POCKET PORN (ON SMART-PHONES) …AND KIDS!

POCKET PORN (ON SMART-PHONES) …AND KIDS!

POCKET PORN (ON SMART-PHONES) AND KIDS:

CAN YOU FEEL ME NOW?  

The marriage of pornography and mobile technology is a perfect storm of round-the-clock stimulation that is anonymous, free and always within reach. And, like most marriages, the game-changing issue is kids — the extent to which our children will be exposed to “pocket porn” and the improbability that we can ever keep porn away from them. With the Internet so accessible on phones, sexually explicit images are ever present in the palm of our kids’ hands!

Vast vertical markets created by telecom titans and media giants forming massive content libraries will be welcomed by many. The unlimited and inexpensive video and access that we have all been waiting for has finally arrived! Note to parents: Be careful what you wish for.

Children’s daily interaction with technology begins innocently enough with a nursery monitor that quickly morphs into the wireless umbilical cord known as the “starter cell phone.” It seems ironic that smart phones are marketed as safety devises that digitally connect kids and parents. It’s comforting than mom is never more than a click or tap or press away.  But, even the most careful parents; attentive to the quality of their child’s preschool curriculum and sugar intake must now be prepared for the very likely eventuality that there are no more safe spaces or places with wireless Internet. As conscientious parents seek to understand the TV rating for a cartoon their child wants to see, they quickly learn that they will never achieve a similar level of safety for their child’s mobile phone screen. It’s not a matter of if your children will stumble upon porn, only when.

The sheer quantity of images, explicit videos and sexually provocative user-generated content finding their way onto kids’ phones pose distinct challenges for families. Sexually suggestive and often vulgar material will probably reach your kids well before they become the emotionally and intellectually ready recipients of such content. It’s impossible to determine how much — or at what age but, clearly, you don’t need money, a password or a driver’s license to access porn on the mobile web. In fact, initial exposure to inappropriate content will probably occur by chance and in an environment where a child feels the safest and most private… your own home.

Porn has, unfortunately, commandeered the Internet and mobile screen delivery has made it easy to stumble upon inappropriate content anytime, anywhere and by anyone. Parents who have always championed their unassailable right to know, may now prefer to be vocal advocates for their own kids having the right not to know.

…WHY NOW?

Timing is a critical factor in assessing all risk and impact. We do know that when evaluating exposure of youngsters to a wide range of visual subject matter on the web, their developing brains do not, necessarily, distinguish between real and virtual images. And, perceptions of virtual content can produce effects that are anything but virtual. There is, in fact, a growing body of research suggesting that during childhood and continuing through adolescence, the impact of simulated cyber- content may be indistinguishable from the effects of real life events. In the mind of a young child, virtual exposure may register as actual real-life experience.

Not surprisingly, if there is a measurable difference between how children and adults perceive virtual information, there is also a significant disparity between your father’s PPV Playboy Channel — impossible to view without a credit card or before 10pm — and the effortless and practically serendipitous 24-7-365 arrival of porn on the Internet that cell phones now provide.  Although TV screens have been “uninvited guests” in American homes for decades, the immense amount of porn and its intensity, hyper-explicit imagery, sophisticated special effects and digital interactivity has totally changed the playing field. Today’s virtual stream is edgier, more realistic and more dangerous than ever before.

AND, HOW?

The work of psychologist Albert Bandura may have significant implications for predicting the effects of pornography on youngsters. Social learning theory was developed by Bandura to explain how children model behavior. Bandura was able to demonstrate that infants are born with the instinctive desire to imitate adult behavior and learn how “to be” by watching and patterning the actions of close role models. We all remember how Mr. and Mrs. Mallard carried out their parenting/ patterning activities in the Boston Common in the much-loved children’s book, Make Way for Ducklings!

Bandura suggested that role modeling, the core of learning appropriate behaviors, could be done by parents, but might also be reinforced by animated characters, animals or other abstractions of reality. He understood how constant exposure to a world of fantasy or symbols would be a substantial driver in the modeling of behavior for kids because, without role models to copy, learning would be “exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do.”  Note to parents: I assume Dr. Bandura never imagined children on their cell phones accessing porn on the web!

Bandura, A. (1977).  Social Learning Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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