Monday 24 July 2017

Avalanche of porn corrupting young people, warns Taoiseach

Kenny speaks at the launch of a new Freephone number for victims of crime and traumatic incidents: Tel: 1800 277 477 Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Kenny speaks at the launch of a new Freephone number for victims of crime and traumatic incidents: Tel: 1800 277 477 Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said Ireland must have a conversation about the "corrupting" effects an avalanche of pornography is having on young people.

The Fine Gael leader said that as children begin to spend more and more time online, society needed to address the issue of a flood of adult content within easy reach on the internet.

"What used to be termed the 'lads' magazines' have now grown to be replaced with pornography that is as ubiquitous as it is damaging," he said.

"Our young people growing up imagining that what they see on the screen might be normal sexual behaviour. There has to be a discussion about this in terms of families and children and the kind of society that is evolving.

"There is clearly an issue there that needs to be addressed and [it] is very hard to address it given the range and the velocity of the avalanche of communications of all descriptions that are coming at young people now and that for older generations who just can't reach into those spheres where young minds are being, in some cases, corrupted and tainted, by an avalanche of this kind of material.

"If you like, this matter is part of our agenda for a better and for a caring Ireland, where you can be as comfortable as you can that your children are getting a chance to be able to deal with this when they come across these things, as inevitably they will."

Mr Kenny stressed that it was also important to educate children about privacy and boundaries.

He made reference to the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015, which is moving through the Oireachtas.

The bill will protect children from grooming by predators online and addresses the viewing of child pornography online.

Professor Brian O'Neill, an expert in child safety online, welcomed the Taoiseach's comments and said that while significant work was under way to make children safer online, the ease of access to inappropriate material, including pornography, needed to be elevated on the list of priorities.

"The UK have signalled very clearly that they are addressing this area with things such as age verification on sites with adult content," he told the Irish Independent.

"I don't think we have given that the same level of attention over here."

The long-term effects of the wide availability of pornography online were "unknown and unquantifiable", the DIT lecturer said, but a multi-faceted approach, including parental guidance and education, was needed.

The Taoiseach made his comments at the launch of the Federation for Victim Assistance's free phone number.

He pledged to examine data protection laws at the behest of the organisation, which says that the legislation prevents gardaí from passing on details of its service to victims of crime, unlike in other countries, where the service is run on an 'opt-in' model.

The service helps people who have been a victim of crime and can be contacted by phoning 1800 277 477. Assistance can be provided nationwide.

Irish Independent

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