How Can We End the Cycle of Child Exposure to Porn?

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Do you believe in building a world free from sexual abuse and exploitation? Do ever feel like that world is so far away?

It can feel difficult to hold on to hope when looking at statistics and hearing stories about how pervasive the online sex industry is becoming. It’s likely that a majority of children have seen pornography on the internet. Now it’s not a matter of “if” your child will be exposed, but “when.”

“According to a 2020 survey, the majority of children were exposed to porn by age 13, with some as young as seven. Most of the time it was unintentional or unwanted.”

British Board of Film Classification

But it’s important to remember that 1) we must understand the scope of the problem in order to effectively address it and that 2), as Martin Luther King, Jr. put it, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Our friends and allies Exodus Cry and Magic Lantern Pictures have released a documentary film Raised on Porn that addresses this problem. Dawn Hawkins, CEO of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, is an Executive Producer of the film.

Exodus Cry says they “feel a sense of urgency regarding the dangers children are facing online and the lack of awareness of so many parents” and they are hoping that this film helps to sound the alarm on a global scale.

In this 35-minute documentary, the stories of multiple people are told with candor but the one story that is followed through from beginning to end is the story of Richie. The film follows Richie’s story from when he was a young child to where he is now—happily married with children—and explores his journey from first exposure to pornography to compulsive use to buying sex and, ultimately, to recovery. Richie talks about how pornography was the influence that shaped the way he approached relationships and eventually what he desired sexually, leading him to hold secrets from his wife.

“You’re socializing men into thinking that women will consent to anything.”

Dr. Gail Dines

Richie confesses to his wife that he has a problem and in a quiet moment with his kids—now the same age as he was at his first exposure to porn—realizes that he doesn’t want them to go through this same cycle he did.

So, how can we end that cycle? How can we teach our children to reject the messages they will get from pornography?

“The internet has made porn not only accessible, it’s really made it inescapable. Now everybody has access to porn on their smartphone… including children.”

Jean Kilbourne

Of course parents have the responsibility to open a dialogue with their children about pornography and what their children should do when they come across it. For these types of conversations, especially with very young children, we recommend “Good Pictures, Bad Pictures” from Kristen Jensen of Defend Young Minds.

Solutions don’t stop there, though.

If children are accessing pornography on smartphones and other devices, we believe Big Tech should be held accountable to implement measures that help protect children.

Big Tech has billions of dollars and nearly limitless resources—not something that all parents can offer. We aren’t asking that Big Tech take the responsibility completely, but that they help parents by proactively mitigating the many and severe risks to which their platforms and devices expose children.

Defaulting devices with safety controls is one way to protect kids. It’s then easy for parents to let kids use devices without having to struggle with instruction manuals and unfamiliarity with tech.

Furthermore, sites with sexually explicit material can require age verification. Right now, we wouldn’t let kids walk into an “adult store” in person. So why do “adult sites” featuring pornography not require ID or verify age?

Raised on Porn offers a stark reminder that “We are in the midst of the single largest unregulated social experiment in human history.” That experiment is the inundation of brains of young children with content that they’re not prepared to deal with—content that is normalizing harmful behaviors.

We can end this cycle. Help us protect children, not porn.

Sign the petition here.

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The Numbers

300+

NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.

100+

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.

93

NCOSE’s activism campaigns and victories have made headlines around the globe. Averaging 93 mentions per week by media outlets and shows such as Today, CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, USA Today, Fox News and more.

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