Experts in the field now claim porn addiction is affecting children as young as eight and are uncertain how to solve the problem.
Last month, our Chair, Liz Walker, travelled to Sydney to meet with eChildhood Executive Director, Tamara Newlands. During the trip both attended the clinical meeting of ASSERT NSW - Australian Society of Sexologists, Educators, Researchers and Sex Therapists, of which Liz was an invited guest speaker. In the pre- gathering, Liz was sharing that kids as young as 10 are becoming addicted to pornography. A therapist stopped her short, emphatically shaking her head saying "No. I'm treating eight year olds".
Rob Watt is a therapist from Europe with over 13 years experience treating addicts. This month he blows the whistle in an article published by the Daily Star, he says:
“I’m currently working with kids as young as eight who are watching hardcore porn in the middle of the night and getting up first thing in the morning to watch it again before school. The effects are truly devastating and will only get worse. A school counsellor and a group of parents came to me because what they found on a child’s phone wasn’t even regular sex. We’re talking necrophilia and bestiality. It had already gone that far."
The following is further insight from the article.
He (Rob) believes that due to the accessibility of more hardcore content online, porn addiction is set to reach epidemic proportions as the next generation who’ve grown up with unparalleled internet use struggle to form relationships and hold down employment. He has seen over a 100% increase in clients in recent years. And the consequences of their stories are as catastrophic as they are heartbreaking.
Rob and his team, including wife Kat Watt, a therapist treating female sex addicts, believe the increased accessibility of porn online for younger kids means that the next generation may struggle to ever form normal, happy relationships.
Kat says: “We are only just, 20 years later, starting to see the tip of the iceberg when it comes to seeing the consequences of people who have grown up watching porn. When men have their first sexual experiences through watching porn as a teenager then they have never known it to be any other way. That’s what they think sex should be, how women should be.
“We are terrified for that generation because it’s possible they may never be able to enjoy sex normally in relationships.”
“The horse has bolted with pornography. The internet is limitless. Kids who are 10, 11, 12 years old aren’t stumbling on a dirty magazine any more. They are watching it online and learning to masturbate in a way which is so microstimulant. They don’t know how it is to be intimate with another person until it’s too late. As that generation gets older, the issue will only get worse.”
But Rob and Kat are uncertain how to solve the problem – only how to treat it.
Rob and Kat are not the only therapists who are staring down the barrel of what is hurtling towards our younger generation, uncertain of what to do. Questions are also being raised in Ireland as to if sexual assaults and murder amongst teens are being caused by kids having access to hardcore extremely violent pornography. As reported by The Irish Times,
“Pornography is now our norm,” says Clíona Saidléar, executive director of Rape Crisis Network Ireland. “It’s no longer on the margins, it’s the wallpaper of our lives. The world is being framed by it. [Young males] will view young girls and women as being for their use.” Saidléar adds that as boys or young men watch more pornography they become desensitised and gradually “ratchet up” the nature of the content they opt for. This results in a constant edging towards more graphic content, in which women are even more degraded, she says. “If you have young men whose sexual experimentation is essentially violence against women [as depicted in pornography], they are not going to have regard for women as human beings.”
When Liz laid out the evidence to over 25 sexual health professionals, it was extremely well received. When solutions of legislation, policy, education, therapeutic and digital solutions (in particular, Age Verification) were outlined, all in the room gave nods of agreement that something must be done. We can't sit by and do nothing, but similar to the Watts in Europe, these therapists had not given much thought on how to solve the problem.
Thankfully eChildhood has a solid strategy to move forward. At the end of May, our team put in a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission for the Convention on the Rights of the Child, outlining all the ways in which pornography violates children's right to safety. We presented solutions, step by step, that we - along with our expert advisors and consultants from around the world - believe will go a long way to solving this public health issue. This month, we put forward a submission to the Queensland Anti-Cyberbullying Taskforce. When Liz attended a public meeting, she asked if they had considered the ways in which pornography is contributing to cyberbullying - in particular, ‘online sexual abuse’. Based on their response, this was something that nobody had mentioned. As a result, our submission clearly outlined the evidence of how pornography is an underlying driver of Online Sexual Abuse - a subset of harms within cyberbullying. We provided suggestions on how to prevent and respond to this form of cyberbullying by adopting a whole-of-community, public health approach. By doing so, we bring the conversation of the impacts of pornography on children and young people out of the shadows.
This work is heartbreaking - we are talking about our children. If lead therapists are at a loss for what to do and fear for our kids future, what more is it going to take for concerned mums, dads, grandparents, extended family and friends to rally together and do something? Please share this post and stand with eChildhood to bring this conversation out of the shadows. We are urging Australian's to get behind this work and invite as many people as you know to add their voice to our pledge. Those interested in mobilising New Zealand, and add their name here. As a registered health promotion charity, we also welcome tax-deductible donations to support our work, and volunteers can join with us to take this issue forward.
Dr. Gail Poyner, an expert advisor for eChildhood and psychologist who treats children with porn addiction, says:
Intervention is the key. Children lack the capacity to understand the undeniable harm inherent in porn. However, we have the knowledge and wisdom to recognise just how harmful it is. As such, we must take ownership of doing all we can to protect our little ones from such damaging material. Please, take a stand and support eChildhood and other groups on the frontlines of fighting for our youth.
One thing is for sure, doing nothing is not an option.