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The Sext Files: Christian lobby wants tougher laws to protect children

Sexting is part of a damaging wave of sexualisation affecting young children — and an internet filter and tougher codes of conduct would help address the problem, the Australian Christian Lobby says. Swinburne University students Karlee Ventre and Darren Doukas look at the ACL’s concerns.

Many young people think sexting is acceptable because they are surrounded by pornography every day, says the Australian Christian Lobby.

The Victorian director of the ACL, Daniel Flynn, told Crikey: “Young people are in an environment where they are bombarded with pornography on television, outdoor advertising and in movies. So the sending of a sexualised image doesn’t seem like an inappropriate thing to do. What makes a difference now, is that these images can be circulated at the speed of light, and the breadth of distribution is what makes them most damaging.”

Crikey and journalism students from Swinburne University have teamed up to look through the 60 submissions to the Victorian Law Reform Committee’s current inquiry into sexting (the practice of taking explicit images and sending them electronically, with or without consent).

In its submission to the inquiry, the ACL said increasing sexualisation occurred despite clear guidelines for television, film, radio and print content.

Even our music clips are very pornographic. Apathy is also a factor. Things that we would certainly consider as pornography are in sight when young kids are lining up to get a slurpee at 7-Eleven. Our own apathy, is that we are doing nothing about it. We need to send a message to our young people that they don’t have to be sexualised to be accepted, to be liked or approved in their peer group,” Flynn said.

One young woman, Grace Condidorio, 18,of Cobram in northern Victoria, agrees. She told Crikey she had witnessed a few of her friends being embarrassed by private messages having been released on Facebook. “Everyone wants to be like what they see on TV,” Condidorio said. “Sexting makes kids feel like they are sexy and in control just like people they see in movies.”

The ACL submission refers to an incident in Cincinnati, Ohio, where a young girl, Jessica Logan, committed suicide after a naked photo of her was circulated at her high school. ”It’s a tragic case,” Flynn said. “There was a lot of bullying associated with that, a lot of name calling … she used to hide in the toilets.”

He said a similar case had happened in South Australia. ”There was a boy who wanted to have a sexual relationship with a girl when she wanted to break up. He used an image of her, as manipulation to achieve his end.”

Flynn said an internet filter would be a step in the right direction, due to the increasing availability of pornography. “The ACL has repeatedly requested the federal government to put a mandatory internet filter on to block refused classification material. It was a promise going into this last election but that promise hasn’t been implemented.”

The lobby group also recommended that schools implement a code of conduct to educate young people on the dangers of sexting.

There should be surveillance of phones at school to the extent that they’re brought to the attention of the school authorities and enforcement in schools leading to reporting to the police as appropriate. Headmasters have to be involved, there should be a lot of education, we should be engaging the kids in classrooms. There have not been a lot of cases but I’m sure the community wants to protect children,” Mr Flynn said.

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  • 1
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Wednesday, 10 October 2012 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    Christians” want to protect children?
    Have not been very good at it so far; have they read their Saviour’s instructions on the use of millstones?

  • 2
    Matt Hardin
    Posted Thursday, 11 October 2012 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Did anyone ask them how an internet filter would stop people sending pictures via mobile phones or Facebbok? Or how an internet filter would clean up 7-11 stores or music videos?

    The increasing sexualisation of society, and children in particular, is deplorable but I pretty sure that censoring the internet is not a solution.

  • 3
    Dorothy Long
    Posted Thursday, 11 October 2012 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Over exposure of sexual material everywhere you turn, means there has to be an acceptance of it? People are of greater value than that and we shouldn’t be afraid to say so, or act to eradicate it. A very good article and the more that support it, the better for society.

  • 4
    Matt Hardin
    Posted Thursday, 11 October 2012 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    @ Dorothy Long

    Over exposure of sexual material everywhere you turn, means there has to be an acceptance of it?

    Who said that? I doubt that you would find many people agreeing with that statement.

    People are of greater value than that and we shouldn’t be afraid to say so, or act to eradicate it.

    True but could you tell me how censoring the internet will stop people sending pictures via mobile phones or Facebbok or clean up 7-11 stores or music videos?

  • 5
    James Ferguson
    Posted Thursday, 11 October 2012 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    I think that Mr Flynn is right on target about the extremely high volume of sexualised imagery that young people are exposed to on a daily basis. This article barely touches the surface. Consider not only music videos and advertising, but also comic books, anime, and video games that present hypersexualised images of women to boys and young men; celebrity sex videos seen as a way to fame and wealth, streetwear featuring porn images of women, the manner in which ‘sports entertainment’ presents women, sex stores and brothels publicly advertising their goods and services. And this is not even to mention internet pornography. The tragic examples of the effects of sexting that Mr Flynn mentions are very sad. I’m not sure that internet censorship would be effective in reducing the amount of sexual imagery young people are exposed to in the Digital Age, but I think that it is an option that should certainly be explored by the Victorian Law Reform Committee’s inquiry. Mr Flynn obviously cares about the issue of the highly sexualised nature of Digital Age culture and its sad effects on people - especially young people. I wish that more people cared about this issue and were willing to do something about it, instead of just making negative comments online. I applaud Crikey and the authors of this article for seriously looking at this issue.

  • 6
    Adam Ch'ng
    Posted Friday, 12 October 2012 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    And now we’re beginning to witness the fruit of the sexual revolution, where the goodness and beauty of sex have been twisted and perverted for the selfish gratification of personal lusts.

    Sure, some may celebrate our children’s freedom to explore their ‘sexual identities’. But what was once characterised as ‘liberation’ is now nothing short of captivity and bondage. Young children are increasingly incapable of defining themselves outside of a hypersexualised identity.

    No single policy can stem what seems like an unstoppable tide. However, the ACL’s submission makes an overwhelmingly positive start by recognising that we bear a collective responsibility. Of course, an internet filter is not a silver bullet but it’s a part of a broader commitment from government, business, schools and families to protect our children.

    I’m a firm believer that governments alone don’t have all the answers. But with accusations of misogyny and sexism tearing our Parliament apart, there is no better time than this for a House united to lead the charge against those who would wield sex as a sword, not for the government’s sake, nor even our sake but for kids’ sake.

  • 7
    Sally Keller
    Posted Friday, 12 October 2012 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Just last night I saw by accident the most vile of things on channel 7, I was cleaning my camera equipment and the TV was playing in the background and there at 10pm which is a modest time of which even my 13yo niece is still awake was B grade celeb Holly Vallance on a English infotainment style program with the host daring guests to drink from a glass in which his ejaculate had fallen into.

    ON FREE TO AIR NOT FAR OUTSIDE OF PRIMETIME !!!!????

    If the sexualisation of children doesn’t concern you in this environment then you need a parenting class. Single moms need HELP not further dilemma to consider.

  • 8
    Matt Hardin
    Posted Friday, 12 October 2012 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    @Sally That’s actually beyond sexuliastion, that is plain disgusting. I hope you complained to the station and to ACMA. Who were the sponsors of the show? They should be made aware of the content and a boycott could be organised. I would support that.

    However, at the age of 13 I was in bed by 9 on a school night. Broadcasters have times when less acceptable material is shown (I am not going to grace the described programme with the term Adult) and expect that parents will be aware of this. Single parents are getting help through this scheduling.

  • 9
    Matt Hardin
    Posted Friday, 12 October 2012 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Above we have two comments

    Of course, an internet filter is not a silver bullet but it’s a part of a broader commitment from government, business, schools and families to protect our children.

    and

    I’m not sure that internet censorship would be effective in reducing the amount of sexual imagery young people are exposed to in the Digital Age

    that advocate only one solution to a society wide problem that both commenters acknowledge would not be effective.

    We have seen in the last fortnight the power or boycott; the power of social media; the power of the people in changing behaviour. Let’s work on that rather than censoring the internet - a scheme that is impossible to implement adequately, allows third parties to control what is OK to read and therefore think and is acknowledged by its advcates as ineffective at addressing the problem.

    I also note that my question of how censoring the internet would prevent sexting and the sexualisation of society remains unanswered.

  • 10
    Sally Keller
    Posted Friday, 12 October 2012 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Its beyond disgusting and part of social norms being eradicated. Not sure how old you are Matt but its not uncommon for kids to be awake at these hours anymore. We are already busy people and should not have to go to the bother of organising boycotts like juveniles, legislation should be well in place to protect children from the obvious.

  • 11
    Chris Handby
    Posted Friday, 12 October 2012 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Great Article. I think the majority of young people do not think 5 or 10 years ahead but live in the moment. They cannot seem to comprehend how a questionable digital image sent via text of Facebook, remains in digital form forever. As parents and teachers we need to educate them so they wont fall victim of “everyone was doing it” an excuse that will fall far short, down the track.

  • 12
    Matt Hardin
    Posted Friday, 12 October 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    @Sally, I am 42 with a primary school aged child. He has a regulated bed time. My wife and I monitor what he views (Youtube and iPads make this tough sometimes) and try to ensure that it is only G rated or PG is we know what the content is.

    As for too busy, we both work full time and still manage to express our opinion to broadcasters and sponsorss when we feel they have crossed the line. It takes about as much time as writing a Crikey comment! Organising a boycott is not juvenile, it is using your power as a consumer to tell companies that enough is enough.

    Legislation is in place. There are bodies that exist for you to complain to. There is a rating ststem that allows you to make an educated guess as to the offensiveness of a broadcast item’s content. There are time slots where these shows can be broadcast. I am not sure what else you want. If you are not happy with the material available on TV then downloading less offensive material is always an option. (I would not want to watch the show you referred to, either)

    Censoring the internet means that some group can tell me what information I can access in my own home at my own request. It means that the ACL or some other lobby group can decide what it is I view in the privacy of my own study. As acknowledged above by Adam and James, it would not fix the overall problem of a creeping sexualisation. It would not fix 7-11s. It would not fix sexting. It would not change music videos. It would not stop Paris Hilton, Brittany Spears et al mistaking promiscuity for power. It would not alter pornography on television, outdoor advertising and in movies. It would not change what you saw on Channel 7. Why is it the proposed solution?

  • 13
    Sally Keller
    Posted Friday, 12 October 2012 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Matt first of all not all of us are part of a two parent household. Legislation must reflect the scope of current threats. Its not endemic of liberal democracies to have to boycott and rally everything they disagree about. Legislation is not adequately in place which is the reason parliament is going through the motions of an inquiry. Remedies from this government consultation will put measures in place to limit the wrong images in the hands of children.

    As discussed I’ve already outlined how unsatisfactory our classification system already is. If your worried about broad censorship in the privacy of your own home this is also something that will be likely observed.

  • 14
    Matt Hardin
    Posted Friday, 12 October 2012 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Its not endemic of liberal democracies to have to boycott and rally everything they disagree about.

    So the government should just legislate against everything you disagree with?

    Have you actually let anyone in a position to do anything about it know about the offensive material on Channel 7?

  • 15
    izatso?
    Posted Saturday, 13 October 2012 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    …. something something reddit ? same same grindr ? Tip. Iceberg. Kinda thing ? Hey never gone there, someone else do it, k?

  • 16
    Stephen
    Posted Saturday, 13 October 2012 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    One thing children need protection from is Christians.

    By definition, Christians target vulnerable children, as that is the most effective way to perpetuate their faith.

    There should be a law protecting children from parental indoctrination in Christianity, or any other religion.

  • 17
    Posted Monday, 15 October 2012 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Damn Stephen, you pipped me on this post. I was going to, and will anyway, make the point that how will the Christians get their jollies if they succeed? Any shrink will tell you one of the prime motivations of these people is the sexual thrill they get out of seeing these images. Immediately they become ashamed of themselves. This causes them to take their shame and anger out on the rest of the human race………all to protect the children, of course, of course

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