Porn And Parenting: The Brave New World

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Editor’s Note: This guest post is written by Jesse Stay, the author of Google+ For Dummies, Facebook Application Development For Dummies, and the currently in-progress book, Google+ Marketing For Dummies. Jesse consults with organizations big and small on social media technologies, marketing, and design philosophies.

O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world!
That has such people in it!

This quote, from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, embodies a perspective I think many fathers such as myself are experiencing as our children enter this amazing world of technology we now live in. In the play, Miranda, raised most of her life on an isolated island, comes upon a group of drunk sailors straggling off a ship. Miranda, oblivious to any sort of “morals”, or “culture”, was fascinated by this “Brave New World” she had come in contact with.

Aldous Huxley also reiterated this idea in his satirical book, “Brave New World” back in 1932. Huxley was fascinated with the Industrial Revolution and with the Utopian visions of Wells and other authors he thought to parody these books with a negative view on what might happen to society as a result of technology. Little did we know that Huxley’s “science fiction” of a world where technology would replace the natural capabilities of man would actually become the “science reality” of today.

As a Father of 5 kids, I sought to start this column on Techcrunch in order to share my challenges and struggles as a Dad in this continually changing world of technology. The truth is, as my kids get older, I begin to realize what little I know about how to lead them and guide them through safety and security in our current “Brave New World”, so they are able to make the greatest contribution on society.

To me, it’s not even a moral issue, but an issue of how do I provide the best, and most optimal life for them where they are free and capable of getting the most out of life without any roadblocks, especially at a young age as their minds are still developing and they don’t have the capability to understand the world around them. Each week you’ll see new topics from me about the struggles I’m trying to comprehend as I open this world of technology up to my family.

As I was contemplating my topic for this week’s column, my attention was brought to this video by Dawn Hawkins, Executive Director of the anti-pornography group, “Porn Harms” (which is down right now as I’ll explain why later). To tell you the truth, I kind of blew it off the first time I saw it. It seemed like the typical video or article you see that gets discredited by Snopes. It wasn’t until last week when I was at a banquet I was invited to, and she happened to be at my table, that I realized she was really serious, and these things actually happened to her.

In the video Hawkins talks about how on a Delta flight, a man in front of her viewed porn on an iPad, in plain view of other passengers. According to an email I got from Hawkins, she confirmed to me that “The pornography was completely nude. I’m 90% certain the girls were no older than 14. One of the images showed one girl whipping another.” You can see the video below:

To add to that, in my research of this I learned that this is not the first case of passengers openly viewing child porn on Delta flights. Another man, a University of Utah professor, on a Delta flight from Utah was recently accused of viewing child porn in front of other passengers. As opposed to Hawkins’ case, this man was actually prosecuted, and is facing jail time. It seems Delta has some answering to do (to Delta’s credit, Hawkins says Delta is working to train their staff now to know how to deal with these situations in the future).

On top of all of this, I’ve come to find out that, since Hawkins’ video talking about her experience on this flight, Anonymous has been attacking the websites and email of Porn Harms, and making harassing phone calls to Hawkins and her family. The website, “Adult Video News”, also attacked Hawkins for her reaction on the flight. Both groups seem to be trying to advocate porn being allowed during air flight with their crusades. Yes – in front of your kids.

As a Dad, this type of stuff has me scared to death. Kids are being exposed, and even addicted, to porn younger and younger in today’s world (some suggest as young as 6!). We’re in a world where it’s okay for my kids to get exposed to porn at every angle with no retribution. In fact, retribution goes against those that are against it, as I’m sure I’ll see in the comments of this article. There is absolutely no protection for our kids in this effort, or very little if any. Flight attendants receive little training on what to do in situations like Hawkins’.

Porn sites, in a world where it’s completely possible to ensure the age of an individual with technology, are doing little to keep out the kids. As a business person I don’t blame them – as long as government doesn’t crack down on it, why not get my kids addicted to their industry while they’re young? Society seems to have put laws out there, but no one seems to care that the laws are there. Maybe, in this Brave New World my perspective is just wrong. Maybe it’s okay for me to be encouraging my kids to look at porn openly to expand their horizons. Does that seem wrong to anyone else but me?

As a Dad, adults watching porn and kids watching porn are two different things. Moral issues aside, I want to protect my kids from these things. My kids should be able to make free and clear decisions when they turn 18, free from addiction to hamper those decisions. Technology is not doing enough to help them. Why aren’t porn sites making it harder for my kids to view porn? Why aren’t more people doing something about allowing me, as a parent, to decide how I want to protect my children? Turning the internet off isn’t the answer. Nor is comprehensive internet filters – those rarely work and in my opinion are just a bandaid, especially in a world where our kids are getting more and more mobile.

I’m afraid my only option is to stay involved with my kids (and maybe I shouldn’t be afraid of that). Watch them and be there for them as they are exposed to this Brave New World of technology. But what do I do as they’re around others that think this is okay to view in public settings around other children? Perhaps in the end the fix to our society is family, and the nurturing of our children through parents who care for them. People say it’s the ability to discern authentic relationships that goes first when kids are exposed to porn and become addicted at a young age. Maybe it’s just that – relationships, that will protect them, as they grow old enough to make those decisions on their own.

Image credit: First Edition, cover artist Leslie Holland.