Friday, 14 February 2014

Growing up with porn

Having a baby girl is pretty scary.

Her health and happiness is my responsibility, and that's terrifying, but I fear for her future - for all the pain, discomfort and hurt that she will have to face, because that's what living is about.

Apparently these day children get their ideas about relationships and sex from the internet. I expect I'm not alone in finding it a chilling prospect for my child's future.

I'm from the pre-internet generation. Pornography was available from top-shelf magazines and videotapes. Nice girls like me were unlikely to ever come into contact with it.

The internet

But now it's different. Now we have the internet. Now even the nice girls are bound to come across naughty things.

Generally I think the internet is great - it's given me a career, a forum to rant to my heart's content, and at the click of a button I can buy shoes that don't fit and look much less classy than they did in the picture. What's not to like?

Also available on the internet is a window onto every sexual proclivity you can possibly imagine, and lots more that you can't. That's great. I'm an adult, and it's nice to know that anytime I want to look at pervy stuff, I can do so from the comfort of my own home. For the record, I'm far too busy ranting and buying ill-fitting footwear for that malarky.

But then I didn't get the internet until I was all grown up. You can bet that if it had come along a bit earlier I'd have indulged in some home education. Anyone who's curious about the world would.

Things they shouldn't see

Today's children, who can work an iPad before they can read, will inevitably get access to a lot of things we'd rather they didn't see.

Parental control filters might help, but I bet our kids will still be able to find things we don't want them to. And if they can't download rude things on their computer at home, they'll go to a mate's house, who has less scrupulous or tech-savvy parents.

A survey by the charity Young Minds said that around half of 15 to 17-year-olds have accessed pornography on a smartphone or tablet.

If you ask me (not that you do), the half who said they haven't done this either don't have access to a smartphone or tablet, were lying, or don't have inquiring minds.

Kids have always done things their parents didn't want them to do - it's all part of growing up, and that's fine. What's scary is that today's children will have a window onto a world that wasn't available to previous generations, and they will model themselves on this strange, twisted internet world.

Women and the internet

What will my child conclude about the role of women from the internet? She's unlikely to be exposed to anything as mundane as a normal, loving relationship.

The concern is that watching porn will make children think that they have to behave in the ways they see depicted, which might be more extreme than most relationships. It might make them think they should do things they don't feel comfortable doing, and provide ammunition for their peers to pressurise them into doing these things.

Of course, both girls and boys are vulnerable to these pressures, but women and girls tend to be more vulnerable, both for their generally inferior strength, and their propensity to become pregnant.

The world today's baby girls are born into is a more liberated and equal place than it was at any time in the past, and that is wonderful for them. But it also brings with it a whole new set of obstacles which they will have to navigate, and I don't envy them for that.