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Conference on the dangers of children exposure to sexually explicit content

On Tuesday, 8 November 2022, the European Parliament, in Brussels, hosted a conference on the dangers of children exposure to online sexually explicit content. The conference aimed to spread awareness about the detrimental effects of pornography on children's moral and intellectual growth, and to promote practical methods of preventing children from accessing it online. The conference, organized by FAFCE, asked the MEPs to improve the legislation on this matter.

The conference started with the intervention of François-Xavier Bellamy, member of the European Parliament, who stressed the immediate importance of taking measures for protecting children against the emotional and mental dangers posed by the explosion of pornographic content on the Internet. This initiative is all the more necessary as the current revision of the Audio Visual Media Services Initiative by the European Parliament actually weakens the protection of children from harmful content.

The conference gathered NGOs representatives, psychologists and researchers, who were invited to share their personal insights and proposals for improving the protection of children, a stricter regulation of sexually explicit online content and a greater understanding of the danger of porn exposure and addiction.

Fergal Rooney, a psychologist from the Saint John of God Hospital, in Dublin (Ireland), has described online pornography as a phenomenon that is growing at a very fast pace and is characterized by a pervasiveness that cannot be ignored anymore. Maria Hernández-Mora, also a psychologist, working for the Psychology and Health Processes Laboratory, in Paris, argued that the phenomenon can be aptly described as the “pollution of the young brain”. The real and traumatic nature of the images and actions disturb the teenagers, who go back to pornography in order to understand it. The addiction is, in other words, a “mind rape”, because it creates deep emotional associations between pleasure and sexual violence and is the greatest factor in developing later addictions. 25% of internet traffic is porn and it is estimated that 40 to 70 % of children have been exposed, involuntary or accidentally, to pornographic content. The young children exposed systematically to content of such nature face great problems during their maturity in creating relationships based on intimacy, respect, trust, affection and mutual consent.

Joseph Pesme, from the We are Lovers NGO, stressed that the porn industry is a source of great inequality, trafficking, psychological manipulation, and abuse, especially for the women involved. He proposed facilitating the removal of illegal content and imposing fines on broadcasters and social networks for dissemination of shocking and illegal content. Other presenters also pointed to the fact that exposure to explicit content feeds narcissistic tendencies and a deeply ingrained mental dependency that can only be cured or ameliorated through therapy and care.

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