The effects of pornography to minors are not a secret, however, it is ignored even by parents because people fear or feel embarrassed talking about sex with their children.
As a result, if a child can operate the internet, they get access to pornographic sites and images which have tremendous harmful effects.
Moreover, with the current advancement in technology, parents are not able to keep their children safe by merely hiding pornography magazines on the topmost shelf. In other words, thanks to the internet, children can easily access pornographic content.
Researchers argue that pornography is the most recent prominent sex educator for young people and initial exposure to the same can be as young as 11 years of age.
Nonetheless, there is a lot of pornographic content available online that is easily accessible to children of all ages. As such, attempts to regulate content and restrict children’s access to pornography have been in vain as technological shifts have altered the landscape for the consumption of pornography.
Outgoing Education Cabinet Secretary Professor George Magoha while Speaking at the official opening ceremony of the Kenya Music Festival in Kisumu in September 19, said ban on pornographic website in Kenya should be expedited.
The CS made this call to the government, saying it will be the only way to keep minors safe from such content that would destroy their innocence. Furthermore, this is not the only time Magoha is publicly advocating for the ban of these sites. In 2020, the Education CS noted that pornographic sites should be banned to curb teenage pregnancies.
Also Read: Magoha Wants Pornography Banned in Kenya
Such calls from prominent members of the country are a sign that indeed, pornography has taken a toll on society and its future. Sadly, most children are exposed to pornography before they reach adulthood. Statistics show that 93% of boys and 62% of girls have seen online pornography before age 18.
Effects of Pornography Exposure to Minors and Youth
They Develop Self-Esteem Issues
Introducing children to porn may lower their self-esteem. The body experiences physical changes at a certain age, during that period, minors and most especially ladies are more self-aware and are concerned about how they look. However, pornography displays perfect bodies, out of which, some are edited and surgically enhanced.
As a result, children who are less confident about their bodies will aspire to look like those models and porn stars. Such expectations may cause self-resentment and body dysmorphic disorder which is a mental health condition where an individual worries a lot about flaws in their appearance.
They Normalize Unsafe Sex
Pornography may dictate a young person’s expectations about sexual intercourse. For instance, what young women expect their men to do and vice versa. Thence, pornography shapes sexual practices. Additionally, studies reveal that young people are likely to try performing sexual acts seen in dominant hetero pornography such as: anal intercourse, facial ejaculation, and sex with multiple partners. To make it worse, porn is usually associated with unsafe sexual health practices such as not using condoms. Minors would then think having unsafe sex is the normal way of doing things.
May Promote Sexual Violence
Young minds are easy to influence. Moreover, studies on sexual content and violence show that young people learn from what they see. As a result, it is easy for them to emulate whatever behavior is portrayed in the media as normative, and attractive.
Nonetheless, pornographic content showing violence towards women or men, when consumed by minors may shape their behavior as they will consider sexual violence normal. Moreover, a 2010 study of 50 popular pornographic films suggests that popular pornography contains high levels of physical and verbal aggression.
According to the study, only 10.2% of pornographic scenes did not contain an aggressive act. Physical aggression occurred in 88.2% of scenes and verbal aggression in 48.7%. Moreover, men committed 70.3% of all aggressive acts and 94.4% of aggression was directed towards women.
May Promote Sexual Health Dangers
Most of the pornographic content is staged, it does not reflect exactly what happens in a sexual relationship. However, many acts, which were considered violent, perverted, disgusting, and taboo such as anal sex, oral stimulation of the anus, slapping, and choking as seen in these videos may be normalized by children and youths.
Moreover, pornography has popularized such activities during sex such that minors viewing may believe that is how it should be. Likewise, doctors say oral sex can transmit dangerous bacteria such as E. coli, shigella, gonorrhea, and other gastrointestinal issues, as well as STIs to the mouth and throat where treatment is harder.
Taming Online Exposure to Pornography
We can decide to wait for the government to expedite ban on pornographic websites, or we can choose to do something in the meantime to protect children and the youth from such harmful content. While it is true that parents or caregivers cannot keep an eye on their children 24 hours a day to regulate what content they consume online, it is possible to tame their exposure to pornography. Here is how.
Parents and caregivers should initiate open conversations about their children’s online experiences. Introducing sex in the conversation should come gradually to make children free to ask about what they are curious about. When a caregiver is open about the talk, it becomes easier to clear matters sex to the child. Moreover, schools can also chip in to assist children and young people in making sense of their exposure to online pornography in healthy ways.
Encouraging Critical thinking
Young people and especially the youth should be encouraged to question pornography, asking: “Seeing porn might seem normal. But what does porn say? Who makes it and why? And what does it all mean for you?” (Reality & Risk Project, 2016).
Young people are not just passive consumers of pornography, hence critical thinking becomes a tool to understanding and scrutinizing any content. Equipping young people with tools to engage critically with media is important to their understanding of the differences between online pornography and their offline sexual relationships.
Digital literacy for Parents
It is important for parents and caregivers to educate themselves about the internet and social media. Knowledge about the two will make them aware of the current online dangers facing their children. Once they know what happens online, they can advise their children accordingly. Moreover, parents and caregivers are less likely to be intimidated by online risks if they are informed and take an active role in their children’s digital lives.