How to talk to kids about porn (before the pornographers do)

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A free programme helps parents tackle the ‘public health crisis of the digital age’ without appearing judgmental or moralistic.

‘Large groups of young children are just a click or two away from free hardcore porn.’ Photo: Donald Iain Smith/Getty Images/Blend Images

Want to talk to your eight-year-old child about pornography and have no idea how to start? Worried that your 10-year-old might be sexting? Concerned that the only sex education your 12-year-old has access to consists of images of sexual degradation?

Freely accessible porn is driving sexually aggressive behaviour against women and girls. Nearly 90% of the most-watched porn scenes contain violence against women, according to a widely cited study. This is why parents need to talk to their kids about porn, before the pornographers do. But how? A new and unique programme aimed at parents of tweens (between the ages of eight and 12) who want to have the “porn conversation” may help.

The programme, run by a new US-based NGO called Culture Reframed, founded by the academic and anti-porn activist Gail Dines, is the first to approach this complex issue from a feminist perspective. It aims to teach parents how to have conversations with their children, and was created by experts in public health, adolescent psychology, sexual health education, neuroscience and technology.

Free to parents, it claims to tackle what Dines calls the “public health crisis of the digital age”. She backs up her claims with hard facts and figures. For a start, a third of all young people under the age of 12 have seen pornography; about 20% of sexts are photos of girls under the age of 15; and 35% of all internet downloads are porn. Also, children have access to a mobile phone at earlier ages than they did five years ago. Today, an estimated 25% of six-year-olds in the UK use a mobile phone, and the average age in the US is 10. This means that large groups of young children are just a click or two away from free hardcore porn.

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‘Today, there is no such thing as “soft” porn … it has become brutal and misogynistic.’ Photo: Martyn Vickery/Alamy

There is plenty in the programme for parents who wish to learn how to have compassionate talks with their child, and to help them to understand healthy sexuality. They will be offered guidance to help their children analyse and understand the implications of sexist and degrading media images. Such conversations with young people are needed more than ever. Research shows that the earlier a boy accesses porn, the more likely he is to be sexually aggressive towards girls and women, to bully girls into sexting naked images, to develop erectile dysfunction and to struggle with depression and anxiety.

In the early 1980s, anti-porn feminists, myself included, would travel the country with the “porn slideshow”, which consisted of images going from “soft” porn to “hardcore”. We were keen for other women to learn the truth about porn: that it is misogynistic propaganda, which can and does incite horrendous sexual violence towards women. But today there is no such thing as “soft” porn, unless you count music videos on MTV. Porn has become increasingly brutal and misogynistic.

Other available educational courses, according to Dines, are based either on religious moralism, or the notion that there is “good porn” and “bad porn”, such as programmes run by the pornographer Erika Lust. This approach, says Dines, lacks any feminist or critical analysis of porn, and fails to explore the social, emotional and cognitive impact of porn on children. “Lust describes herself as an ‘ethical pornographer’”, says Dines. “But there can be no ethical way to sell women’s bodies.”

Dines, who travels the world at the invitation of governments, child support agencies and feminist groups to share her extensive knowledge of the pornography industry, tells me that the parents she meets during her work are “in a state of panic” and don’t know how to broach the subject without appearing judgmental and moralistic.

“Digital safety” classes, which are available for children in schools in the UK and a number of states in the US, either ignore porn altogether or hardly mention it, leaving kids to try to deal with porn culture on their own .

NSPCC and Middlesex University research from 2016 on the effects of porn on children in the UK found that over three-quarters of the children surveyed felt pornography failed to help them understand sexual consent. More than half of the boys and more than a third of girls saw porn as a realistic depiction of sex. In an age where porn is becoming a substitute for sex education, it is high time a decent alternative was on offer.


  • Julie Bindel is a freelance journalist and political activist, and a founder of Justice for Women

Cover photo: ‘Large groups of young children are just a click or two away from free hardcore porn.’ Photograph: Donald Iain Smith/Getty Images/Blend Images

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Thousands of children in prison across Africa need justice

Young people are all but invisible in the justice system, facing ill treatment at the hands of those who should be protecting them.

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Children wait at a naval base in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, after being rescued off the coast of Garabulli. Photo: Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images


The legendary editor of the Guardian newspaper CP Scott famously declared in 1921 that “Comment is free, but facts are sacred”. Unfortunately, when it comes to hard evidence on how many children are locked up in prisons, detention centres, migrant and refugee camps, rehabilitation units or other institutions across the world, the facts are more scarce than sacred.

There is no single source of accurate data for these figures and estimates vary widely between 15,000 and 28,000 in Africa alone, but common sense dictates that the numbers are likely to be worse than even the highest approximations.

The UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty – due to be presented to the general assembly this September – aims to address this data gap.

Whatever the numbers, no child should be kept in prison. Detention should only ever be used as a last resort, and then only for the shortest possible time.

A lack of statistics makes it hard to identify any country or region in the continent as being worse than another. The recent conference onAccess to Justice for Children in Africa, convened by the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) and its partners in Addis Ababa, made it clear that young people are poorly served by the justice systems meant to protect them. Despite some progress in recent years, the conference heard how groups such as children with disabilities, victims of trafficking, sexual abuse and violence, orphans, refugees and migrants are routinely discriminated against: they are denied access to justice, to adequate legal representation and to fair trial.

ACPF held the gathering to call on governments and international agencies, research institutions and experts as well as the media to highlight the injustices children are facing in judicial systems. Participants, numbering more than 200, committed themselves to giving a face and a voice to these children, and making access to justice a reality for all young people on the continent.

Their call to action pulls no punches, noting that children remain predominantly invisible in the justice systems in Africa, that traditional, customary or religious justice remains largely unregulated and renders children particularly vulnerable; and that African laws need to be brought into line with international standards and principles such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

The call to action makes it clear it is our collective responsibility to ensure progress – governments, the African Union, UN agencies, civil society and non-governmental organisations, academics – no one can shirk their responsibility.

But calling for action is one thing, getting it is another. African countries must make greater strides towards improved access to justice for children. This will be marked by, among other things, law and policy reform that recognise the rights of children in the justice system, as well as growth in services that support these laws. Many African countries now have laws and standards to protect children in the justice system, some have child courts and dedicated police units, but true progress requires their systematic implementation.

Some countries such as Uganda report a significant drop in the number of children being detained. Elsewhere, trials of new technology such as “virtual courts” lessen the stress of children having to appear in person. But progress is painfully slow, and all the while another generation of children faces discrimination and ill-treatment at the hands of the systems intended to protect them.

As the call to action concludes: “There is an imperative on all of us to act now, as the future of our continent depends on ensuring justice for our children today.”


  • Graça Machel is board chair of the African Child Policy Forum

SOURCE: The Bloomgist/The Guardian/Anadolu

This 13-year-old on time management

Maya “Jai” Pinson, 13, author, actor and eighth-grader, lives in Northeast Washington. For her first book, “Back Pack Lilly,” she held a reading and reception at the SweetFrog frozen yogurt shop in Lanham, Md.

This 13-year-old has written a book about time management. What makes her an expert?

Maya “Jai” Pinson has published her first book. Photo: André Chung/For The Washington Post.

You’re 13 and you wrote a book about how to manage your time. What makes you an expert in time management?

I do a lot in my life. I know that sometimes having a jammed schedule can sometimes be tough and hard to manage. I wrote the book to tell people that you should always put your education above everything else. It’s about a dog, Lilly, who promotes studying over playing. The kids in the book love to play and have fun all day, and Lilly knows just what to do to get them to stop playing, do their work and then play.

Is it hard to write a book?

Actually, I love writing, and my mom’s an author, so I guess it comes natural for me. The hardest part for me, if I had to pick, was describing how I wanted the pictures. Because I had so many different ideas, and I had to pick which ones I wanted and the colors. But the writing part was actually pretty easy.

Where did you get the idea for “Back Pack Lilly”?

I originally wrote the book for 4- to 8-year-olds. But then as I started progressing while writing the book, I realized that that message could reach everybody, including adults. When I was a kid I used to love playing. I still do. I realized that you could get farther in life with education than playing. So I realized that I need to make sure I get my studies and reading and work done before I can play with my friends.

Have you always been incredible?

Yes.

What’s your favorite time of day?

Nighttimes, because I get to sleep.

Do you get to play every day?

Depending on what’s coming up. I manage the cheerleading team for my school. I do basketball, volleyball, acting, making sure I know my scripts, going for auditions and writing a book and practicing the cello and all of that stuff.

What do you do when you feel silly?

I like prank-pulling.

What kind of pranks do you pull?

I prank everybody. I got this pack of fake lottery tickets. One Christmas I was giving them out to my family. I didn’t give them to them at the same time because I didn’t want them to scratch and be like, “We’re all winners?! This can’t be right.” My grandmother, I gave her a $10,000 one, and she believed it and was really excited.

Have any more books in you, you think?

Yes. I’m currently in the beginning stages of my second book, but I don’t want to say too much about it.

Don’t say too much about it! When do you feel young?

When I get to hang out with my friends. Then I’m kind of carefree and can relax and do all of that. With this, you know, in professional mode, I feel like a grown-up and feel really mature.


SOURCE: Washinton Post

The Nigerian teen who was accepted into 8 Ivy League schools

A 17-year-old Nigerian teenager, Jude Okonkwo, based in the United States, has been accepted into the eight Ivy League schools.

The Nigerian teen who was accepted into 8 Ivy League schools

Okonkwo’s story comes a week after another Nigerian-born teenager, Ifeoma White-Thorpe, also gained admission into all eight Ivy League schools.

The Chaminade high school student was accepted by Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Yale University.

Speaking with WCBS-880, Okonkwo, said, “It’s a tremendous honour to gain acceptance to all eight Ivy League schools. It’s something I never could have imagined.”

Okonkwo, who wants to study medicine says he is leaning towards Harvard.

“Hospitals were severely impacted by the storm while so many people needed so much help. It motivated me to serve as a summer lifeguard for the disabled after we moved to New York,” he said.

“My parents enrolled me in swimming lessons after seeing the powerful flood waters Katrina brought ashore, and I realised I could use swimming to help people.

“Tragedies occur in everyday life, and I want to be someone who can help a person and their family heal in their times of need.

“Right now, I’m leaning towards Harvard, because I applied there on early action and I’ve had a chance to kind of engage with the community and get a sense of what the school is all about. But I’m still very much open to the other schools and I want to learn more about them.”