Did you know that online pornography isn’t bad for our children? Heck no, according to a report released by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) exposure to pornography even makes some children feel happy feelings.
What could be wrong with that? We want our children to be happy, right?
The report, “Digital Age Assurance Tools and Children’s Rights Online across the Globe,” discussed the technical, legal, cultural, and policy uses of online age verification tools on internet sites involved with pornography, gaming, and social media.
Ultimately, the report concluded that online age verification tools warranted further study and development. As they are now, the age verification tools are ineffective at best and they may intrinsically violate the rights of children at worst. That’s pretty non-disturbing, right?
The disturbing part was hidden in the conclusion of the section on pornography that asked, “What is the evidence of risk and harm?” That section took it one step further by suggesting that there may not actually be any harm:
The 2020 EU Kids Online study compared survey findings from 19 European countries and found that in most countries, most children who saw sexual images online were neither upset nor happy (ranging from 27 per cent in Switzerland to 72 per cent in Lithuania); between 10 per cent and 4 per cent were fairly or very upset; and between 3 per cent of children (in Estonia) and 39 per cent (in Spain) reported feeling happy after seeing such images.
Some children were ‘not upset?’ Some children were ‘feeling happy?’ Really, that’s their evidence of risk and harm? It’s not like we have loads of proof pornography harms both adults and children through violence, child sex-trafficking, and sex abuse.
Mysteriously, the UNICEF report was removed from its website soon after being included in a post from the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam). C-Fam is a UN watchdog and research institute with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.
Just as mysteriously, a newly edited version of the report appeared. Gone was some of the problematic information cited by C-Fam, but most of the conclusions of the original report remained.
Later, C-Fam reached out to UNICEF for comment after the report was removed from its site:
UNICEF spokesperson Najwa Mekki told the Friday Fax, “UNICEF’s position is unequivocal: No child should be exposed to harmful content online.” But Mekki would not comment on whether UNICEF believes pornography is harmful to children.
UNICEF also declined to comment on the circumstances which led to the removal of the report from its website.
Meanwhile, 487 child safety experts and advocates from across the world wrote a letter to UNICEF to dispute the report’s claim that “there is currently no universal agreement on the nature and extent of the harm caused to children by viewing material classified as pornography.”
We thank you that edits appear to have been made to this document to correct these claims. Though the edits still fall short of recognizing the vast body of research demonstrating the harms of pornography to children, and therefore lay a faulty foundation for future potential policies that could put children at psychological and social developmental risk due to pornography exposure.
Isn’t it common knowledge that exposing our children to pornography’s harms, such as grooming by sexual predators or exposure to sexually explicit content, is a bad thing? Apparently not. C-Fam found:
The UNICEF report admits that some research demonstrates that access to pornography at a young age is linked with certain “negative outcomes” but that “evidence suggests that children’s exposure to a certain degree of risk…helps them to build resilience.”
As of this publishing, even the edited version of the report has been removed from the UNICEF website.