THE THINK YOU KNOW WEBSITE, EDUCATION TALK AND RESOURCES FAILS TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE RESOURCES TO ADDRESS PORNOGRAPHY
On April 20, 2017, The Department of Communications and the Arts released the Australian Government response to the Senate References Committee on Environment and Communications report: Harm being done to Australian children through access to pornography on the Internet.
The Response states that the "ThinkUKnow is a free, evidence‐based online safety program that provides presentations to Australian parents, carers and teachers and students. It provides information on the technologies young people use, the challenges they may face, and importantly, how they can be overcome.
ThinkUKnow sessions are available to both adults and students, with student sessions being delivered by State and Territory police. These sessions sensitively explore online challenges such as sexting, inappropriate content, relationships, cyberbullying, grooming, reputation and privacy, and provide advice on where to go for help if something goes wrong...All presentations are designed to ensure adults receive complementary information to assist them in communicating with children and young people about the technology they use.
ThinkUKnow sessions are complemented by a website with information and free downloadable resources such as fact sheets and online safety guides."
Further information is available on the ThinkUKnow Website page at www.thinkyouknow.org.au
These claims are contained within a Government Response directly targeted at addressing the harm being done to Australian children through access to pornography on the internet.
Porn Harms Kids review
ThinkUKnow was started in the United Kingdom by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and was developed for Australian audiences by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in 2009. It is Australia’s first (and only) nationally delivered crime prevention program.
An investigation carried out by Porn Harms Kids reveals that the resources available through the ThinkUKnow program that are relevant to online safety and/or sexuality related topics include:
Sexting or sending nudes
Social media reputation
Online child exploitation
Protecting yourself from online abuse - image based sexual abuse
Cyber bullying and making good online choices
How to report matters when things go wrong
Protecting your accounts
There is mention of 'porn' on the ThinkUKnow website within the context of covering ‘Revenge Porn’. Porn Harms Kids welcomes the inclusion of Revenge Porn as a topic, however this only addresses one of the many harms that need covering in order to fully educate and equip parents, teachers and students on the harms of pornography.
Throughout the program and online resources, there is mention of "inappropriate content" and its potential use for grooming, how to block it, and what to do if exposed. However, this is ambiguous in its description for it to be fully understood from a critically analysed perspective.
Within SOS Guide to Cyber Safety Booklet given to parents during a free information session, the only mention of pornography is noted on page 3: ‘What they See’. Pornography is mentioned as one of the forms of extreme content: "Accessing inappropriate material may be psychologically harmful to children and exposure may desensitise children to extreme material such as pornography...’’
After an extensive review of The ThinkUKnow Program, Booklets and Website, it was found that this site and program resources do not provide adequate information, resources or policy guidance to address pornography as a harm to children’s safety and wellbeing. Our investigations indicate that the ThinkUKnow program provides minimal education on the harms of pornography; avoids direct mention of many of the pornography related sexual exploitation harms; or how to find support for those harmed. Our investigations indicate that the ways in which the ThinkUKnow program mentions pornography, are insufficient to address the topic with integrity.
Our investigations reveal that the ThinkUKnow Program, Website and Information Booklets do not cover areas such as detailed guidance for schools, parents or students on:
- The harms of pornography to mental health and addiction related issues
- The potential for pornography to trigger problem sexual behaviours and sexually abusive behaviours towards other children
- The potential for pornography to normalize online and offline exploitation (including sexting)
- The potential for pornography to shape sexual tastes and desires
- Curriculum links to address pornography
- Policy guidance to support student welfare and reduce sexual harms related to pornography
Overall Porn Harms Kids notes an attempt to cover some of the harms of pornography and offer basic preventive and reporting measures to protect children. However, the information around inappropriate content is ambiguous in terms of directly addressing the harms of pornography, and adequately educate on the issue as a public health approach for the safety and wellbeing of children and young people. Porn Harms Kids notes that pornography harms is an emerging issue requiring specialist support, and that to cover this content thoroughly requires education, resources, training and skills that may be outside the current remit of the ThinkUKnow program aims and objectives.
In the past financial year, the ThinkUKnow program provided online safety education to more than 10,803 parents, carers and teachers and more than 151,899 students. Considering the reach of this program, Porn Harms Kids recommends that there is a significant opportunity for the Australian Federal Police to include education about more robust preventative measures; critical analysis of pornography; provision of information for those harmed; and other educational responses informed by a public health approach. This opportunity exists across all program platforms (parents, teachers and students) in an age and demographically appropriate way.