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Problem with pornography is epidemic

"There's an apathy that has set in our society."

"It makes you wonder if adults really care"

That comment by a youth at the Utah Youth Summit focused on the greatest problem with the onslaught of pornography in this era — the apparent tolerance by adults.

The problem is epidemic. Children are being desensitized in grocery store check-out lanes, explicit sexual material is on many elementary school grounds, catalogs carry it into homes as well as do television, videos, video games and accidental internet pornography.

"There's an apathy that has set in our society," added this youth, a participant in the Utah Youth Summit, held in August 2000 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Other youth expressed frustration at feelings that are stirred up by unwanted access to pornography on the internet at schools, libraries and their homes. They hate daily having to face provocative, sexually oriented pictures on magazines in stores, on commercials, on television, in catalogs, on advertisements, on posters, on open locker doors at school, at video arcades, and almost everywhere they go. In their minds are accumulations of pornographic pictures they have seen. Uncalled for, these pictures emerge at unexpected times and tease and encourage curiosity to see more, leading to addiction.

Most youth, ages 12 to 14, have seen hard-core pornography a number of times, declared John Harmer, an attorney with a long career of opposing pornography, in a training session at Kaysville Utah South Stake.

When youth under the age of 14 are exposed to this, sexual addiction is more likely. The experts say that if we do nothing, our problem will be an out-of-proportion runaway within 10 to 11 years.

So what can we do?

1. Monitor movies, television and videos that you or your children see. Many parents see and allow their children and youth to see PG, PG-13 and R-rated movies, videos or television shows that contain material that is "vulgar, immoral, inappropriate, suggestive or pornographic" (See pamphlet, "For the Strength of Youth") in some way. They do not realize that they are being desensitized and becoming more vulnerable for acceptance of the explicit pornography that is available on the internet.

Empirical research by researcher Dolf Zillmann and Jennings Bryant indicates that people exposed to repeated presentations of hardcore, non-violent adult pornography over just a six-week period develop callousness toward women, trivialize rape, develop distorted perceptions about sexuality, develop an appetite for more deviant, bizarre or violent types of pornography, are no longer satisfied with sex in their marriage, devalue the importance of marriage and view non-monogamous relationships as normal and natural behavior. ("Pornography's Effects on Adults & Children," by psychotherapist Victor B. Cline, Morality in Media, p. 8.)

2. Warn your children and youth about the ease with which sexual addiction comes and the damage it creates. Teens can become addicted in as little as two weeks because of the capability of escalation at the click of a mouse in the middle of the night in the privacy of a home. Three months of internet pornography can even more readily lead a youth to addiction. (From private conversation with Rick Hawk, psychologist.) Much of the pornography produced ends up in the hands of children who then share it with their friends and often try out what they see on younger siblings. This explains why pornography is so often the base of sexual abuse.

The addiction is similar to addictions with alcohol, drugs or gambling. One young man told how he got up in the middle of the night, went to the computer, gripped it with both hands and said, "I will not get involved again!" He saw the portable phone sitting on the computer table, grabbed it and called his support person. With that support and the tools given him by a counselor, he was able to withstand what is called "the wave."

Matthew Hedelius, a psychologist who counsels victims of abuse, speaking at the Utah Youth Summit, said that a man with such an addiction can pull out of it by accessing the help of his bishop, the power of the Atonement, a counselor who is experienced in working with sexual addiction and a support person or group. For some, this support needs to continue for three to five years in order to give the person control over the problem.

One reformed addict said that this addiction was more difficult to get control of than cocaine or alcohol, but it could be done. Teens need to understand the depth of the problem.

3. Stay out of chat rooms. The message at a recent pro-family conference in Kentucky, according to one speaker, was that letting our children and teens in chat rooms was like turning them loose in Central Park in New York and saying, "Go find a new friend."

"The internet is the pedophiles' playground because it affords them anonymity, and they can use newsgroups, chat rooms, and e-mail to exchange information and child pornography and to interact with children.

"There are computer bulletin boards set up specifically for the seduction of children. They lure kids in with games and establish relationships with them on-line. Then they arrange to meet face-to-face."

4. Teach children and youth that they will feel guilt if they accidentally pull up a porn site, but that it is important to tell. In June of 2000, the Crimes Against Children Research Center released a new study showing that one out of four teens who used the internet regularly had an unwanted exposure to soft-core porn (nudity), and most of the youth did not report this to a parent.

5. Teach children to "crash and tell." Youth should turn the computer off immediately if they accidentally surface a bad picture. Pornography advertisers usually link six or eight porn sites together so that if the user accesses one site, he cannot properly exit until he sees all eight. This provides about 10 minutes of hard-core pornography, which leaves a greater impact on a child than if he immediately turns off the computer.

6. Place the computer in an open, supervised area of your home. At the conference we were told "any good boy or girl would eventually fall" because of the effective "teasers" that sellers of pornography capitalize on when the internet is in the privacy of a bedroom.

7. Install a "white" filter on your internet, preferably with a live person checking questionable sites. On a white, or closed, filter every site is checked before it comes onto your computer. If a site is questionable, an icon will appear while someone checks to see if it is clean. If it is clean, it will be allowed to come on the screen. Find a filter service that provides this. Know then that the only way you can get pornography on your internet is if someone puts a disk containing pornography in your computer, or if a teenager knows how to circumvent the whole system and pull it up.

8. Learn enough about your computer so you can check what sites have been visited. Computers remember the sites they have visited. It is possible to check. A problem found when it is a small problem can more easily be solved.

9. Maintain a good relationship with your children and teens so you can openly discuss these matters. One study in Utah showed that 55% of teens said their parents never discussed the internet with them. (Deseret News, Jan. 22, 2000, section E)

10. Know that once your child is protected in your home, he is not protected in the community. When your child leaves your home, he can go to friend's home where there is no filter, or he can go to the schools who perhaps have a filter, but not a "white" or "closed" one. Most libraries do not have filters and there are many documented reports of children and adults viewing pornography online in the public library. (Psychologist James Dobson Discusses America's Choice: Nine Key Issues That Will Shape Our Future, Fall, 2000, p. 9.)

Silence in the community is acceptance. If we, the majority, say nothing when we see inappropriate pictures, we condone them, and in time our standard will go even lower. If we wait for someone else to do it for us, it will never happen. Every voice is needed in today's world.

Why does a prophet of God keep bringing up the subject of pornography at conferences? Why is it discussed on a ward and stake basis? It is because we all have a problem with pornography.

Joann Hibbert Hamilton, a Sunday School teacher in the Bountiful 41st Ward, Bountiful Utah Heights Stake, is president-elect of the Utah Association, American Mothers Inc. and founder of Citizens Against Pornography, fax: (801) 292-8607.

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