digital parenting

My response to the ‘vile pornography ring’

This week there has been more reports of abhorrent behaviours by young people, sharing nude photos of others, commenting, naming them, degrading them and passing judgement in pack mentality like proportions. 71 schools were named and shamed, however don’t look away just because your child’s school wasn’t mentioned.

I have been asked for lots of comments on this, so here is brief summary of what I believe about this issue.

  • Parents do need to pay closer attention to the online lives of their kids. They must get in earlier teaching them the skills and behaviours to ensure they are reflecting their real life values.
  • This is abhorrent behaviour not isolated to these kids and not isolated to these schools.
  • Boys and girls are both sending, receiving, asking for and offering nude photos of themselves.
  • The increased exposure to pornography has played a huge part in determining our children’s views about sexuality, relationships and the expectations of themselves and others.
  • This is not just a gender issue.
  • Some of these photos are certainly taken without consent. But not all.
  • This is a legal minefield. Whilst we have laws for this, they are rarely used and the implications are extraordinary. Who is guilty? The person sending photos, receiving them, the owners of the site, the schools, the parents, the porn industry, society?
  • We must get better at talking to our kids about how they are represented online. By commenting and sharing these posts, they are fuelling the fire. By ‘liking’ a comment or post they are endorsing the behaviour and validating the belief.
  • Hanging out in the online world is hard work. Most adults don’t get it right. Our kids are rarely emotionally or socially developed enough to exist in a world that is so open, transparent and unforgiving. We need to be there to help them.
  • We must however remember that this is not a reflection of all of our young people. Most would not endorse such hideous behaviour.
  • There are many, many young people doing some amazing things online that reflects positivity and healthy connection. We must continue to encourage those things. Just this week I witnessed a whole lot of teenage boys posting selfies and tagging friends to raise awareness of suicide amongst men. Reminding each other that they were there for their mates. That they had their back. Raising awareness and helping each other is what we need them to be proud of.

So what are parents, schools, society to do? 

  • We talk to our kids about this stuff.
  • We ask them their thoughts. Get their feedback. Discuss the implications for all involved
  • We make our lessons relevant to them. We don’t tell a 13 year old that what they are posting could stop them getting a job when they are 20. That means nothing to them. They may be more interested however in missing our on being sports captain or getting the lead in the school play due to an online transgression.
  • We pay close attention to what they are doing online, particularly when they are starting out. We monitor closely so we can pick them up on the mistakes. We alert them to those times when they are not behaving in a way that best reflects who they are and how they want to be seen.
  • We make sure that they are confident enough in themselves and who they are that they don’t feel the need to send a naked photo to ensure they are liked. We build their esteem away from the screens so they don’t rely on likes and comments for their sense of self worth.

There is no quick fix to issues like this that arise, but we must remember to continue to instil in our children the values that we hold dear. We need to ensure that they are being reflected both in the real world and online.

And we need to encourage and congratulate and endorse all the many wonderful things our kids are doing.


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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Amy @ HandbagMafia

    This is absolutely a gender issue, with all due respect. Girls aren’t doing this with boys pics. To ignore that aspect is a big mistake. Rap culture is t a made up term and this embodies it. We all need to be hyper aware.

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Thanks Amy. I do believe strongly this is not solely a gender issue. There are certainly girls out there behaving in abhorrent ways and making vile comments about other girls and boys as well. This happens to both boys and girls (not necessarily in this example but this is not the only example out there). It is not about victim blaming it is about helping both genders see the ramifications of their behaviours. Parents of both genders need to be aware of what is happening because our kids are being exposed to a world that they are neither socially or emotionally ready for and it is costing them dearly.

  2. Kimba Likes

    I’m equally horrified by this extreme example of rape culture in action.

    I’m working really hard to raise a boy who doesn’t treat the girls in his life like this, and who stands up to his mates who do.

    However, I’d like to know why you think this isn’t a gender issue?

    Girls are being targeted. Girls are being vilified and degraded. Girls are having their photos stolen. Girls are having their photos shared without consent.

    I don’t see this happening to boys. I do however hear this behaviour being excused with boys will be boys type statements. I also hear victim blaming statements about nasty girls sharing nudes to start with.

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Absolutely we should all be working hard to raise boys who dont treat girls this way and that is why I repeatedly ask parents to discuss these issues with their sons and talk about the ramifications of these behaviours. But boys are not alone when it comes to vilifying others online and commenting on bodies, and looks and appearance. And I think we need to insist that this behaviour is not accepted from either gender.

  3. Bronnie - Maid In Australia

    Good points, but I think the key thing is starting really early in their lives with the education (keeping it age-relevant) and continuing as you mean to go on.And with respect, the job thing is relevant. As is the ability to travel overseas. My teens want to be a Medical Examiner (son) and interpreter/air hostess/language teacher (daughter) respectively, and neither of them want to do anything to jeopardise that. I remind them of that all the time, not just re social media but re other behaviour. they both want part time jobs ASAP (son already old enough and is looking) and wants his blemish-free resume to stay that way. Every kid is different. The access to pornography and the whole culture towards treating girls and women as things to be abused is frightening and I do think it’s time that offenders are held to account in some way. Certainly, this should already be happening in schools. Every school my kids have attended has a social media policy (which includes the banning of taking photos without consent and posting online (even photos taken with consent)), plus harrassment online, including out of school hours). The student must read that with the parent and sign it. It is explained to them by a senior member of staff if they don’t understand it. This has been going on since primary school. The result is instant suspension if they break the policy and if it continues, the offender is expelled.

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Thanks Bronnie. Absolutely the job thing is relevant, but in my experience telling that to a 13 year old often means very little to them. The brain development of kids this age suggests that looking too far ahead becomes redundant when making choices in the now. Its great to see your school has been very proactive in dealing with these issues, and like everything some obviously do it much better than others. I too find the access to porn and the culture it creates very worrisome.

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