A West Cork Judge has warned of the dangers and journeys into “the dark side of human behaviour”, through the access of child pornography content on smartphones. Judge James McNulty made his comments as he convicted a Martin Hayes, aged 37, from Clonakilty, Co Cork for possession of child pornographic images discovered by authorities on his iPhone. Judge McNulty also issued a stern warning to those tempted to access such content, noting that the societal implications of a conviction were far worse than a prison sentence.
A new threat has emerged, and it is putting puts both adults and children at risk of appearing in pornographic videos. A number of women found to their horror, images put on their own Social Media profiles, were superimposed, over the faces of porn actress in videos. The seamlessly grafted images in these videos are incredibly authentic looking. This technique is now also used to generate revenge porn featuring ex-partners. The content then circulated online or through message apps.
The Paradox of Online Privacy
Expecting Online Privacy is an entitlement. But do we understand what it means? Have you ever tried to tap the top of your head and rub your tummy at the sometime? Give it a go, you’ll discover it’s quite difficult. This is a little tougher when you try attempt to switch hands. Try change which hand taps and which hand rubs. In some ways, this is what we are doing when we give children access to an online world. We want them to experience the advantages, while preventing access to the enormous amount mature or harmful content.
It will have come as a shock to many this week, to see a young 24-year-old Dublin woman charged with the defilement of a child, a teenage boy. This is something we have not really seen in Ireland up to now. A very young woman, who if convicted of the alleged offence, will be registered Sex Offender. The reported allegations involve a student from the school she worked in, who was under 17.
What is Gaming Addiction?
Also known as Online Gaming Disorder, this occurs when children become addicted Gaming either on or off line. Game designers have created the games, in such a way as to encourage hours of play to advance in a game. The games are based on a reward system. The player is rewarded for the amount of time spent in the game. This excitement that a player feels after gaining a level up, or advancing to the next stage, of the game releases Dopamine in the brain. This feeling a player experiences, is similar to what is described as the kick a person addicted to substances experiences. Player over time seek to experience the feeling of attaining the reward again, and again. Reward seeking behaviour, combined with a lack of self control, can lead to addiction problems.
Games are different to those in the past, in that many games have no ending. Games also reward multi-player interaction, making the games a very social experience. Some games are designed to punish players who leave the game. The game continues while the player is off line. Some may return to the game and discover all of their hard work and hours of play destroyed. There are numerous factors in gaming, which can lead to developing attictive patterns of play. Being fimilar with the type of game and the game objectives, can help parents decide if the game is suitable for a child. Ireland now has centres offering treatemnts for Gaming Addiction
Advice for Parents
- One of the first steps to take, is to establish is there a problem, is the child socially withdrawn, spending countless hours playing games, neglecting themselves and responsibilities. Do they react aggressively if there is an attempt made to break or interfere with the gaming cycle. If so then there may be an addiction problem
- Encourage children to reduce the time playing the game. Suggest they engage in some other interest preferably a physical activity
- Parents should be supportive and encourage efforts of a child who wishes to withdraw from games if this has become an issue
- You can restrict access to devices, or set a period of time before the device can be used again
- Set time limits for how long children are permitted to play the games
- Remember that the gaming console is not a child minder. While games can encourage the development of some skill sets as with any thing in life moderation is key. Over use or exposure will have a negative impact on the child
- Stay involved when their child is gaming. Ensure it is not the primary source of entertainment. Try limit game play to no more than 2 hours a day
- Access to these devices for children is a privilege, Not a Right
- The most important message we can give you is that it is OK for a parent to say ‘NO’
See our Parental Control Guide
Children and Online Privacy
All Apps have an Age Rating. Apps such as Instagram and Snapchat list their Age Rating as Parental Guidance. Children should adhere to the Age Ratings of Apps. Often parents may say “but the rest of the class using the App”. Parents can feel pressured in allowing their chaild to have access to an App. Stick to the Age Rating, and make sure your children stick to it. There is no way for an App to enforce an Age Rating. Just because a child has turned 13, sometimes doesn’t mean you have to let them have an online social media account. If you feel they are not ready yet, then don’t permit them to open one. Ensure you have Parental Controls on all the devices the children access.
Tips for Parents
- Make sure privacy settings are set correctly to protect your child’s and your own personal information from strangers. If the settings are set up incorrectly, people may have access photos or personal information without having to be a friend/follower.
- Consider using filtering software to monitor your child’s usage of social media such as Google Family Link or activate Screen Time on Apple devices.
- Create ground rules or a social media contract before your child starts using any Social Media platform with specific predefined punishments for breach of any such rules that are set out so your child knows there are consequences to their behaviour.
- Connect with your child on the social media platform they are using and get to know their habits online. Create your own profile and add them as a friend or at least follow them to access the content being posted. Have a look at their profile to check that they aren’t giving out too much personal information or posting inappropriate photos/videos. Don’t wait until they post something to check them, have a look to see what they are up to online every so often.
- If you don’t want to have to create a profile on the social media platform your child is using make sure to sit down, discuss what they are doing online.
- It is really important to go through their friends/followers list to see who they are interacting with online.
- Have a central location for smart phones, tablets and laptops. A child should not be permitted to bring these items to their bedroom unsupervised.
- Teach your child to keep their passwords and security questions secret and not give them to anyone else. Don’t permit your child have a social media profile unless you have the password and full access to their account.
Content Posted Online Could End Up Anywhere
- Ideally you wouldn’t let your children post any images of themselves online but this is virtually impossible to avoid. Make sure you know what images they are sharing online. Approve images they want to post before they are shared.
- Limit a child’s time spent online and using social media get them to put their devices down and go outside. Set a good example. If you are spending every spare minute on social media, then you can’t expect your child not to.
- Teach your child to respect themselves and others online. Don’t let them become a target by posting to much personal information or inappropriate content; get them to think about the potential consequences to their reputation before they post anything.
- Sit down and talk to your children about dangers online. Don’t expect a child to automatically know the do’s and don’ts of social media. Don’t assume their teacher or friends will teach them either. It is your responsibility to teach them how to safely use social media.
- If your child is unlucky enough to have a bad experience online don’t give out to them, encourage them to be comfortable enough to tell you or another appropriate adult and always report it to the authorities and the service provider.