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Don McSwiney

This simple tech solution will protect kids from porn

By C2P Blog

Each year, millions of children are exposed to violent online pornography before they’ve even had their first kiss. This can effectively alter their neuropathways to create emotional and behavioural problems — particularly later in life, where we see increasingly high rates of adults experiencing pornography addiction and problematic sexual behaviour.

Children who accidentally stumble upon porn have not consented to it; nor can they, as their brains are still developing and, thus, are incapable of giving informed consent.

But there is a simple, yet effective, solution that will protect millions of kids from the neurological damage caused by unrestricted access to harmful online content: age verification (AV) technology.

WHAT ABOUT PRIVACY?

AV technology requires users to verify that they are aged 18 or over before accessing a particular website. As there can be significant stigma attached to pornography use, it’s imperative that we protect users’ personal information. Users must have assurances that their information will not be shared with pornography companies nor tied to their user data.

HOW IT WORKS

John Carr is one of the world’s leading authorities on youth internet use, Secretary of the UK Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety, and Senior Adviser to Bangkok-based ECPAT International. As a featured speaker at Connecting to Protect (C2P)’s inaugural global virtual summit on Oct. 13-15, 2021, Carr advocates for AV technology that is provided by third-party companies to ensure the protection of personal information. He describes how it works in this example:

John Smith navigates to Entity A (a third-party AV company) on his web browser. He satisfies Entity A that he is over 18. They give him a digital token which he can then present to websites that offer products or services for adults 18 and over, including alcohol, cannabis, weapons, gambling or pornography.

This digital token does not hold any information about John Smith; only a simple acknowledgement that the pornography website is legally entitled to assume that the presenter of the token is aged 18 or older. The token cannot be linked back to the user’s individual identity, even by Entity A.

On Carr’s personal blog, he says:

“Age verification is not a panacea, not a silver bullet, but it is a bullet. It has worked outstandingly well in respect of keeping children away from all the traditional forms of online gambling. There is absolutely no doubt it could do the same elsewhere, including protecting children from porn and other online harms where there is a legally defined or contractually prescribed minimum age.”

Carr and other leading experts — including Dr. Gail Dines, Dr. Donald Hilton, Dr. Jennifer Johnson, Dr. Marc Potenza, Dr. Stefanie Carnes, Maree Crabb, Lisa & Jason Frost and more — are coming together for C2P’s world-first virtual summit on Oct. 13-15, 2021, to strategize and coordinate a public health response to find new ways to safeguard the wellbeing of our children and communities globally. C2P is a global coalition of mental health, medical neuroscience, education, legal, technology and policy experts addressing the harms associated with early childhood access to harmful pornographic content online.

 Join us to to learn more and help develop research-based best practices to protect children. Register today!

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Dr. Jocelyn Monsma, Chair of Connecting to Protect, is a clinical therapist with over 40 years of experience and director of a private Addiction Continuing Care Program for Adults specializing in chemical, gambling and sex addiction. Megan Eichhorn is a writer and content creator with a focus on trauma-informed communication, social justice and social responsibility.

7 ways that watching porn pummels your brain

By C2P Blog

It’s common knowledge that drugs and alcohol can wreak havoc on the human brain. But what about porn?

Since the dawn of the internet, problematic sexual behaviours have been on the rise. There is evidence to suggest a correlation between rape culture and early childhood exposure to online pornography. The incel movement, pickup artists and other noxious subcultures have exploded in popularity in recent years — further normalizing sexual exploitation and violence.

But the members of these subcultures were kids, once. Their youthful curiosity likely led them to stumble upon internet porn before they were emotionally mature enough to process what they saw.

While technology has expanded our opportunities for connection and learning, it has also provided children with direct, unfettered access to pornographic content. Viewing violent pornography can traumatize a child’s developing brain by invariably altering their neuropathways.

Below are seven ways that watching porn can negatively impact a child’s brain development and subsequent behaviour:

1. They are more likely to engage in sexting and self-produced sexual images.

According to one Canadian study, one in five high school students have received “sexy, nude or partially nude photos” of someone that was forwarded to them by someone else — a practice that, even as a minor, could result in child pornography charges.

2. They become more vulnerable to online predators.

Excessive consumption of violent and/or sexually explicit media can, in the malleable mind of a child, normalize and even encourage sexual violence. This can increase high-risk behaviors such as sending explicit material to strangers or meeting strangers from online in person.

3. They develop body image issues.

This study showed that watching porn was associated with increased body dissatisfaction — gay men, in particular, experienced more anxiety about their physical appearance and increased rates of eating disorders.

4. They are more likely to experience mental health challenges.

This Swedish study found that online pornography viewers are twice as likely to have depression. Recovery Village also suggests that a lack of healthy coping skills could lead a depressed person to watch more porn to manage their depressive symptoms.

5. They develop ideals reinforced by the sexist and racist themes commonly found in porn.

Overtly racist themes are rampant in porn — for example, Black male porn actors are told to act more “thug”. This can lead porn viewers to increasingly fetishize racialized people instead of seeing them as fellow human beings. Increased porn consumption is also associated with negative attitudes towards women (specifically in men who have low agreeableness), according to researchers from the University of Copenhagen and University of California in Los Angeles in this study of 200 adults.

6. They are more likely to engage in escalating risky and/or compulsive sexual behaviour.

One 2014 study found that watching porn can physically shrink a part of the brain associated with pleasure, leading viewers to require increasingly graphic material in order to become aroused. Another study of 265 gay men found that those who watched more condom-less porn were less likely to use protection themselves. The same study found that those who watched porn featuring condoms (a relatively rare find) were more likely to use them, too. 

7. They are more likely to be a perpetrator of domestic and/or sexual violence in adulthood.

A study of 300 men by Neil Malamuth at the University of California, Los Angeles  concluded that men who are already sexually aggressive and consume large amounts of sexually aggressive pornography are more likely to commit a sexually aggressive act. Malamuth argues that porn, like alcohol, isn’t inherently dangerous, but can be for those who have other risk factors.

Connecting to Protect (C2P) is a global coalition of mental health, medical neuroscience, education, legal, technology and policy experts addressing the harms associated with early childhood access to harmful pornographic content online. C2P is hosting a world-first virtual summit Oct. 13-15, 2021, to strategize and coordinate a public health response to find new ways to safeguard the wellbeing of our children and communities globally. Register today!

About the Authors:

Dr. Jocelyn Monsma, Chair of Connecting to Protect, is a clinical therapist with over 40 years of experience and director of a private Addiction Continuing Care Program for Adults specializing in chemical, gambling and sex addiction. Megan Eichhorn is a writer and content creator with a focus on trauma-informed communication, social justice and social responsibility.