Learning Points: Hardcore porn can pollute our children’s minds

Learning Points: Hardcore porn can pollute our children’s minds
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The recent sentencing of two teenage boys for the murder of Ana Kriégel has once again brought the issue of pornography into public discourse. The details of the case, which are finally coming into public knowledge, illuminate some very worrying trends that are pervasive in the modern adolescent world and as parents and indeed as a society we can no longer languish in complacency.

It was found that Boy A, who will never be named for legal reasons, had over 12,000 images on two phones found by Gardaí in his bedroom. The investigating Garda told the court, without the jury present, that the vast majority of those images were pornographic in nature. 

In fact, the content on boy A’s phone bore terrifying similarities to the brutal sexual attack he perpetrated on Ana Kríegel. Some images were of a man choking a girl while another man watched. His search history revealed an interest in animal pornography and violent sexual images. There was also evidence that child pornography was searched for. 

It is clear that Boy A had developed an interest in hard-core sexual material, and has once again raised the important question; does viewing explicit hard-core material disturb a young developing mind? I think, without doubt, it does. That is to say not every child who views pornography will become consumed or warped by it. But the fact remains; if the young mind viewing the material is vulnerable the likelihood of it negatively impacting it increases significantly.

We are currently failing to protect our children from extreme violent sexual images. I have often written about the destructive impact hard-core material has on the development of a young mind and how young boys can come to view girls as objects when they are exposed to such images at a very young age. But what have we done about it? Why are we so slow to bring in legislation to prevent children from viewing it? Studies are carried out and information gathered and yet we do not have a sensible policy that protects our children.

A recent study found that, out of all young adults who viewed violent pornographic content, 94% had done so before the age of 14. That is a staggering statistic and yet nothing is done about it.

In my experience, working clinically and in the school system, I have been struck by the amount of teenagers coming to me because of their online activity in relation to pornographic material. In my conversations with the family about their child’s internet usage parents generally do not know what to do about it. 

Parents can feel like they are powerless and schools often don’t want to address this sensitive issue. But we cannot bury our heads in the sand and hope it goes away. Extreme hardcore graphic material is only ever a click away.

When I was a teenager, to access such material you would have to either go into a shop and publicly purchase a magazine that was hidden on the top shelf of the rack or rent a video in your local Chartbuster,

Neither of which was an activity a teenager of the 90s wanted to be caught engaged in. Comparatively today’s teenager only has to type a word into their smartphone and they are immediately navigating the world of extreme violent sexual images.

Of course, teenagers are curious about the sexual world, that is a normal and healthy interest but what they are finding online to satiate that interest is not normal or healthy and is certainly disturbing their young minds. It came as no surprise that Boy A had such material on his phone. 

This case must motivate us all to do something about it. We must now finally turn all our attention to the ease with which out children are able to access extreme violent pornography and ask our Government to bring in sensible legislation that makes it much harder for children to view such images.

There hasn’t been a case in modern times that brought such a collective gasp from the nation. That two 13-year-old boys could conspire to lure a young 14-year-old girl from her safe loving house, sexually assault and murder her has left us all wondering how it could happen. What happened to these two boys that they viewed a beautiful young innocent girl as something they could destroy? When something as terrible and heinous visits a community we are all shaken by it.

But we must learn from it, and the lesson here is glaringly obvious. We must prevent our children from viewing explicit hard- core material, because it has the potential to disturb their minds.

Ted Bundy said, before he was executed for raping and killing over 30 women, ‘those of us who are influenced by pornographic violence are not inherently evil, we are your sons, husbands and brothers and pornography can reach out and snatch a child out of any house no matter how diligent the parents are’. Bundy uttered these words long before the advent of technology had permeated every facet of our lives.

Our children deserve to live happy and healthy lives and understand the importance of true intimacy.

Viewing pornography significantly erodes the possibility of that happening. So, we must now finally protect our children. We owe it to the sons and daughters of tomorrow.

Richard Hogan is clinical director of therapyinstitute.ie, a school teacher, systemic family psychotherapist, and father of three. If you have a question, contact info@richardhogan.ie

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