Creating a Generation of Young Porn Criminals

I recently received the following inquiry:

I just found out my 9-year-old daughter has been looking at hard-core adult porn (“Ramrod butt busters,” “Sweet on teacher,” etc.).
She spent a weekend at my sister’s, who let her use her laptop. When my sister and I reviewed her internet history, it was obvious; then I looked at my daughter’s iPad, and was shocked all over again. I don’t want to shame my kid about sex, but I want her to be safe. The thought of her absorbing this stuff makes me sick.
What should I do?

Should 9-year-olds be looking at porn? Of course not. Porn is a product specifically made for adults, and young kids can’t possibly consume the product in a healthy way. They’re bound to find the images confusing at best, frightening at worst. If they feel guilty about watching the images, they may obsess on them, strengthening the negative effects.

And yet as truly distressing as this is, the issue of how little Mary processes these adult pornographic videos may be, unfortunately, the least of Mom’s problems.

Here are a few nightmare scenarios Mom should consider for a moment:

* Mary sending porn URLs to other kids;
* Mary showing some porn to a friend;
* Mary sending a nude photo of herself to a friend (or receiving one).

Each of these could get Mary into enormous trouble. Mary could be arrested for distributing porn to a minor, or for creating and distributing child porn. There are children all over the country who have been busted for various porn-related reasons. Mary could be next.

Neither our law enforcement nor our social work systems are up to speed on how kids use digital media. And so laws designed to protect kids from sexual exploitation are now used in ways that ruin kids’ lives. In many states, minors caught sexting are considered both perpetrator and victim of child pornography, and often taken into custody. Since in most states it’s illegal to show minors porn, a clueless judge or social worker can consider any kid who does so guilty of illicitly enticing a minor. Yes, that would be crazy—but remember, America is the country that charges schoolchildren with sexual harassment for hugging their classmates.

The above outcomes would be disastrous for poor Mary—but things could get even worse. Imagine that Mom’s sister is nervous, angry, or piously judgmental. She could report Mary’s porn-watching to county Child Protective Services. Or imagine that Mary’s iPad goes into a repair shop, and a tech person sees the porn history and reports it to the police. On top of either scenario, the authorities could question Mom or Dad about their porn-watching.

The ultimate tragedy following any of these?

Mary could be taken away from her parents and put into protective custody. Or Mom could lose custody of Mary for some indeterminate amount of time. Or Mom/Dad could be arrested for neglectful parenting for watching legal porn—if some welfare staff person or judge decides that this had somehow encouraged Mary’s interest in porn.

Fortunately, each of these scenarios is highly unlikely. But none of them is impossible, and most have happened many times in the last few years.

America’s sex offender registries are already bursting at the seams, now boasting tens of thousands of people whose non-violent “crimes” were never intended for inclusion. That trend is nowhere near peaking. I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually there are so many non-violent juvenile “offenders” that an entire new criminal Registry is created for them. When one of them sues both the government and Harvard for discriminatory non-admission it will be a whole new day.

As scary or confusing as it might be for a 9-year-old to look at hard-core sexual imagery, there are far worse things. One is being taken away from your law-abiding, loving parents. Another is having your loving parents taken away from you. A third is being put on a sex offender registry or being formally labelled as a potential child molester.

Sorry, no simple answers today. Just a reader’s question with some very upsetting implications.

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In the 1960s and 1970s, laws criminalizing the use of marijuana and other common street drugs created an entire generation of criminals. It helped radicalize a generation of college students—and their middle class parents—who had never had anything but respect for the law.

We’re about to see something similar, except with even more disastrous consequences for those young people caught in the traps of America’s War On Porn.

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For help on how to talk to kids about porn, see my blogpost “Your kid looks at porn—now what?” at http://goo.gl/pG4jGN
For my DVD or download on “Helping young people develop porn literacy,” go to http://www.martyklein.com/books-cds/cds/

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