ONLINE PORNOGRAPHY IMPACTS A GENERATION
Have you ever logged onto Facebook and noticed a friend’s picture posted on your news feed and thought “Why would this person expose him or herself like this?” Many people under the age of 18 are putting inappropriate images online and I believe that the cause of this is early exposure to online pornography. There are countless stories of teens posting horrible videos of themselves and others on social networks, yet none of these stories try to explain why they are doing it. According to a study of teenagers at the high school level in Switzerland, “students were inﬂuenced by watching pornographic ﬁlms, fantasizing about or having performed acts inspired by pornography” (Haggstrom-Nordin 277). My hypothesis is that online pornography has tremendous influence over teenagers almost the same way that viral YouTube videos do. A perfect example is the Harlem shake trend. People seem to imitate these trends because they are so easy and look like fun. This may be the same reason why teens do the same thing with vulgar images.
Before pornography was online, one would have to either order a magazine or buy a video from a store. Today, a person can simply stumble upon one of these sites just by having spelling errors in a Google search. According to an article from The Journal of Marital and Family Therapy entitled “Cybersex and the E-Teen: What Marriage and Family Therapists Should Know,” 43% of children between the ages of 7 and 18 have accidentally encountered online pornography. Other studies based on information from different antivirus software shows that the largest group of Internet porn consumption are minors between the ages of 12 and 17. Young teens are not only getting pornography from online sources. They are also seeking pornography through magazines, TV shows, and movies where risky sexual activity is often romanticized.
When teens expose themselves on the internet, it is problematic for many different reasons. Almost as soon as a teen is exposed on a social networking site, his or her reputation has a very high chance of being permanently damaged. If a teen puts explicit photos on the Internet, and then tries to apply for a job, it is possible for the employer to find the images and decide whether the person should get the position. Once a picture is posted onto the Internet, there is no guarantee that it can be completely deleted. For example, if I were to post a picture onto Facebook, I would be able to delete it if I wished to. The picture would seem to have disappeared, but if a “friend” happened to screen-shot the image (where a person is able to take a picture of their digital screen internally), and repost it onto their profile, there would be nothing I could do to remove it. This happens very often. When a derogatory image is posted on a social networking site or revealed on a chat, it offends many of its viewers. When I found myself on the chat site, Omegle (which I will further explain later), I often came across young teens exposing themselves in inappropriate ways. This put me in an uncomfortable situation because I looked like a sexual predator when in actuality I was the victim of their sexual offense.
The biggest issue here is that minors across the United States are posting child pornography to the Internet. According to the European Union, “child pornography involves a boy or girl under 18 shown in sexual activity, or showing their genitals or pubic area” (World). Information from Family Safe Media has revealed that as of 2008 there were over 100,000 illegal websites offering child pornography (Porn. Statistics). There are many parent organizations and companies working to eliminate child pornography and its abusers, but that’s difficult to do when a percentage of children are putting images out there for others to abuse. A large amount of people only look at the sexual offenders when addressing this problem, but I would like to investigate why a person at such a fragile age would consider putting their bodies on the Internet.
One of the reasons why pornography is such a difficult topic to guard children from is because it is able to have a great deal of impact in less than a minute. When children stumble upon pornography, it becomes a new subject for exploration with curiosity being the wind in their sails. It is not like letting a curse word slip out where a child may not notice. With pornographic images, a child is instantly exposed to rhetoric, which glamourizes sexual acts. No one mocks the people on these sites or says anything derogatory. Instead, they are praised for their differences and unique sexual abilities. These are positive things when viewed by the intended audience (those who are 18 and older), but this is dangerous for the young mind. Studies show that “the World Wide Web is often the ﬁrst place teens are at risk for experimenting with online sexual behavior, or becoming victims of sexual harassment or offense” (Delmonico 432). Technology today makes online video trends and online pornography highly replicable. All one would need is a camera and Internet access to be viewed by eyes around the world. This is what leads a large number of young teens to expose themselves on the Internet.
When young teens begin to go through puberty, they often feel very insecure. When people are insecure they tend to want attention in order to seek approval from others. This sometimes causes teens expose themselves on the Internet. Teens aren’t always posting permanent images of themselves on social networks such as Facebook and Tumblr. They are also going on sites such as Chat Roulette and Omegle. When one arrives at Omegle.com, there are a few options for the viewer. The biggest buttons on the page ask to choose between a video chat and a textual chat. There is an orange box on the bottom that explains that children under 18 are about to chat under surveillance, where nudity is banned, if they choose the “video” button. In the same orange box there is also a link to “a free adult site if you’re after that” (Omegle). Directly under the “video” button, however, is the option to chat without any restriction. Without even beginning the chat, a child would easily be able to access professional and amateur pornography. These websites take pride in the fact that one can talk to a complete stranger without needing to enter any personal information.
Many people believe that these sites are safer than others are because no one can really hack into an account and steal a person’s identity, but these sites are can be dangerous with the presence of sexual predators. In fact, 89% of sexual solicitation of youth takes place on chat sites (Internet . . . Statistics). It is common to see nudity and racy language on these chat sites that is inappropriate for thirteen-year-old children. On Internet chatting sites, teens often feel comfortable doing inappropriate things for people who appear on their computer screens. Many of my friends and I have all been asked by young teens to “rate” their bodies or levels of attractiveness. These teens are usually still physically developing or have new developments which make them uncomfortable in their own skin. Why not turn to a stranger who will have no effect on your immediate social life? My friends and I have tried to ask these teens why they are behaving in such a way, but only got answers about their own self-consciousness. Even on online chat sites, it is simple for the stranger on the screen to record everything that happens and use it for illegal purposes.
Teens know that they and their peers are insecure about their bodies. Some teens use this as a tool for revenge by posting private pictures and videos of schoolmates on social networks for all of their friends to see. Temitayo Fagbenle, a sixteen-year-old female in high school, has witnessed her classmates doing this sort of thing. “I see girls get exposed like this on my Facebook newsfeed almost every day,” she explains. Fagbenle recalls different accounts of her classmates being “shamed” on the Internet. The students also have very little sympathy for the victims in situations like this. Many believe that “they do it do themselves” (Fagbenle). When the victim is properly humiliated, the offender is often commended by friends for such an act.
Online pornography is detrimental to children because it is putting them at higher risks of problematic behaviors. Two psychologists, Dr. Michele Ybarra and Dr. Kimberly Mitchell, did a study in 2005 on a group of children between the ages of 10 and 17 to find information about their consumption of pornography and its effects. Their results show that “those who report intentional exposure, both online as well as off-line, to pornography are significantly more likely to cross-sectionally report delinquent behavior and substance abuse” (Ybarra 483). Ybarra and Mitchell state that a majority of the children who frequently consumed pornography reported that they do not have very good relationships with their caregivers, which leads them to do things such as watch adult videos and participate in delinquent acts.
Pornography consumption is also able to influence a teen’s sexual behaviors and treatment of women. Teens who frequently consume pornography are four times higher levels of sexual aggression than those who are not as exposed to pornography (Ybarra 483). According to Prevent Together, an online organization that works to help parents protect their children from pornography, there is a strong relationship between pornography consumption and attitudes supporting violence against women (Facts for Prevention 1). A large portion of pornography features women being abused. A large number of teenaged girls feel as though even non-violent pornography applies pressures from boys to act the way that is portrayed in such videos (Haggstrom-Nordin 277).
It is evident that online pornography is negatively affecting minors between the ages of 10 and 17. Now, what to do about it? I believe that there are a few possibilities to solving the issue of children’s exposure to pornography. My first proposal requires parents to take action. There a variety of things that parents can do in order to keep their kids away from online pornography. If a parent is going to allow their child to use the internet, the computer should be located in a common area where the screen can be seen from a distance, not in the child’s room. Most children are uncomfortable with discussing their inappropriate behaviors with their parents. This can work to a parent’s advantage because if a child questions a parent’s reasons for not allowing a personal computer in their room, the parent can simply ask what they would be doing that they cannot do in, say, they living room (Clay). This can be done with younger children under the age of 14, but teenagers may prove to be a bit more resistant, especially if they already have their own laptops. There are many antivirus systems that pride themselves on the ability to block pornographic websites.
Immediate action is not always necessary for all parents. According to the study by Drs. Ybarra and Mitchell, a majority of the children that intentionally search for pornography report that they do not have positive relationships with their caregivers. I found this information interesting and asked many of my friends from different areas of New York about their relationships with their caregivers and how much pornography they watched. Their answers all coincided with the doctor’s findings almost perfectly. So what does this mean? It is important for parents to try to have a positive relationship with their children. Simply eating dinner together every night can help decrease the dangers of pornography consumption.
My next proposal would require governmental action. Children often encounter pornography for the first time when searching for other things. A possible solution would be to create a separate search engine for adult websites and ban these sites from all other search engines such as Google and Bing. When originally considering this idea I first wondered to myself “how would the government be able to find every last adult site out there?” After researching the possibilities, I found that the simplest way to do this would be for all adult sites to change their domains to “.xxx”. If this were to take place, it would be much easier for people to tell which websites belong in the adult-content search engine.
One of the biggest issues with this is that people are allowed to name a website whatever they please. Many companies such as MTV have already bought reservations on the “.xxx” domain in order to protect their name. This way Average Joe cannot create a website called “MTV.xxx” which has nothing to do with the company. According to an article entitled Businesses in U.S. Complain of .xxx Shakedown, “Porn and mainstream businesses alike complain they are being forced to buy domain names they don’t want, don’t need and won’t use” (Baynes). The price for a business to buy a domain name is between $200 and $300. Only some organizations such as The Red Cross would not have to pay this price, but the fees would apply to all others. This issue complicates my proposal to restrict all adult sites to their own search engine.
As I conclude this paper, I am left with mixed feelings. I was able to dig into a topic that has been bothersome for years, but I found that this was a greater problem than I had originally expected. I now know that online pornography affects adolescents in a number of ways. It has the ability to influence their sexual behaviors, views of women, and decision-making skills. Keeping pornography away from children is very difficult when many of them are so Internet savvy and need protection from their own actions. Though it may be challenging, it is not impossible. There are steps that parents can take in order to make the Internet as safe as possible. I believe that more research will open more doors leading to a more child-friendly Internet. If parents take the time to monitor their children’s Internet usage, they do not need to be worried. They must simply be aware.
Baynes, Terry. “Porn Should Not Be Restricted to Its Own Internet Domain.” Online Pornography. Ed. David E. Nelson. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2012.
Opposing Viewpoints. Rpt. from “Businesses in U.S. Complain of .xxx Shakedown. “http://www.ibtimes.com. 2011. Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 3 May 2013.
Clay, Xanthe. “Is Your Child Secretly Watching Porn on the Internet?” The Telegraph. N.p., 27 Apr. 2013. Web. 30 Apr. 2013.
Delmonico, David L., and Elizabeth J. Griffin. “Cybersex and the E-teen: What Marriage and Family Therapists Should Know.” Journal of Marital and Family Therapy 34.4 (2008): 431-44. Print.
“FACTS FOR PREVENTION: The Impact of Pornography on Children & Youth.” Prevent Together. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.
Fagbenle, Temitayo. “Online ‘Shaming’ A New Level Of Cyberbullying For Girls.” NPR. NPR, 07 Jan. 2013. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.
Haggstrom-Nordin, Elisabet, Tanja Tyden, Ulf Hanson, and Margareta Larsson. “Experiences of and Attitudes towards Pornography among a Group of Swedish High School Students.” The European Journal of Contraception & Reproductive Health Care14.4 (2009): 277-84. Print.
“Internet Pornography Statistics.” Addiction. Ed. Louise I. Gerdes. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2010. Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 21 Mar. 2013.
Omegle. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 May 2013.
“Pornography Statistics.” Family Safe Media. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.
“World Briefing Europe: European Union Defines Child Pornography.” New York Times 15 Oct. 2002: A6. Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 5 May 2013.
Ybarra, Michele L., and Kimberly J. Mitchell. “Exposure to Internet Pornography among Children and Adolescents: A National Survey.” CyberPsychology Behavior 8.5 (2005): 473-86. Print.