-shirts; our music industry continues to push the limits of “sexual expression” to the point that today’s music videos resemble the “soft-core” pornography of yesteryear; and, as author Gail Dines describes in her new book, Pornland, shows like ‘Girls Gone Wild’ (GGW) have positioned themselves “not as a porn product, but rather as hot, sexy fun that pushes the envelope of mainstream pop culture.”
The accessibility to soft-core pornography, “user-generated” pornography, and T.V. shows like GGW and Girls Next Door, has filled a gap for the pornography Industry where, as Dines explains, “in the place of scripted and carefully crafted scenes of hard-core porn” viewers witness ‘real’ women creating porn and engaging in porn-inspired acts as a “sexy” part of a normal woman’s everyday life. Using ‘real’ women in pornography “socialized users to believe that everyday women are sexually available” and experimental, and continues to make most visible the sense that a young woman’s identity is one that emphasizes her as “a sexual being at the exclusion of anything else”. As Dines continues, the pornography industry has worked carefully and strategically to “sanitize its products by stripping away the ‘dirt’ factor and reconstituting porn as fun, edgy, chic, sexy and hot.”
Unfortunately, once a user scrapes beyond the soft-core surface of the pornography industry, they will dive into the “anything goes” world of hardcore pornography, filled with fetish, violence, bestiality, genital torture, barely legal content and group ‘gang-bangs’. In one analysis of fifty best selling adult titles, half of the 304 scenes surveyed showed extreme verbal aggression and over 88% included extreme physical aggression. I took a quick look at this year’s Adult Video Network (AVN) award categories, which include: “Best Orgy/Gangbang Release”, “Best Young Girl Release”, “Best Squirting Release” (female ejaculation), and “Best All-Girl Group Sex Scene” (which must include sex scenes between four or more women). The titles of last year’s winners in these categories are too graphic for me to include.
Some of you may be quick to tell me that pornography is fantasy, and sensible adults can distinguish the difference. Unfortunately, the pornography ‘fantasy’ is spilling over into almost every corner of our culture–pushing powerful messages about human sexuality, sexual relationships, women’s bodies, sexual expectation, sexual norms, and how men and women should relate. A recent study about the Social Cots of Pornography(SCoP) suggests there is empirical evidence that “pornography today is qualitatively different from any that has gone before in its ubiquity, the use of increasingly realistic, streaming images and the increasingly ‘hard-core’ character of what is consumed”.
The study continued to explain that the peculiar nature of Internet pornography makes addiction more likely, and that today’s consumption of pornography can harm women and children in particular, adding that “modern trends in pornography consumption and production, sexualized media, sex crime, online sexual predators, Internet dating services, and sexualized cyber-bullying, have created a world more sexually disorienting, daunting and aggressive than every before” where our children are exposed to pornographic and sexual content at earlier and earlier ages in developmentally damaging ways. Is it any wonder that our children are creating self-produced child pornography? Is it any wonder that schools cancel dances for fear their tweens and teens will “hook-up” on the dance floor?
Unfortunately, our children,our young boys and girl, are not safe from the impact of the pornification of our culture. They have free and easy access to pornography via the web, and habituation to pornographic imagery predisposes our adolescents to engage in sexually risky behavior. One study found a strong association between pornography consumption and engaging in oral and anal sexual intercourse among adolescents.
The pornography ‘fantasy’ has had real-life implications on our adult society and on our children. Sensible adults-doctors, lawyers, and pastors-have lost their families, professions and life to hard-core pornography use. Our tweens and teens do not know how to relate to one another sexually in positive, supportive, safe and healthy ways. We live in a culture where pop princesses dance in sexified versions of Candy Land with doughnut-covered breasts; where 17-year old teen celebrities are celebrated for openly talking about masturbation and pornography use. Our pop culture and pornography culture have pushed the limits to the point of breaking. Our future generation’s sexual and relational stability are at stake, and no child is immune to being impacted by the floodtide of these messages.
Fortunately, you can make a difference.
Please fight back against the misguided, pornified sexual messages pervasive in our culture by setting a strong example for the children under your care. Protect them from accessing this harmful content online and via mobile devices to the best of your ability by using Internet Safety 101 Rules ‘N Tools® as they grow and develop. And please consider contacting your Congressman to tell them you want our existing obscenity laws enforced.
As Internet Safety 101 featured expert and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Dr. Jill Manning highlights in our Internet Safety 101 teaching series, “healthy sexuality includes many things: boundaries, self-care; how do we take good care of our bodies, our minds and our spirits? How do we develop self-respect and respect for other people? How do we communicate in a loving and constructive way with one another. We need to step out of this limited box that the sex talk is a one-time event. That day is gone… We need to decide whose voice is going to win out… the pornography industry’s voice or our voice.”
Will you take a stand with us?