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"Porn pressure" leading to sexting as early as Year 7

Kids are now sharing naked photos online as young as 11 and 12 - and so-called “porn pressure” is a likely reason why, say experts.


“When I started speaking in schools five years ago sexting was targeted to Year 11 and 12,” says Family Zone cyber expert Brett Lee, director of Internet Safe Education. “But now we are addressing sexting issues with kids in Years 7 to 10.”

Early exposure to online porn is one reason why 11-year-olds are sharing intimate photos online, explains Lee, a former internet detective whose undercover work involved posing as a child to catch online predators.

How exposure happens

According to some estimates, the average Australian child will start viewing pornography online as early as age 8.

“Most of the time, kids don’t seek out adult material. It seeks them out, in the form of pop-up ads and innocent Google searches that veer off in unintended directions,” explains Dave Kobler, an expert in teen relationships and media use.

The sexualised nature of the internet makes exposure inevitable. And it means kids who spend a lot of time online are developing ideas of normal relationships based on the pornographic images they consume online.

Why kids think sexting is safe

Porn pressure isn’t the only driver of early sexting. Peer pressure is also a major factor. And so too are crowd-sourced misconceptions about how how sexting works.

Lee points out that children and teens commonly believe sexting is private - especially if conducted over a time-sensitive app like Snapchat. But there’s no platform can’t be hacked with a one-click screenshot, which can then be shared instantly across a school community and beyond.

“It’s this perception that they can control who is going to see the image that makes them most vulnerable,” Lee believes. He cites dangers that range from public humiliation and cyberbullying to blackmail.

Children also need to know that “images and videos are the most prized possessions of paedophiles.”

Legal risks

Children are generally shocked to learn that they face legal risks as well. Under Australian federal law, under-18s who send or receive sexts can be charged with child pornography offences, and even end up on the National Child Offender register. And this despite the legal age of consent being 16.

In Queensland 1,500 children have been found guilty of child exploitation material offences in the last decade.

So what’s to be done?

Lee is adamant that by a single action, parents can eliminate the risk of sexting by 50 percent. “Just remove phones from bedrooms,” he advises. “If they don’t have technology then they can’t sext. It’s also always more likely to occur in a private space.”

Dave Kobler and wife Katie, who have four young children, echo this advice. “We call it the 10 pm trap,” explains Katie. “It’s that danger zone between 10 pm and 2 am where the majority of kids are getting into trouble.”

The Koblers and Brett Lee endorse the use of Family Zone parental controls, which set a bedtime for kids - and for their internet activity.

And they also stress the importance of communicating openly and uncritically about sex, pornography and healthy relationships with children from an early age.

If your child has been sexting

If you find out your child has been sexting, Lee advises, the worst thing you can do is overract.

Sexting does not mean your child is monster. After all, an estimated one is seven teens sends text, and one in four receives them, according to recent research published by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“The answer is not to tell young people that they should not sext,” notes professor of sociology Mary Lou Rasmussen of the Australian National University, “but rather to engage them in thinking, with each other, about sexting as part of the broader negotiation of intimate relationships.”

“What parents can do is install mindsets,” Lee explains. “We can create an environment where a young person thinks, ‘I could do that but I won’t do it.’ It’s the only avenue we really have. Nothing works better than education.”


… unless of course it’s education PLUS parental controls. Family Zone delivers both, in a holistic cyber safety solution that integrates powerful technology with powerful expertise.

Topics: Cyber Safety, Mobile Apps, Parental Controls, sexting, online pornography, online predators

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