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UNICEF Pulls Report That Disregards Pornography’s Harm to Children After Backlash

Photo by Markus Spiske via Unsplash

UNICEF Pulls Report That Disregards Pornography’s Harm to Children After Backlash

By Movieguide® Staff

The international child welfare agency UNICEF recently published, then promptly removed, their April 2021 report titled “Digital Age Assurance Tools and Children’s Rights Online across the Globe.”

The initial report raised concerns amongst child safety advocates, such as the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, for its potentially harmful view on children’s exposure to pornography.

As of June 1, 2021, readers cannot access the report online. However, before its removal, NCSE reported:

Although it [the report] acknowledged that “there are several different kinds of risks and harms that have been linked to children’s exposure to pornography,” it then proceeded to effectively dismiss the research on these harms saying, “the evidence is inconsistent, and there is currently no universal agreement on the nature and extent of the harm caused to children by viewing content classified as pornography.” This messaging fails to give due consideration to the copious amounts of research on pornography’s harms to children.

UNICEF’s milquetoast assessment of the impacts hardcore pornography on children sets the stage for policies that put children in harm’s way.

Furthermore, UNICEF’s report expressed numerous misgivings about implementing age verification laws and systems that would reduce the number of children being exposed to online pornography. The report raised concerns about children’s privacy rights as potential barriers to age verification laws or other legislation to protect children from pornography—but in reality, international laws give states broad latitude to protect children from such content. The amount of weight which the report apportioned to these misgivings, together with the lack of weight it apportioned to pornography’s harmful effects on children, send a very dangerous and socially irresponsible message. UNICEF’s report ultimately sets the stage for harmful policy decisions in the future, based on a misunderstanding of these issues.

The NCSE responded to the report with a letter addressed to UNICEF and signed by “487 child safety experts and advocates from 26 countries.”

The UNICEF took down the report after NCSE sent the letter, which outlined “relevant research on the numerous ways pornography harms children.”

Movieguide® notes that not only is exposure to pornography harmful for a child’s development, but it is more widely promoted in social media, TV, and movies.

However, with biblical principles and media discernment as a guide, there are practical ways for parents to protect their children from pornographic content.

Movieguide® previously reported:

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation, a U.S. organization in Washington, D.C., responded to the report.

“This study – the largest research sample of online pornography titles ever analyzed – ultimately reveals that online pornography companies like Pornhub and XVideos cannot ever be ‘safe’ enough,” NCOSE CEO Dawn Hawkins said. “These websites cannot do enough to prevent sexually violent, non-consensual pornography, or child sexual abuse material from being on their sites and they cannot halt the negative impact normalizing sexual violent acts has on the sexual scripts and attitudes of users.”

Not only does the report uncover the immoral sexual exploitation of children on adult sites, but it also highlights how violence becomes a component in sexuality that is divorced from God’s word.

As the report outlines, adult sites push the most violent and skewed content to their front pages. But adult sites are not the only form of media that has adopted a view of sex and sexuality that goes against God’s design.

Founder of Movieguide® Dr. Baehr notes the importance of protecting young children from an incorrect view of violence in movies and TV:

The emotive heart of drama is conflict, and the ultimate conflict ends in violence. The Bible is full of violence and the Gospel story has one of the most violent scenes imaginable, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The presentation of violence in the entertainment media is not always bad and is sometimes necessary. It is, however, critical to protect young children from such violence and to identify how the violence is presented in the entertainment product so you can discern whether it’s necessary and furthers the Good and the True.

On the other hand, violence can have a demonic, pornographic appeal. The Roman Empire featured spectacles of live violence. Gladiators fought to the death, Christians were fed to lions and all manner horrible killing was offered as entertainment to a stadium full of spectators. This same demonic taste can be fed with movies, videos, games, and online content. It is, in fact, a stage into which many people addicted to pornography sink. What may start out as simple sexual attraction devolves into darker and darker pits of hell. As discussed earlier, horror movies and violent video games obviously stimulate the brain.

Additional resources can be found under the “Parenting” tab at Movieguide.org.