What is Child Pornography and How to Protect Kids

Our modern world has a lot of new and exciting technology for us and our families. Unfortunately, not all of these innovations are to our benefit. Selfies for example, while a great form of self expression, are usually taken with a smartphone and can be shared to dangerous applications or untrustworthy people. Kids and teens love to take selfies, and though most of those pictures are innocent, your child may be peer-pressured or bullied into taking selfies that include nudity or other sexually explicit material. So how do we keep our kids safe from pornography? Let’s take a closer look at these issues. 

What is Child Pornography?

Protecting our children from sexually explicit content is critical to keeping them safe as they grow and develop. This includes protecting our children from being exposed to, participating in, and sharing child pornography. But what does child pornography include? The definition of child pornography, as defined under federal law, is any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor. These depictions can be pictures, videos, or other digital images.

Under federal law (18 U.S.C 2252), it’s illegal to produce, distribute, receive, or possess any child pornography. It’s also illegal to knowingly search for and view child pornography.

Federal law (18 U.S.C. 2251) also protects minors from the production of child pornography. If anyone attempts to persuade, entice, or force a minor to engage in sexual acts to make a video, picture, or other image is guilty of sexual exploitation. 

Child Pornography and Selfies: You Should Know About This!

Kids and teens might think they have a right to take nude or other sexually explicit photos and videos of themselves since it’s their own body, but even the act of possessing that content (let alone sharing it) is in violation of child pornography laws. And if a minor shares a sext with another minor, both could be prosecuted for possession and distribution of child pornography.  As parents, we may be aware of emotional ramifications of sexting (sending and receiving nude or sexually explicit photos), but are we aware of the legal ones? Our legal system has to answer questions like “why is child pornography illegal?” and “what constitutes child pornography?” In order to protect our kids, child pornography is illegal under federal law. 

What is the Impact of Child Pornography on Kids?

When we look at the impact of child pornography on children, we are looking at the impact of sexual abuse. There are short-term and long-term effects with both internal and external changes in the behavior or mental health of a child who has been forced to participate in child pornography. These effects can sometimes be hard to spot.

Here are some of the signs to be aware of.

Short-term

  • Change in eating habits
  • Mood or personality changes
  • Excessive knowledge of sexual topics
  • Avoids physical contact with others
  • Trouble sleeping or frequent nightmares
  • Hesitancy to be left alone with certain individual or to be away from their primary caregiver

Long-term

  • Depression
  • PTSD
  • Eating disorders
  • Increased risk of self-harm
  • Increased risk of suicide
  • Relationship problems

What if a Child Has Been Abused?

If the worst has happened, we need to make sure our kids are safe and do what we can to help. When reporting sexual abuse, such as child pornography, some of the steps are similar to when reporting sexual violence for adults. If you think your child is in current danger, call the police and report the crime. 

Here are some of the basics of what to do if your child informs you of sexual abuse

  • Remain calm and ask follow up questions as you protect them. 
  • After the case, visit a doctor and let them know you wish to report a crime. They will help you with what to do next. 
  • Connect with an expert through a local Children’s Advocacy Centers. 
  • Contact a mental health professional who can help you and your child work through the emotional and mental repercussions of abuse. 
  • Reassure your child that they are loved and you will keep them safe.

How Do We Keep Our Kids Safe?

The dangers of viewing pornography are many, and while we can do things to prevent kids from seeing pornography, such as limiting internet access or teaching responsible online habits, we also need to keep them safe from themselves. We need to educate them about the dangers of child pornography. Teach your children the definition of child pornography, what constitutes child pornography, and why they should never take or share sexually explicit pictures or videos of themselves. 

Another danger that may blindside us is grooming. Predators, who may even be people we know, will manipulate children, build trust, and then exploit that trust, both on and offline. They will often also ask for nudes or describe explicit acts in detail. Educate yourself on grooming tactics and make sure to monitor the online interactions your children have.

One of the scariest dangers is kidnapping. While these are most frequently perpetrated by family members or acquaintances, there is still a chance that the worst could happen. For information from experts on how to stay safe from kidnapping, read more here. Troomi also wants to help keep kids safe. Their smartphones have a GPS locating service which lets you see where your child is in real time and make sure they are where they are supposed to be, even when they aren’t with you. The phones are also designed to only allow contacts that you approve to reach your child through their device, keeping them safe from predators or bullies.

What Programs are in Place to Keep Kids Safe?

There are dozens of programs set up by international governments to protect children. These include, but aren’t limited to: Innocent Images National Initiative, National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program, Global Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Online, and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

These programs work to prevent five of the main areas of child exploitation: child pornography, sextoration and livestreaming of child sexual abuse, child sex trafficking, child sex tourism, and sex offender registry violations.

A few of these programs have also banded together with the Child Rescue Coalition to change the terminology we use when talking about child pornography. The Child Rescue Coalition considers it more appropriate to call child pornography child sexual abuse material

While this doesn’t change the definition of child pornography, it does put it into the right context. This world has some very damaging, dangerous things for our children, including child pornography. By educating ourselves on these serious topics, we can also educate our kids and keep them safe. Troomi takes children’s safety seriously. We have designed our smartphones to not only help parents ensure their children’s safety but to also help children learn how to keep themselves safe while using technology.

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