by: Jackie Sinnerton and Anthony Gough – From: The Sunday Mail (Qld)
May 05, 2012 11:30PM
THEY are Generation XXX. Schoolchildren as young as 11 are spending up to 10 hours a day watching explicit adult material as new technology sneaks pornography into their pockets.
Experts have warned of an increase in porn addiction in children as a new generation wired to smartphones and laptops have 24-hour access to hardcore material.
Australian addiction specialist Robert Mittiga said the explosion in mobile technology had led to a surge in numbers of children dealing with porn addiction.
Preliminary findings of new Australian research indicates that 43 per cent of regular pornography users were first introduced to explicit images between the age of 11 and 13.
Mr Mittiga said some porn merchants were targeting kids by making pornography featuring cartoon and children’s book characters.
Mr Mittiga said he had personally treated children as young as 14 for porn addiction and some young addicts spent up to 10 hours a day viewing explicit material.
“It’s so accessible, that’s the problem, and we don’t have enough security or barriers,” he said.
He said children were 10 times more likely to get hooked on explicit material than adults, and their addiction could escalate into criminal acts.
Mr Mittiga said some of his young patients had stolen credit cards to fuel their addiction and racked up bills of up to $9000 on pornography sites and phone sex lines.
Recently it was reported that a Gold Coast bus driver abandoned a bus full of students after they allegedly shared porn images on their mobiles and were verbally abusive.
A statement from the Department of Education claims that CCTV footage shows the students were not behaving badly.
The growing problem in Australia comes at a time when Labour ministers in the UK have thrown their weight behind a campaign for an automatic block on online porn, advocating an “opt-in” system, under which access is blocked unless adults specifically declare they want to see sexual content.
Brisbane online security expert John Fison of Netbox Blue said children between seven and 17 were at high risk of becoming victims of inappropriate online behaviour.
“Many children have the internet in their pocket, they have it on the bus, at lunch, in their bedrooms, bathrooms,” he said.
Mr Fison said education and technological enforcement policies needed to be reviewed every six months. and claimed many web-filtering solutions are out of date and students get around them easily.
The Department of Education said schools’ mobile phone and electronic equipment policy had most recently been updated in February 2011.
Queensland Teachers’ Union president Kevin Bates said that although schools were responding to the challenge of smartphones, students were ahead of the curve.
He said parents, teachers and the community needed to work together to give students the skills they needed to navigate the internet, and use technology safely.
But Dr Alan McKee, who leads the Queensland Government’s Developing Improved Sexual Health Education Strategies grant, emphasises the importance of parents being a central part of their children’s sexual education.
“If a pre-pubescent child stumbles across sexually explicit material – whether it’s an abandoned magazine or photos on a smartphone – it won’t harm them,” he said.
“All of the research shows that they’re most likely to get embarrassed, laugh, and move on to something that actually interests them. The most important thing is for parents to build open communication with their children about sex so that if your child does encounter something that upsets them online they know they can come to you and talk about it and you won’t get angry.”
Mr Bates said that while sex education in schools had come a long way, teachers’ hands were often tied.
“Schools could provide in-depth and detailed programs of sex education but tend to be in many ways bound by community standards and expectations,” he said.