Earlier this month, I appeared on national TV and radio and in the papers talking about the issue of the premature and commercial sexualisation of children and the damaging mixed messages many young children are exposed to from the celebrities they look up to.
Hand in hand with the growth of celebrity culture and the effect this has had on children goes the rampant growth of unregulated pornography on the internet which thousands of children seem to have viewed at younger and younger ages.
I was therefore horrified but sadly not surprised to see several reports in this week’s press on the rise of child on child sexual assaults. One of these reports was as a result of a court case in which a young boy was charged with raping his younger sister over a period of time. The court heard that the boy had regularly viewed hardcore pornography, apparently on a computer at his school, which had led to his behaviour.
Another report by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England, which followed a detailed two year inquiry, suggested there was a ‘deep malaise’ within a society within which young children were sexually attacking other children.
It suggested that while the fact that paedophiles prey on young children is widely recognised by society, the idea of children abusing each other – through gangs or groups – is rarely acknowledged.
But the report found that the problem is prevalent in every area of England and not just restricted to deprived, inner city neighbourhoods. In some cases, the victims are as young as 11 years old, while the perpetrators can be just 12 or 13.
Deputy Children’s Commissioner Sue Berelowitz said the attitudes behind the behaviour were clearly ‘highly misogynistic, with words used to describe girls which are very, very derogatory’. She added: ‘There is a lot of humiliation that takes place and we know from a report we published in May of this year on the impact on children and young people of viewing adult pornographic materials, that pretty much 100% of boys are looking at these materials including extreme and violent images.
‘We also know from the international literature that has been scanned for our report that these materials affect how children and young people view sex, sexuality and their expectations of the sort of things that they should be doing.’
This is the crux of the matter. A recent C4 documentary by former Loaded editor Martin Daubney also backed the report’s findings. Martin, who admits that his whole attitude has changed since he has had his own family, warned in the documentary that such pornographic material was freely available and being passed from smartphone to smartphone in playgrounds up and down the UK as soon as children hit secondary school.
Google recently announced it would be doing more to block searches for child porn through its search engines, a move long overdue, but more action is needed to block children from seeing hardcore pornography routinely or at all. This tide of images threatens to engulf our young people unless more curbs are urgently brought in to stem it.
As we have seen this week, it is too late for many young people whose brains have been overwhelmed and disturbed by what they have seen. Let us move now to protect others before it is too late.