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Silence is deafening on Safer Internet Day as children access hardcore online pornography

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 8.2.2018

Safer Internet Day is a key focus by online child safety experts, yet the silence is deafening when it comes to Australia’s children having 24/7 unfettered access to pornography.

A leading child-advocacy charity Porn Harms Kids, issued a warning last September stating that “every day that children have unfettered access to hardcore online pornography, compounds the harms and increases the social, emotional and financial burdens that arise from this fact”.

The office of the eSafety Commissioner has recommended a multi-pronged approach to protect Australian children from porn, in a report delivered to the Government late last year. The Office has made great strides on acknowledging the harms, but there is still no focus to address this on Safer Internet Day. It’s a hard task when there is so much push back and lack of uptake in the conversation, which points to our societies blind eye and being uncomfortable in talking about this issue that is hiding in the shadows. Meanwhile, child-on-child sexual abuse is on the rise, reports of anal injuries to young women increase in hospitals, and the acceptance of sexual harassment at universities is the norm. Most internet safety initiatives do not include how to prevent the of harms to our children from current unfettered access to pornography.

Recent Australian research indicates that pornography viewing occurs amongst youth from a young age, and there are concerning links between porn viewing, depression, and poor mental health. Eighty-four per cent of young men and nineteen per cent of young women in Australia aged between 15-29, watch pornography on a weekly or daily basis. This is hugely concerning given that John Foubert, a US researcher with over 25 years’ experience studying how to end sexual violence, states that “pornography use and acts of sexual aggression are directly connected”.

Protective education expert, Holly-Ann Martin from Safe4Kids agrees that more needs to be done, and quickly. In her work in indigenous communities, she has witnessed children ‘play acting’ and strangling each other. Ms. Martin says “from conversations I’ve had with children, I believe strangling is a learned behaviour because of pornography. My real worry is that a child will die due to this; that through ‘playing’, a child will become unconscious. They may not seek help, but instead run and hide”.

The Porn Harms Kids Report, Protecting our kids from online pornography harms is everyone’s business, calls on governments, tech companies, ISPs, legislators, educators, agencies and professionals, to come together to implement strong measures to protect vulnerable children from the known harms of online pornography.

It is estimated that globally, one in three of all Internet users are below the age of 18, and according to the Executive Director of the health promotion charity, children’s rights to online safety are not being met. Tamara Newlands emphasises that “it’s well overdue to bring this conversation out of the shadows and take action to protect Australia’s kids with updated laws and policies. It’s like letting our children walk in to alcohol stores and purchase whatever they want, whenever they want, knowing full well it’s harmful. With the latest research showing a rise in child on child sexual abuse, it’s no surprise it correlates with the rise of access to online pornography. All Internet safety initiatives must include actions to prevent ease of access to porn by children, and education to combat the messages its sending our young people.”

Liz Walker, Chair of the organisation, goes on to explain that “Australia dropped the ball between 2008-2012, when concerns were ignored by researchers and advocates. Now we are lagging well behind the UK, who are set to implement Age-Verification measures to force pornography sites to verify users’ ages via secure-ID measures. Similar steps need to be enforced by the Australian government so that it fulfils its obligation to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and duty of care towards protecting children from pornography harms.

Porn Harms Kids wants to see prevention of access and education to be included in all Internet Safety efforts. We call on parents and carers of our children to request initiatives in their communities that put focus and resources into addressing the harms of pornography on their children. Pornography is a social problem and must be addressed through digital solutions, along with tighter legislation and more education. Free and easy access to graphic and extreme content by children is inexcusable, and until addressed, the internet will not be safer.

Concerned Australians can pledge their support on the Porn Harms Kids website. Download this media release as a PDF here.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact the Liz Walker (0438 124 780) or Tamara Newlands (0402 025 905) - info@pornharmskids.org.au

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