Urgent action needed to keep our kids safe on the Wild West of the internet

Urgent action needed to keep our kids safe on the Wild West of the internet

It’s disturbing how our children are being robbed of their innocence every single day by a simple wrong click of a button when surfing the Wild West of the internet without a digital sheriff.

I hadn’t even been properly taught about the birds and the bees when starting secondary school in the late 80s, but over half of young Irish boys between 10 and 13 nowadays have watched porn, according to an alarming study by NUI Galway last year. [Statistics are similar in Australia, with almost 70% of boys and 23% of girls viewing pornography before the age of 13.]

It was equally shocking to hear Health Minister Simon Harris confess last week he was “actually surprised” by these figures because it only demonstrates how out of touch this Government truly is about the real world.

I would never describe myself as a prude, but I was left dumbfounded when I browsed some popular porn websites when researching this column last night.

Most of the content was disturbing stuff – including spitting, choking and other rough sex acts – and degrading towards women.

It gives impressionable young boys either unrealistic expectations or false belief it’s acceptable to treat someone like a piece of meat.

And even worse, exposing youngsters to porn can lead to acts of violence because it “increases the likelihood of perpetrating sexual assault”, according to one leading expert, Dr Michael Flood, Associate Professor at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT)**. 

It sounded like we had a copycat situation on our hands here only last week when three boys in the north-east aged seven, eight and 10 “lured” a five-year-old girl into a shed and attacked her with sticks and then attempted to sexually assault her before she mercifully escaped.

But you’d be sadly mistaken if you thought such a horrifying story was a one-off isolated case either.

Earlier this month Justice Michael White was reported as saying he had recently handled four cases “where young children have committed the most serious offences... where the start was exposure to pornography on smart phones”.

It should be a no-brainer for our Government to tackle it in exactly the same way we don’t tolerate minors being sold cigarettes or served booze.

You’d imagine the tech firms would immediately get their act together to come up with solutions to protect our kids online if threatened with major fines.

But you’d be sadly mistaken if you thought our Government was frantically trying to come up with solutions to best tackle this crisis.

Urgent action is needed before we end up with a spate of horrifying copycat crimes.

Ensure Australian political leaders know that this is an urgent child protection issue - find resources to support this conversation here.

This is an extract from an article published in the Irish Mirror and written by columnist Jason O'Toole. Click here to continue reading.

**The original article incorrectly referenced Dr Michael Flood's previously held position at The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University.