- - Tuesday, October 7, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The challenge: Pornography pandemic

Pornography is everywhere. It’s an evil with far-reaching effects that damages many layers of society. But no one is hurt more by the overwhelming presence of pornography than children.

According to a study by the London School of Economics, nine out of 10 children who go online will view pornography. Even when kids are acting responsibly and innocently, adults in the pornography business are so fixated on creating new porn addicts that they have made it virtually impossible for children to escape their grasp.

Think about it: Ninety percent of all kids on the Internet will be subjected to the sexual images and values of perverted pornographers.

There should be a protected space in childhood where kids don’t have sex forced upon them — physically or mentally. Mere exposure to pornography inflicts a great deal of damage to developing attitudes, psyches and morality.

Dr. Jill Manning, family therapist and author of “What’s the Big Deal About Pornography? A Guide for the Internet Generation,” outlined the personal cost of pornography to children in a study she presented to a special Senate panel. Her analysis of the peer-reviewed research reveals that pornography consumption by children is associated with the following trends (just to name a few):

Developing tolerance toward sexually explicit material, thereby requiring more novel or bizarre material to achieve the same level of arousal or interest

Overestimating the prevalence of less common, harmful sexual practices (such as group sex, bestiality and sadomasochistic activity)

Perceiving promiscuity as a normal state of interaction

Developing cynical attitudes about love

Developing a negative body image, especially for girls

Donna Rice Hughes, CEO of Enough Is Enough, a nonprofit determined to make the Internet safer for children and families, said: “For 20 years, children have been spoon-fed a steady diet of online pornography, with few laws or barriers of entry. Recent peer-reviewed research shows the extreme nature of Internet pornography is having a destructive impact on the mental, emotional and sexual health of adolescents, including addictive and even criminal behavior.” (You can learn more about Enough Is Enough at www.InternetSafety101.org.)

Many parents today know the sad truth and already have taken steps to protect their children at home. You can protect your kids by installing Internet filters on computers and mobile devices, by teaching them how to be safe online and by monitoring their online activity until they demonstrate the maturity needed to navigate the treacherous territory on their own.

But when kids are out of the house, the protective barriers parents put up come down. Tech-savvy kids often figure out how to get around filters. And complicating matters, public Wi-Fi in restaurants and cafes allows unprotected Internet browsing. Public Wi-Fi can serve as a safe haven where perverted criminals can anonymously view, post and share child pornography, which leads to further sexual abuse of children.

“Now is the time for corporate America to take a stand against Internet pornography and child pornography that is damaging children,” Ms. Hughes said. “This is now a global public health issue that must be addressed holistically. Parents, corporate America and law enforcement must share the responsibility to protect the younger generations, and we must do so now — together.”

The hope: Limiting the reach of pornography

Enough Is Enough has been on the front lines of Internet safety since 1994, and recently launched a campaign called “P*rn Free Wi-Fi” to encourage corporate America to join the fight to prevent the Internet-initiated sexual exploitation of children. (Rebecca served on the group’s original steering committee and helped launch Enough Is Enough in 1992 — incidentally, when she was pregnant with Kristin.)

Specifically, Enough Is Enough is asking McDonald’s and Starbucks to start using pornography filters in their establishments across the United States, hoping that other businesses will follow suit. Both companies have pornography filters in their establishments in the United Kingdom (due to a self-regulation initiative begun by British Prime Minster David Cameron).

“If McDonald’s and Starbucks can protect children from pornography and child pornography in other nations, they should do so here in the U.S.,” Ms. Hughes said. “Offering safe Wi-Fi is in alignment with both McDonald’s and Starbucks’ corporate best practices and family-friendly policies. This would be a win-win for families and the companies’ respective brands. It’s not about censorship; it’s about corporate responsibility and good corporate citizenship.”

It’s worth noting that some conscientious companies in the U.S. — like Panera Bread and Chick-fil-A — already have Internet filters to protect their customers.

“We believe a united front of restaurants and retailers across the country voluntarily implementing filtering to block both pornography and child pornography will significantly remove much of the anonymity of this crime,” Ms. Hughes said.

Please join the fight to protect the innocence of America’s children. You can do so right now by signing the “P*rn-Free Wi-Fi” petition at friendlywifi.org, which will be sent to the CEOs of McDonald’s and Starbucks, and/or by donating to the effort. The short-term goal is to obtain at least 10,000 signatures by the end of November. Please help by signing the petition today and by forwarding the information to a friend.

As Ms. Hughes said: “Parents need to be the first line of defense to safeguard their children online. However, they cannot shoulder the entire responsibility alone. If parents understand that strangers can view hardcore pornography and child pornography in front of their kids in these establishments, I believe they would join us in saying, ‘Enough is enough!’”


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