Tuesday, April 23, 2024
Poland

Pornography: a deadly threat to the younger generation

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What do statistics say about the use of pornography by minors? What consequences does pornography have for its viewers? Can we, in Poland, solve this problem?

Marek Grabowski

Modern pornography draws its roots from the counterculture revolution of the 1960s. By subverting such values as fidelity and responsibility, “sexual liberation” has resulted in sexuality being treated mainly in terms of consumption and pleasure, experimentation, and the collection of experiences.

The spread of the birth control pill, mass culture, cinema and cable television provided the technological foundation for the development of the entire pornography industry in the United States and Western Europe.

With the development of the Internet, pornography has become one of the largest businesses, and the popularization of smartphones has increased its reach to potentially include every cellphone owner.

The report “Teens and Digital Pornography,” published by Poland’s NASK in 2022, leads to alarming conclusions.

As many as 72 percent of children surveyed think it is easy to access pornography on the Internet. This answer is chosen most often by children studying in elementary schools, which in Poland comprise classes for children aged 6–7 to 14–15. Over 21 percent of respondents believe that their peers view pornographic content at least once a day.

The places where teens most commonly encounter pornography are search engines and private messages sent on social media.

Technology in the hands of children

In my opinion, technology in the hands of a child is sheer evil. The later a child gets a smartphone in his or her hands, the better, because parents have no chance of winning against the algorithms and the companies behind them. TikTok, for example, has a budget larger than Poland as a country, and it employs hundreds of people who puzzle over what to do to keep a child in front of a screen for as long as possible. Not only that, they develop algorithms that make the phone addictive,” said NASK’s Rafał Lange during an expert panel discussion at the Safety and Child Development conference organized by the Mom and Dad Foundation (Fundacja Mamy i Taty) in 2022. “In fact, it’s not just parents who have no chance in confronting them; even the Polish state doesn’t have the necessary capacity. TikTok’s shareholders are Goldman Sachs, Stanley Morgan, and other big players, so we are doomed in advance. It is delusory to think that if we educate and explain, everything will somehow work out. We recently conducted a study at NASK to see where young people are viewing pornography on their smartphones. Seventy-five percent of respondents answered that they watch pornography in the school environment!” – he added.

Advanced technology in the hands of children exposes them to very negative content. Not only pornography per se, but also violence, pathostreaming, leftist ideologies and messages hostile to Christianity. The Internet familiarizes people with violence. It anesthetizes our conscience, squeezing out our values.

The research and experience of the Mom and Dad Foundation show that, unfortunately, a large part of the responsibility for exposure to dangerous content lies with adults. First, children get smartphones too early. Recently it was the time of year when many Polish children aged 8–9 have their First Communion. How many of our kids got a smartphone as a present? Unfortunately, this is one of the more popular gifts. On the one hand, we rejoice in the happiness and innocence of children, while on the other hand, we ourselves present them with the key to evil.

Second, we don’t secure smartphones, we don’t install software to block negative content. Third and most importantly, we have no time for children. We spend time in parallel with and somehow apart from our children.

For parents, a smartphone is like a Swiss Army knife. It’s a tool used for organizing life, shopping, checking things and so on. For a child, a smartphone is a social space. A child doesn’t use it the same way as you would use a tool, like a hammer drill you would need to make something. When online, children are building their autonomy, their place in the social hierarchy,” Dr. Lange explains. “We have deprived children of a social life. There are no longer playgrounds, there are parking lots. When there were no smartphones, there were shopping malls. Now malls are no longer necessary, because it is enough to have an account on an instant messenger. We have deprived children, first, of a place where they can live socially, and second, of time. In the UK, surveys have shown that children work more than their parents, if we assume that a child’s work is schooling and extracurricular activities related to learning. For children, the smartphone has become the new social life, where they realize all their aspirations. After all, there is nowhere to go. At home they see their parents in the morning or in the evening. We have managed to convince some fathers that quality time is important and that they have to organize a special trip on the weekend so that their child can have fun. And what’s the consequence? Children associate pleasure time only with leaving home. It’s fun when you get away somewhere, and time spent with your family at home is sometimes seen as unpleasant. However, even this low quality time is important!

The “Youth and the Media” report, prepared by the Mom and Dad Foundation in 2021, shows that 42 percent of children under the age of six and 61 percent of children aged 15–17 can watch TV alone in their room. As many as 38 percent of children and teenagers watch television at least once a week during times when adults-only programs may be aired.

Unfortunately, we ourselves – as adults – act irresponsibly and expose teenagers and children to pornography.

The consequences of pornography

During a conference in the Polish parliament on child and youth protection earlier this year, representatives of more than a dozen NGOs working on family and youth issues cited restricting access to pornography as one of the key challenges.

These observations are confirmed by psychotherapist Sabina Zalewska. She believes that the impact of pornography on children and teenagers is significant. “It’s obviously huge, especially on development in the emotional and social spheres. The emotional sphere, as it affects perceptions of deep human relationships. It objectifies them,” says Dr. Zalewska. “The other person becomes just a tool to satisfy your own needs. The young are reluctant, even afraid, to establish deep relationships, for fear of being taken advantage of and fear of getting hurt. They also treat sex as a thing. They make it superficial. They detach it from procreation, even fearing and denying procreation,” she explains, adding: “Pornography also affects their perception of love. They revise the common definition of it and create their own. They fear it and protect themselves against it. At the same time, they miss it very much. This is related to the fear of exposure and being taken advantage of.”

Exposure to violent pornography is associated with aggressive sexual behavior in both teenagers and adult males,” points out Janusz Wardak, chairman of the Family Academy. “The use of pornography by teenagers and young adults often leads to a distorted view of sexuality and its role in building healthy personal relationships. These distortions include an overestimation of the prevalence of sexual activity in the community, a belief that sexual promiscuity is normal, and a belief that sexual abstinence is unhealthy. These prospects are likely to make it more difficult for young people to form lasting, meaningful relationships with the opposite sex, ultimately leading to greater anxiety, depression, and general dissatisfaction with life.”

Safe pornography is a myth

In the discussion about pornography, the focus is on children and teenagers. Experts and researchers point to how much it harms emotional, mental, and spiritual development.

At the same time, nothing is said about its consequences for adults.

Dr. Sabina Zalewska, when asked about the impact of pornography on adults, explains: “Mainly, it affects their relationships. It provides a substitute for real-world relationships. First, sex is substituted for and tension is relieved. Later, an emotional coldness develops between partners. There is increasing reluctance to communicate needs, especially those in the sexual sphere. Partners become self-sufficient in this sphere and feel no obligation. Research by Professor Zimbardo, an American psychologist, shows that relationships often become empty. They persist, but there is no closeness or passion. So this coldness affects almost all aspects of married life: communication, bonding, showing affection, social functioning, as well as relationships with children and extended family members.

Janusz Wardak, in turn, points out the negative consequences of pornography for marital relations. “Pornography has a negative impact on marriages and long-term cohabitations, making them more prone to divorce,” he says. “Women whose husbands or partners watch pornography feel betrayed and see pornography as a form of sexual objectification of women.”

According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 56 percent of all divorces involved one party’s obsessive interest in pornographic websites.

Experts point out that pornography addiction is associated with the search for ever stronger stimuli, and the consumption of increasingly violent and degenerate output.
Some of the fantasies and obsessions triggered by pornography can cause a desire to put them into practice. Interviews with serial killers indicate that sometimes pornography provided the impetus for them to commit horrific crimes. It is not true that pornography use does not affect adults and is safe for them.

Pornography is big business

Analysts of the porn industry indicate that its annual revenues exceed $97 billion. Pornographic content accounts for thirty-five percent of all online downloads. Twelve percent of all existing websites are pornographic.

Unsurprisingly, the industry justifies its existence on grounds of ideology (e.g., the right to freedom of speech), alleged benefits (relieving tension), educational value (sexual inspiration), or freedom of artistic creation (referring to various pornographic quasi-artistic events).

Pornography is a profit-making industry not only for its producers and distributors, but also for the mobile networks that make money from data transmission.

The profits of the few translate into true social costs for the majority of society. Worse still, the production of such materials involves not only adults, but also children. Dr. Rafał Lange of NASK commented on one police intervention: “What a surprise it was to find out that no one forced the children, that they themselves produced child pornography. Eight-, seven- or six-year-olds post pictures on the Internet for popularity, for a sense of acceptance, for money. Parents don’t know this because they hardly ever talk to their children.”

Time to act

The well-being of our families and children is not just about economic security or support with social programs. It is also about physical security and the opportunity for emotional and spiritual development.

For many years, unfortunately, attempts to regulate and restrict the porn business have ended in nothing.

Personally, I believe that the production and distribution of pornographic materials should be outlawed on Polish territory.

Restricting access to pornographic sites and materials is entirely feasible. In Poland, we have positive examples of restriction of access to illegal gambling or Russian propaganda. Moreover, the algorithms of social media such as Facebook show that it is possible to eliminate pornographic content from posts.

If we want to agree to temporary and limited access to pornography, we could consider age verification through micro-payment by credit card or wire transfer.

However, there seems to be a lack of political will to implement serious measures to protect the public from this pathological business. Perhaps our rulers are concerned that this could cause unrest or public protests. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Research commissioned by the Mom and Dad Foundation shows that 88 percent of respondents support measures to restrict access to pornography for minors in Poland.

One idea to limit access to pornography is to introduce age verification, similar to what is done for gambling in Poland. Seventy-six percent of respondents are in favor of such a solution. Limiting the use of smartphones by children at school could help keep students’ attention focused. Eighty percent of respondents are in favor of this kind of restriction.

A draft law from the Ministry of Digitization is pending in the Polish parliament. It is a step in the right direction, although in my opinion it does not introduce real restrictions on access to inappropriate content.

In its petition (available on serwisrodzinny.pl) to parliamentarians to support the Ministry of Digitization’s proposal for greater control over access to pornography, the Mom and Dad Foundation states: “We have no time to waste. Every week of further delay means new victims among children. Do not wash your hands of the younger generation’s tragedy. We look forward to a positive response from the parliamentary groups. May the current Sejm that is nearing its end bear good fruit for children.”

Pornography kills the values we pass on to our children. It creates patients in need of psychological and psychiatric support. It makes it difficult to build happy families based on the love and fidelity of parents.

Let us not allow ourselves to be terrorized by the porn business. We have the right to fight for a world free of aggressive sexualization of children and pornography. We should be proud that we want to limit the enormous economic and cultural influence of the porn industry and other related industries.

It is time to save our children, families and society. Let us gradually eliminate pornography. It takes the courage of each of us and our willingness to put pressure on politicians. Together we will overcome evil.

The author is a sociologist, public opinion researcher, chairman of the Mom and Dad Foundation, owner of the sociological research studio Social Changes, and vice president of the Family Council

This article was published in June 2023 in “Do Rzeczy” magazine.