Children need to be taught that X-Rated images are not normal and parents must seek help
Dr Eileen Vizard
Dr Eileen Vizard is a Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist.
She is also former clinical director of the National Clinical Assessment and Treatment Service (NCATS) – a national service run by the NSPCC in partnership with NHS trusts to help children and young people exhibiting harmful sexual behaviour.
If we can stop a child offending and developing into an adult sex offender, we can save dozens of potential victims from being abused.
Fortunately, in our experience it’s rare any young person who sexually abuses is ‘beyond help’.
Alongside suitable punishment where appropriate, treatment that may be both intensive and long term can help them understand the impact of their behaviour and turn their lives around.
But it’s a difficult process, and the earlier we can intervene, the better. So we would ask parents to come forward and call the NSPCC as soon as they suspect something isn’t right.
We then have to interrupt the thought process that leads them to offend and help them to develop non-abusive responses to these thoughts.
It’s similar to what we all do if we are about to lose our temper or say something we know we’ll regret.
But here the consequences are far greater. Increasingly we are seeing the impact easy access to pornography can have on young people.
Being exposed to it at a young age can warp children’s views of what is normal sexual behaviour.
Some children will act out things they may have seen in porn.
It can be hard for children to understand the impact their behaviour has on others and also the consequences for their own lives. So these are things we focus on in treatment sessions.
A small number of older children may not have had help early enough and may have entrenched sexual interest in children.
This group needs specialist mental health treatment. In most cases, we can turn this behaviour around and protect other children.
It’s not easy and there are no quick fixes. But through specialist services, such as NCATS we can, and do, prevent more abuse.
Dr Linda Papadopoulos
A psychologist who wrote a report for the Home Office in 2010 on ways to protect children from exposure to sexual imagery says not enough is being done.
Her findings said boys were becoming fixated on being macho and dominant, while girls presented themselves as sexually available.
Just a handful of the 36 recommendations made by Dr Linda Papadopoulos in 2010 were acted on – including the introduction of new age ratings for music videos. She says:
Some of the things I suggested were acted on, but I feel strongly that the Government could absolutely be doing more to tackle this problem.
A fundamental thing we need to be doing is to teach children in schools the difference between pornography and normal sexual behaviour.
They are two very different things and sadly a lot of children are learning about sex and relationships from pornography and getting a very warped view.
I think politicians do recognise the importance of the issue, but sadly what tends to happen is that other things take precedence with regard to budgets.
And unless you shout loud enough – and for long enough – things just don’t happen. There is not just one thing you can do to fix this.
There are many factors that need to be dealt with. Finding a way of stopping under-18s accessing online pornography should be made a priority.
I think clicking a button on adult websites to say you are 18 isn’t good enough and there are ways around that.
There are people talking about the use of credit cards to do that. Something as simple as that would keep a lot of kids away from online porn.