I thought I’d write about our last hike in Peterson Creek; about how every season transforms the park and how you always have the feeling of being in the right place when you hike there.
Yet fuchsia-infused sunsets and promises of spring in city wilderness parks are somewhat clouded by a rude reality: hypersexualizing of children and the high price we all pay, children first of all.
From elementary school girls sporting borderline risqué attires to high school students exchanging inappropriate content over their personal electronic devices, to swift word exchanges during school hours that send kids flying to online search engines where Pandora’s X-rated box is waiting to be opened, the world of children resembles less and less what it used to look like a few years ago.
It is striking to compare today’s faces to the ones that smile from all the old class photos that hang in the hallways of my sons’ school. Clothing spelled ‘children’ and their smiles were innocent. So what, you’ll say, children of today are innocent too.
True, many are, but there’s an early expiration date on that innocence. Exposure to inappropriateness happens early and surreptitiously. If you doubt this, ask your children. And hope they’ll have the courage to tell, because there’s lots to tell and it’s not pretty.
This is by no means a new topic: The age of information forces us to revisit it often as it dumps too much on our children’s heads, too soon. Parents, as per our parenting job description, have to somehow catch it all before the worst happens.
A month ago or so a few Kamloops high school students have been charged with possession of child pornography. The same happened on Vancouver Island, and in New Brunswick and in Quebec. It happens in the US, Australia and in Europe too.
Children know it’s wrong (at least some of them realize it) and they know they shouldn’t, but temptation and peer pressure rocks their budding foundations and they do it anyway hoping they won’t get caught.
But they do, and punishment ensues. Lessons to learn? Hardly so. It looks more like a case of treating the symptoms without addressing the cause.
Children of all ages are being introduced to the world of photographs early on by the adults around them just until they learn to do ‘selfies.’
There is an emphasis on sex wherever you turn your head, because, we all know, sex sells.
That the internet world abounds with sexual content is no longer news. Adults defend their right to access it as they please and to that we say ‘to each their own.’ What about children though?
According to the latest estimates, the number of pornographic websites, paid and free access, is approximately 25 million and growing. What is new though is how children can access these websites and how many of them display increasingly violent content that would never fit into a normal loving relationship.
It’s controversial, but it cannot be brushed aside either.
Children lose their innocence too soon and there’s nothing right about that. Dismissing the obvious by saying ‘It’s the 21st century, about time we emerge from the dark ages of taboos,’ makes adults part of the problem when children are charged with possession or distribution of child pornography.
If the revealing photo of 13-year-old is found in possession of a 13-year-old, logic dictates that we are looking at a case of distribution of child pornography by children.
What’s fair then?
Parental controls will never keep children fully protected. There is no school body or app or program able to keep children safe if the parents are not stepping up to the plate to talk about it.
That’s right. An honest, first-for-everyone kind of talk that brings awareness and lets children know they are not alone in facing a monster that is as tempting as it is scary. I don’t mean healthy sexuality, but its crooked version that sees children punished later on for something that could’ve been avoided.
Kind of like feeding children too much carrot juice and punishing them for turning orange.
We have to face a blatant truth: we are perhaps the first generation that will not talk just about birds and bees but about how bad it can be when they are out of control. Yes, we have to include the ‘porn talk,’ because porn is, you should know, something many children are exposed to at the ages of 10 or 11.
The idea that internet providers could install filters to prevent children’s access to online pornography was met with disgruntlement by most adults. What about people’s freedom to choose? There’s truth there.
But somewhere in between us adults having the freedom to exercise our adult choices as we please, a sexually-imbued free-for-all internet content and rushed existences that allow for little or any breaks to keep track of things, there are gaps wide enough to swallow our children whole and leave us nothing but the regret that we should’ve done more when we had a chance.
Now is the chance. Today.