Prior to the internet, hardcore pornography that is now readily available at the click of a button, was refused classification and deemed illegal. How is it, that we have allowed this to happen? To draw a comparison, if we were to attempt to take a young child into an ‘adult store’, we would be refused entry. Yet the most extreme forms of violent content are freely accessible online by our children.
Here is some information to assist you when discussing the harms of Internet Pornography on children and young people with your Federal Member of Parliament and other people of influence.
1. Are you aware of what is meant by today’s definition of pornography?
Pornography has been most commonly defined through the oxford dictionary as: “Printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate sexual excitement”. This definition is today somewhat outdated when we consider the misogynistic and violent tropes that are common in the online space. Therefore, the following definition of what is commonly known as pornography in the online space more aptly describes what is available:
Illegal, unclassified, gonzo or hard-core XXX, free online material that depicts individuals or groups engaging in sexual behaviours where inequity between the parties is clear, violence is observed or audible, where degradation, humiliation, punishment and extreme submission appear to be the general objective of the power dynamics or behaviour depicted. This definition springs from analysing visual material observed in free online sites such as Porn hub, Red Tube, You porn or the most extreme teen porn $0.00. This style of pornography appears to demand violence and inequity as its core script line.
2. Are you aware that experts from around the globe agree that a significant number of young people will be faced with the negative impacts and require restorative support.
The eChildhood Statement of Research Relating to Pornography Harms to Children is endorsed by child youth advocates, anti-violence workers and key academics, including Dr Gail Dines, Founder of Culture Reframed, Dr Michael Flood, Dr John D. Foubert, Dr Donald Hilton, Dr Caroline Norma, Dr Heather Brunskell-Evans, Dr Meagan Tyler, Maree Crabbe, Tom Meagher and others. Areas of pornography’s impact on children and young people include poor mental health; sexism and objectification; sexual aggression and violence; child-on-child sexual abuse; and shaping sexual behaviours.
3. Are you aware that such publications are Refused Classification (RC) according to the National Classifications Code?
RC Category includes Publications, Films and Computer Games that:
a. depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified; or
b. describe or depict in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult, a person who is, or appears to be , a child under 18 (whether the person is engaged in sexual activity or not); or
c. promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence
This is the same scheme that applies to films, publications and computer games. Classification decisions are to give effect, as far as possible, to the following principles:
a. adults should be able to read, hear, see and play what they want;
b. minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them;
c. everyone should be protected from exposure to unsolicited material that they find offensive
d. the need to take account of community concerns about:
i. depictions that condone or incite violence, particularly sexual violence; and
ii. the portrayal of persons in a demeaning manner.
5. Are you aware that although content is assessed against the National Classification Scheme by the eSafety office, this content is still freely available for children to access?
RC content is prohibited by the Classifications Board, yet when assessed by the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner, it is only determined to be ‘potentially prohibited’. As a carriageway, Internet Service Providers have not been mandated to implement the ‘Black List’ or ‘Prohibited URL List’, leaving Australian families to install individual filters on every digital device used.
6. Are you aware that that the Australian government has a duty of care towards protecting its children from pornography harm?
Within the context of the international principle of the best interest of the child, children have a right not to be harmed psychologically, emotionally and physically, as laid out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRoC). As signatories to this international convention, Australia has a due diligence responsibility to protect children from nonState actors perpetrating such harm against them. In the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the State (government) is called to take all appropriate measures to protect the child from all forms of violence, injury or abuse, including sexual abuse, including through forms of prevention.
7. Why has the Australian Government failed to uphold the National Classification Code?
The lack of action by governing bodies and ISPs to respond to children accessing adult pornography draws parallels to the once ignored but ‘now important’ Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The reports of children negatively impacted by pornography flood in, yet its harms are often overlooked and underplayed. Children are exploiting other children and childhood sexual exploitation has reached new peaks and without targeted strategies, this trend is unlikely to reverse.
8. Are you aware that the current digital environment is unjust?
Domestically hosted prohibited and illegal content is regulated and managed differently to overseas hosted prohibited and illegal content. The diagram at the bottom of the page shows why prohibited content hosted overseas is easily accessible by minors, and how the current regulatory system is unjust.
9. Are you aware that eChildhood proposes a solid action plan to deal with the issue of children and young people accessing pornography?
eChildhood adopts a Public Health Approach, first detailed in The Porn Harms Kids Report - protecting our kids from online pornography harms is everyone's business. Our solutions-focused Action Plan was developed to respond to children and young people’s vulnerabilities to pornography, in consultation with experts around the world.
10. How will you support a move by the Government to uphold its duty of care to protect children online?
It is important your MP has considered this information and is willing to state how they plan to address the harms of children and young people accessing online pornography.
On behalf of eChildhood and Australia's children, thank you for taking the time to familiarise yourself with this very important issue of child protection. Australia's kids deserve a porn free childhood.
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