You probably don’t need to attend a conference to know that society is becoming more and more sex-obsessed, with the content of prime-time television shows now saturated and dripping with innuendo and blatant jokes that trivialize what used to be considered private and, to many people, sacred.
But these are the more benign forms of a huge problem – the fringes poking through the mainstream culture. What’s hidden below the surface is far worse and far more prevalent than many people believe. You don’t have to dig hard to find it. Often, you don’t have to dig at all. It will reach up and confront you or, more likely, your children.
The Utah Coalition Against Pornography s held a conference Saturday at the South Towne Expo Center on how to protect children and families from pornography and other harmful materials.
How bad is the problem? Not only is pornography a $100 billion a year industry, it is reaching a young and vulnerable audience with minds that are just beginning to develop notions about love, respect and the proper way to treat someone of the opposite sex. Recent surveys show that about 93 percent of American teenagers have access to the Internet. The Web site www.enough.org reports that surveys have found 42 percent of kids ages 10 to 17 have viewed pornography on the Internet during the past year, and that 66 percent of these occurrences were unwanted experiences. Often, these come from simple searches for items related to school projects or while doing other innocent research. Sometimes they come in the form of unsolicited e-mails.
More frightening than that, in one study 48 percent of kids in kindergarten and first grade said they had seen things on the Internet that made them uncomfortable. Filtering programs are not 100 percent successful in blocking such material.
Among older children, a growing practice of sending nude or semi-nude photos either of themselves or others via a cell phone – a practice known as “sexting” – has led to huge problems, including suicides.
The experts say such exposure at an early age can lead to a host of problems. Among other things, kids are conditioned to minimize the need for true affection and to believe that marriage and family life are unattractive and unfulfilling. They risk developing habits or addictive behaviors that are destructive, and they often are exposed to incorrect information that skews their view of the world.
And the problem, although barely hidden beneath the surface, is all around you. It doesn’t limit itself to children and teenagers. Many adults are drawn in, as well.
Through the years, Utah’s leaders have tried various ways to help people cope with the problem and to bring justice to perpetrators. The state even set up an office dedicated solely to the issue. Unfortunately, skeptics labeled it the “porn czar” and pressured the state to disband it.
But help is still available.
- Deseret News, Salt Lake City