Porn, Crime and the Law

Online Predators

Okay, you’ve probably heard enough about this one to last a lifetime. There is a lot of concern in the media and parent groups around the issue of online predators. On porn sites especially there are all kinds of opportunities to chat with strangers, and although this can seem fun and exciting, it is generally not a good idea to give out any information about yourself online. Although only 4% of youth report being approached to meet offline (Wolak et. al, 2006), as we saw with the recent tragedy of Amanda Todd’s online bullying and suicide, even just giving out information or images to strangers online can have devastating consequences.

Some studies have shown that teens who are depressed or who have low-self esteem are more likely to “engage in risky Internet behaviours” — after all, online strangers can seem so much more understanding than your own family and friends. If you suspect anything fishy or are feeling pressured to disclose personal information or images, talk to someone — parents, friends, teacher or even your local police.

Pornography and the Law

Not all porn that is produced is legal. Any pornography that is non-consensual, or that depicts underage people is illegal, and you can be fined, or even go to prison for producing, viewing, downloading or passing it along. And that’s where things can get a bit tricky. Because if you are under 18 and you make a photo or video of yourself or your partner, you are breaking the law — you are now a child pornographer. But since, according to a 2012 study by Jonathan A. Paul, an estimated 30% of teens have sexted at some point in time, it’s unlikely that we’re going to throw you all in prison. Pornography laws are going to have to get with the times.

What’s more problematic than the fact that you’re breaking the law by sexting, is the fact that one picture or video, taken for fun or to flirt or whatever, can cause a lifetime of pain. Because digital images can be passed around and around and around, copied and printed and posted everywhere the eye can see. Unfortunately, a nipple flashed today can be resurrected five years from now. And unfortunately, there’s no real solution to the sexting problem, other than “don’t do it.” Or at the very least, wait until you are in a committed relationship with someone you trust — although even this is no guarantee that those pics will stay hidden forever.

Again, there is no remedy to cruel behaviour beyond teaching empathy and respect to people at a young age. We should all be free to express ourselves sexually without fear of humiliation or aggression, and until we create a world where that is a possibility, the problems of teens and porn will simply mirror the problems of society as a whole.

Getting Help

If any of the issues or problems discussed above apply to you — if you feel trapped in a cycle of consuming pornography, if you feel distressed about anything you’ve seen or are just generally feeling angry or depressed overall, the worst thing you can do is isolate yourself further. Speak to someone now — either a parent, a teacher, or a counselor. The people at Kids Help Phone in Canada are available 24/7 and will gladly provide a kind ear and some advice.

Paul, Jonathan A. “Teen Sexting and Its Association With Sexual BehaviorsTeen Sexting and Sexual Behaviors”.Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 2012

Wolak, J., Mitchell, K.J., & Finkelhor, D. Online victimization: 5 years later. Alexandria, VA: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

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