Updated: May 9, 2022
This article was written by Kayelene Kerr from eSafeKids for Phoenix Support & Advocacy Services.
"Society is only just beginning to realise the scale and nature of harm being done to our children. This is a public health crisis we can no longer afford to ignore. Children’s unrestricted access to pornography can, and must be addressed. Perhaps this is the child protection issue of our time."
The Internet and technology have transformed the way we learn, create, connect and are entertained. It has given our children access to the world, but has also given the world access to our children.
Whilst there are many benefits for our children being online, there are also risks. The increase of children online has seen a corresponding upward trend in cases of online grooming, child sexual abuse and exploitation, sextortion, youth produced sexual content, image-based abuse, and exposure to pornography.
The ubiquity of the Internet and portable electronic devices has transformed the way pornography is accessed and how pornography accesses children. Children are growing up in a world where it’s impossible to avoid sexualised media and pornography.
Whilst pornography is not new, the nature and accessibility of pornography has changed considerably. Children with access to the Internet on any device - at home, at a friend’s place, at school or in any of our community spaces are at risk of exposure. It’s not a matter of ‘if’ a child will see pornography but ‘when’ and the when is getting younger and younger. In Australia, the age of first exposure is being reported as between 8 and 10 years of age. Exposure and access to pornography can have a negative impact on children’s health, wellbeing and safety.
A significant portion of pornography that children view, accidentally or intentionally, contains violent images and themes. Research has found high levels of aggression in the most popular pornographic videos. In 50 of the most watched videos researches found 88% portrayed physical aggression (choking, gaging, spanking and hair pulling) and 49% showed verbal aggression. This aggression was overwhelmingly directed towards female performers. A UK study found 100% of 15-year-old boys and 80% of 15-year-old girls had viewed violent and degrading online pornography, usually before they have had a sexual experience themselves.
Research has found exposure to pornography can result in; children displaying harmful and problematic sexual behaviours, child on child sexual abuse, sexual aggression and violence, sexism and objectification, risky sexual behaviours and poor mental health and wellbeing. Studies also suggest frequent viewing of pornography may; reinforce harmful gender stereotypes, contribute to young people forming unhealthy and sexist views of women and sex, contribute to condoning violence against women, sexually coercive behaviours by young men, normalisation of violence and potentially drive sexual violence. There may also be broader social impacts in relation to body image, mental health, reduced academic performance and erectile dysfunction.
The Third Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children had a focus on “better understanding and countering the impact of pornography given increasing evidence showing a correlation between exposure to online pornography and the sexual objectification of women and girls, the development of rape cultures and the proliferation of sexual assault”.
Pornography’s affect on children and young people is amplified by the absence of adequate education and conversation in the home, school, and wider community. Many parents/carers are unaware of the pornography that is readily available online. Pornography is the primary, and in many cases, the only education children and young people receive about relationships and sexuality.
Society is only just beginning to realise the scale and nature of harm being done to our children. Australia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, which means Australia has a duty to protect children from harm. There is a substantial body of national and international research that demonstrates children are being harmed. Until the Australian government and ‘big tech’ do more to safeguard children from the harms of pornography and other illegal, harmful and hurtful content, the responsibility rests with us, the trusted adults in children’s lives. This is a public health crisis we can no longer afford to ignore. Children’s unrestricted access to pornography can, and must be addressed. Perhaps this is the child protection issue of our time.
Kayelene founded eSafeKids which strives to reduce and prevent harm through proactive prevention education, supporting and inspiring parents, carers, educators, and other professionals to talk with children, young people and vulnerable adults about pornography. eSafeKids provides Reducing The Harm: Talking About Pornography workshops throughout metropolitan and regional Australia and internationally. Kayelene will be working in collaboration with Phoenix to develop workshops that will be delivered face-to-face or online as a webinar.
Visit the eSafeKids website to view a range of child friendly books sourced to support parents, carers, educators and other professionals.
Join the free eSafeKids Members’ Community and access content to read, watch, listen to and download.
Consider parental controls. Parental control tools can assist with monitoring, restricting, limiting and filtering what children and young people do and see online. There are many tools available and they all offer different functions. Parental control tools can be used to assist, not replace, ongoing participation, supervision, education and conversation.
A Collaboration for Prevention
"Phoenix is delighted to have entered into a collaboration with Kayelene Kerr to work in the prevention space and raise community awareness about the emerging epidemic of children accessing pornography at earlier ages, and to some degree using this as a form of sex education. Unfortunately, the violence, aggression, and objectification portrayed in much of the pornography the children are viewing is contributing to a distorted perspective of sexual intimacy for these children and creating harm and anxiety. Kayelene’ s knowledge and experience will support and guide Phoenix as we work together with Kayelene to address this challenging and problematic issue. Phoenix is gathering a team to work alongside Kayelene, and we will hold a series of events to raise awareness towards the end of 2021 and throughout 2022."
- Louise Lamont Chief Executive Officer -
About The Author
Kayelene Kerr is recognised as one of Western Australia’s most experienced specialist providers of Protective Behaviours, Body Safety, Cyber Safety, Digital Wellness and Pornography education workshops. Kayelene is passionate about the prevention of child abuse and sexual exploitation, drawing on over 24 years’ experience of study and law enforcement, investigating sexual crimes, including technology facilitated crimes. Kayelene delivers engaging and sought after prevention education workshops to educate, equip and empower children and young people, and to help support parents, carers, educators and other professionals. Kayelene believes protecting children from harm is a shared responsibility and everyone can play a role in the care, safety and protection of children. Kayelene aims to inspire the trusted adults in children’s lives to tackle sometimes challenging topics.
eSafeKids strives to reduce and prevent harm through proactive prevention education, supporting and inspiring parents, carers, educators and other professionals to talk with children, young people and vulnerable adults about protective behaviours, body safety, cyber safety, digital wellness and pornography. eSafeKids is based in Perth, Western Australia.
eSafeKids provides books and resources to teach children about social and emotional intelligence, resilience, empathy, gender equality, consent, body safety, protective behaviours, cyber safety, digital wellness, media literacy, puberty and pornography.
eSafeKids books can support educators teaching protective behaviours and child abuse prevention education that aligns with the Western Australian Curriculum, Australian Curriculum, Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and National Quality Framework: National Quality Standards (NQS).