Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Daily Mail Article by Miranda Suit (safermedia co-founder)

On 25th November 2010 an article was published in the Daily Mail written by Miranda Suit, safermedia co-founder.  It is about the effect of internet porn upon children.  Below we have posted the full article:

Who can forget the disturbing story of the two young brothers from Edlington, South Yorkshire, who, in January this year, were jailed indefinitely for an horrific assault on two other boys?  In April 2009, aged just 10 and 11, these unnamed tormentors launched a sustained, 90-minute attack on the terrified youngsters which included stabbing them with broken bottles, glass and sticks. The victims, only nine and 11, were also subjected to humiliating sexual assaults.  The young perpetrators had been allowed free access to their father’s collection of ‘adult’ DVDs. This included not only ultra-violent horror movies, but a wide selection of pornography.

One expert who identified the link between this and the boys’ behaviour was Kevin Browne, Professor of Forensic Child Psychology at Nottingham University.  ‘The chances of these boys committing such an horrendous crime of violent and sexual assault were definitely increased by watching violent and pornographic films at home,’ he said.  These boys were from a family so dysfunctional that it was described as ‘toxic’ by the judge. But it seems even responsible parents can no longer be sure their children are not being exposed to such poten tially harmful material, because a disturbing new survey has revealed that one in three children has been exposed to internet pornography by the age of ten.

At a House of Commons conference earlier this week organised by safermedia, the charity of which I am a director, we heard the results of this survey - which also suggested that four in five teenagers regularly look up indecent images on their computers or mobile phones.  Statistics support the findings. At the Portman Clinic in London, which treats problematic sexual behaviour in all age groups, exposure to internet porn is implicated in 26 per cent of new cases involving young people.  But when we look at the material our youngsters are bombarded with, should we be surprised?

Things have moved on very far from 1999 when, as the mother of four teenage children, I became alarmed by the explicit sex which permeates modern society. With another mother, I set up Safermedia to campaign for stricter controls.  The internet was then in its infancy, and we focused on films, TV programmes and the emerging market in ‘lads’ mags’. I still maintain all of these media can play a significant role in providing ‘gateway porn’, which eases viewers and readers into seeking out more hardcore material.  But how harmless their pictures of breasts and even full-frontal nudity can seem in the wake of the disturbing images peddled in cyber-space today.  Usually involving violence, or extreme physical discomfort for the females involved, these images portray the degrading treatment of women as exciting and acceptable, validating the idea they are not only up for rough sex, but actively seek it.

John Woods, a psychotherapist at the Portman Clinic, told our conference: ‘Youngsters say it must be OK to look at the most violent and perverse imagery “because it’s there, on the Net”, and so it seems permitted by the adult world.’  These images are packaged to give viewers the quickest ‘hit’ possible, and the models appear willing to provide exactly what is required. Imagine the problems when young men weaned on such distorted reality are in relationships with women who find their partner’s sexual requests utterly distasteful because they are predicated on pornography.

Such dangers will not apply to every child. But those who have failed to form a proper attachment to the adults in their lives will be particularly vulnerable.  Young girls may find themselves lured into showing off their bodies on webcams - mistaking the attention paid to them by predatory strangers for the affection and reassurance they are seeking in real life.  Like boys, they will also be subject to unrealistic ideas of what is expected of women. Many girls who are not blonde, skinny and depilated - a pre-requisite for most porn starlets - similarly feel a lack of self-worth which may affect their ability to form proper relationships.

For both sexes, there is evidence that early exposure to pornography can lead to an increased willingness for risky sexual practices. Research at the University of Pennsylvania suggests that one-night stands, sex without condoms, and increased rates of teenage pregnancy are all associated with pornography acting as ‘a teacher, a permission giver and a trigger of negative behaviours’.
Every day 400 new porn sites go live on the Internet, yet only 37 per cent of parents have set up security controls on their children's computer

Neither is it necessary for children to seek pornography out deliberately. Many samples are virtually forced on internet users for free, to lure users into signing up for X-rated websites.
With just a few clicks of the mouse, your children can find themselves on the fringes of a dark and perverted world. And while they may not have the credit card needed to proceed, they will have already seen the introductory material.

So what is to be done? At our conference I was astonished and disappointed to hear the Department for Education plans to commission yet another report into these problems. The Government has already funded two investigations in recent years, one by parenting expert Tanya Byron, the other by clinical psychologist Linda Papadopoulos.  Both suggested the solution lay in more information for parents and teachers, and in helping them stop children from visiting such sites.

Do the Government officials who nod sagely at such advice have any children of their own?  If so, they should know the generation gap is never more obvious than when it comes to new technology.  Many parents are simply not familiar enough with computers to detect when their children have visited such sites. And even if they know how to apply the filters to stop them, these are far from 100 per cent effective. As for simply asking youngsters not to give into temptation - well, teenagers are, understandably, not known for their self-control.

The only answer is restricting access to such material. Some 95 per cent of pornographic content viewed in this country comes from servers operated by British-based companies, including BT Internet and Virgin. They and the big search engines must be persuaded that pornography should only be available to those adult users who request it.  They will argue this is technically impossible. But I would remind them of the scandal in 2006 when Google agreed to censor certain search results in China for political reasons.  If the big internet companies can apply blocks to protect their commercial interests, then why can’t our Government act in a similar way to protect our children?

Read more:

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Safermedia in the Daily Mail

Yesterday, on Monday 22nd November, Safermedia held a parliamentary Conference on the Effects of Pornography.  It was a real success, with great speakers that included: Pamela Paul, US author of ‘Pornified’; Nola Leach, CEO of UK charity CARE and Psychotherapist, John Woods, from London’s Portman Clinic. 

Over the next couple of weeks we intend to provide you with the highlights, and keep you updated about any developments.  The first thing to report is that the Daily Mail has published an article which includes coverage of the conference and comments from safermedia's co-founder, Miranda Suit.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Sexualisation of Children

Dr. Linda Papadopolous

On 22 November, Safermedia's Conference takes place on 'The Harm that Pornography Does.'  This has partly arisen out of research, done for the Home Office in February this year, in response to growing concern in the UK about how the media is contributing to the increased sexualisation of our children.

The Home Office Report, 'Sexualisation of Young People Review', was carried out by London Metropolitan University psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, who argues that the growing prevalence of sexualised images in magazines, television, mobile phones and computer games is having a damaging effect on children and young people.  Thirty six recommendations were made in the report, which included the suggestions that:

- Broadcasters should not be allowed to air music videos that feature sexual posing or sexually suggestive lyrics before the 9pm watershed.
- Local authorities should vet public billboard advertising to ensure images and messages are not offensive on gender grounds.
- Lads' Mags should be confined to newsagents' top shelves and only sold to over-15s, as well as a ratings system on magazine and advertising photographs showing the extent to which they have been airbrushed or digitally altered.
- Jobcentres should be banned from advertising vacancies at escort agencies, lapdancing clubs and massage parlours, curbing the "increasing pornification" and the "mainstreaming of the sex industry",

The then home secretary welcomed the report, saying government was already committed to some of its recommendations: "Changing attitudes will take time but it is essential if we are going to stop the sexualisation which contributes to violence against women and girls."

Watch the news clip below for more from Dr. Papadopolous:

Saturday, 23 October 2010

New study shows watching violent media DOES make boys more aggressive

Boy plays a war video game in a games centre

Watching violent video games, films and TV shows really can make children more aggressive, scientists believe.  And the more violent the scenes and the longer they last, the more normal the behaviour seems.  In the most comprehensive study to date looking at the link between on screen and real life violence, scientists got a group of boys aged 14 to 17 to watch a series of video clips while using scans to study their brain activity.  The results were striking...

The longer the youths watched the brutality, which included football hooliganism and street brawls, the less their brains lit up. 'Sweat tests' showed that they also became less excited by the action over time.  However, videos with little or no violence held the boys' attention - suggesting the lack of interest in the violent films was not due to boredom but to their minds becoming desensitised, or numb, to the action.  

Study leader Dr Jordan Grafman, of the National Institutes of Health at Bethesda, Maryland, said: 

'It is especially important to understand this because adolescence is a time when the brain is changing and developing, particularly in the parts of the brain that control emotions, emotional behaviour and responses to external events.  Most people can distinguish between playing a video game and real live behaviour, but given the right circumstances where the rules are a bit more ambiguous (what if a bully provokes me) and provocative (someone is trying to take my lunch money), would an adolescent tend to be more aggressive and accept that aggression as normal behaviour given prior exposure to video games?  I think so. Particularly if they are a heavy user of games and, in our device-driven world, that will be more and more likely in the future.'

Writing in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, they concluded: 'We propose that exposure to aggressive media results in a blunting of emotional responses, which in turn may prevent the connection of consequences of aggression with an appropriate emotional response, and therefore may increase the likelihood that aggression is seen as acceptable behaviour.'

Read more:

Safermedia Receives Charity Status

We are pleased to announce that safermedia has now officially received a registered charitable status, a number(1138360) and a page on the Charity Commission website. 

Check out our page below:

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Is violent media partly to blame for knife crime?

'The Dark Knight' (12A) - a film which caused controversy by its depiction of knives

At 6pm on 26th March 2010, during rush hour at Victoria Station in Central London, a gang of ten youths in school uniforms chased a fifteen year old boy in to the ticket hall and stabbed him to death. This was another shocking reminder of the knife crime that’s become increasingly prevalent amongst young people, and the desperate need for answers to this growing problem.  Of course variables such as social deprivation, the availability of weapons and family breakdown are all factors which are thought to have played a large part in contributing to the rise in knife crime amongst young people. However, there is also the suggestion that young people's consumption of violent media could be a contributory factor.

In 2008-2009 the government put together a report on Knife Crime which consulted professionals and practitioners from different fields to root out the causes for this dangerous trend. Safermedia was involved in pointing them towards evidence for the effects of violent media upon young people. Namely, to the research of Professor Kevin Browne - a child and forensic psychologist whose findings are cited in this report.  Below we have highlighted three of his key insights based on extensive research:

1. Media violence contributes around 10% towards any person's predisposition to be violent. It is not the only or the most powerful influence on individuals prone to violence, but a contributory factor. He argues that we could reduce violence by 10% by being more responsible in the way that we portray violence in the media.

2. The scientific lobby is very clear that media violence has short term effects upon children and adolescents.

3. Direct links have been proven between watching violent films and video games and using weapons, especially for those young people who come from a violent family background/environment.

For the full government report see:

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Kids, Keep off the Grass

Since the advent of mass media there have been ongoing concerns about the potentially harmful effects of the media on society. In response to concerns, we have introduced age restrictions on video games and films; established a watershed on terresterial television and encouraged parents to patrol TV sets across the country ready to press the 'Off Switch'.

But is this really enough?

We have all heard primary school aged children talking about watching 18 rated films; we all know of children, some our own, who watch their TVs late in to the night unmonitored; we have all seen adolescent boys ogling pornography on their mobile phones. So, the controls evidently aren't working.

But do we particularly care?

If we're honest many of us doubt whether the media is a genuine threat to our children; so rather than establishing real measures to protect them we have resigned ourselves to setting up the equivalent of 'Keep off the Grass' signs adjacent to a children's playground. Perhaps our response is due to the fact that to many of us, the effect of the media is still open to debate. Perhaps, many of us really do doubt how dangerous the media is, and are thus unpertubed when the weak walls we put in place are breached. When we hear that a young man incessantly played a gruesome videogame and committed a copycat murder, we assume he would have done it anyway. When we hear about a sex attacker's addiction to pornography we assume that his own mind would have been enough motivation for his heinous crimes, pornograpy or no pornography.

Thus far, our debate about the media has been based upon subjective reasoning, and has been based upon people's different moral preferences and personal tastes. But, what if we could move this debate from the realm of the philosophers, theologians and social commentators to the realm of the social scientist and psychologist? What if they could provide us with objective, evidence based arguments for or against the media's effects and we could put a name and a face to the media threat and respond with appropriate measures.

As safermedia, one of our aims is to bring to your attention current research concerning the effect of the media on our society. It is our hope that as a society we will come afresh to this debate and simply look at the evidence. It is our plan to take the debate over the media from the arena of subjectivity to objectivity, where armed with information society can respond decisively.  As an introduction, over the next four months we will be sharing with you exciting new research about the effects of the media.  As well as this we will be keeping you up to date with media-related stories in the news and upcoming safermedia events.

Please take time to read, absorb and comment.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Derrick Bird inspired by Seagal?

The debate over the effect of violent films revived after reports emerged that Derrick Bird watched the grisly Steven Seagal film On Deadly Ground hours before embarking on his shooting rampage in which he killed 12 other people and injured 11.

The 1994 film, which Seagal directed and starred in, centres on an environmentalist oil rig worker who, aggrieved after he learns faulty equipment is damaging Alaskan wildlife, goes on a murderous rampage against his co-workers and employees. The film, banned at the time, but now something of a cult favourite, involved multiple scenes of graphic violence involving a range of firearms.

Bird is said to have watched the film at his friend Neil Jacques's house, leaving in the early hours of Wednesday morning after the film ended. The following morning, he drove round Cumbria shooting, before taking his own life.

For the full report click on this link to the Guardian Newspaper's website: