by Claudine Gallacher

Have you heard of Safer Internet Day? Can you guess the internet safety “elephant in the room”?

It’s the aspect of digital safety that everyone would rather ignore.

The “elephant” is this reality: vast numbers of young children are being exposed to graphic and violent online pornography despite the valiant efforts of many to keep kids safe.

As a society we believe, and our laws reflect, that exposure to pornography is “harmful to minors.” Parents often turn to internet filters to protect their kids. Unfortunately, this tech-based solution for this tech-induced problem is not sufficient.

You should know about Safer Internet Day! It can be a great platform for crafting effective strategies to protect kids around the world.

Safer Internet Day 

Safer Internet Day 2016: Play your part for a better internet

Safer Internet Day (SID) will be celebrated on February 9, 2016 in over 100 countries.  Originally started in Europe in 2004, Safer Internet Day is coordinated in the UK by the UK Safer Internet Centre.

The primary goal of this honorary day is “to promote safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones, especially among children and young people across the world.” Last year’s celebration reached more than 60 million people worldwide!

While this year’s international theme is Play your part for a better internet, each participating country interprets the theme and comes up with its own activities. Most countries use this day to address topics like cyberbullying and information privacy as well as to promote ways the internet can be used for good.

Look to Australia to tackle the elephant in the room

Although Australia as a whole will be addressing cyberbullying, a group of academics, educators and child advocates in this country have decided to tackle the elephant. This February 9th, they are meeting together for a first of its kind Pornography and Harms to Children and Young People Symposium.

Here’s what Melinda Tankard Reist, co-founder of Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation, says about this pioneer event:

A growing body of global research shows that our children and young people are increasingly conditioned and socialized through exposure to pornography. This is giving them distorted ideas and expectations about bodies, relationships and sexuality.

Boys are imbibing messages from pornography which teach them that women and girls exist for their pleasure – that they are entitled to them. Girls are learning that they exist merely as sexual service stations to please boys. Children are just a click away from torture porn, rape porn, sadism porn and incest porn. We are engaging in an unprecedented assault on the healthy sexual development of the next generation.

This ground-breaking Australia-first symposium will discuss the latest findings from a diverse range of multidisciplinary stakeholders and explore ways forward to deal with the problem, in the best interests of our children and young people.

What else is Australia doing?

A committee in Australia’s parliament has begun an inquiry into the “Sexualisation of children and young peoplethrough media exposure. This committee has been asking citizens to submit statements about how sexualized media is impacting kids and how “government can…help families to negotiate this environment.”

The committee intends to report its findings in December of this year.

Breaking News in the United States: Porn Is a Public Health Crisis

Australia’s government is not alone in its concern that pornography exposure is harming citizens.

A Utah state senator, the honorable Todd Weiler, has introduced a ground-breaking resolution (S.C.R 9) to recognize pornography as a “public health hazard” which leads to “public health impacts and societal harms.” This resolution calls for “education, prevention, research, and policy change.”

This may be the start of a nationwide movement!

What You Can Do on Safer Internet Day

safer internet day square logo 2016
  1. Use social media to let people know about safer internet day. Join the conversation on Twitter using these hashtags: #SID2016, #Iplaymypart, #playyourpart.  Include  #SIDUS16 if you live in the United States.  
  2. Spend time with your family discussing tech etiquette and creating family guidelines.
  3. Participate in organized activities. If you live in the United States, see http://saferinternetday.us/get-involved-2016/. If you live outside the US, click here to see what is happening in your country.

What you can do to further expose the “elephant” of internet safety:

  1. Use a dual approach to protect your own kids from pornography. Use tech solutions (filters and parental controls) to reduce opportunities for your child to be exposed to pornography. In addition, make sure your child has an internal filter.
  2. Bring awareness to your friends and family by helping them learn why relying on tech solutions alone is not enough to protect their children. [Look here, or here, or here for proof.]  Warning children early about the dangers of pornography and talking to them often is imperative in today’s culture.
  3. Speak up in your greater community, helping others understand that childhood pornography exposure harms kids and children are vulnerable.

Let’s join with those in Australia and Utah who recognize the need for viable strategies to combat childhood pornography exposure. As we work together, we CAN continue to create solutions for this “elephant” of a problem.

We CAN all play our part for a better internet!

Claudine Gallacher
Claudine Gallacher, MA, is the Social Media Guru at Protect Young Minds and was the writing coach for Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids. Claudine is enthusiastic about teaching parents how to empower kids with the skills they need to reject pornography. To reach parents, she writes, researches, edits, speaks, and markets. Claudine is married and has three great kids who support her work. Contact Claudine on Twitter @ProtectYM or email claudine@protectyoungminds.org.
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