Psychologists call for parents to be more restrictive with their children’s internet access, as damage caused by even stumbling upon explicit material is highlighted.
Warning over effects easily accessible online pornography can have on children
Stumbling across pornography online can severely damage children and parents must be more vigilant about what their youngsters can see on the internet, psychologists say.
Viewing explicit material at too young an age “distorts their view of sexual relations” and it can be “damaging to their development”, said Dr Tara Wyne, co-founder of the Lighthouse Arabia mental health centre in Dubai.
Pornography is banned in the UAE and websites containing it are blocked. But no matter how parents adjust privacy settings, inappropriate material can still appear on social media feeds.
Twitter has no block on pornography, despite having millions of users who are children.
“Children lack the psychological, social and emotional maturity to accept or refuse pornographic activities,” Dr Wyne said. “They do not even know how to understand what they are watching or seeing, and the younger the child being exposed to pornography, the more damaging it is to their development.
“Children who were exposed to pornography suffered from severe distress and being inappropriate with their siblings. It affects their sexual identity.”
A prominent judge said there were men trying to groom children online by showing them pornography.
Judge Ahmad Saif, head of Dubai Civil Court, said he had seen several such cases in the courtroom.
“Among the cases I came across, a man was showing children pornographic scenes to lure kids and commit a sexual assault,” Judge Saif said.
“I encourage parents to monitor their children’s internet activity.”
In Abu Dhabi last March, a Filipino man in his 30s was sentenced to six months in jail and fined Dh50,000 for distributing pornographic material to children through mobile phones.
The sentence was light when considering that the Child Protection Law came into force last year to ensure that children were protected from abuse and introduced avenues to report incidents.
“Longer jail sentences will be taken into consideration if a person was promoting pornographic materials related to children and was promoting it to children to lure them and commit a sexual assault,” Judge Saif said.
“The ruling of a judge will be much harsher in a case about promoting child pornography to commit a sexual assault or if a sexual assault was committed against a child.”
Judge Saif also called for children to receive age-appropriate sex education, echoing calls last month by education officials who said it should be mandatory in schools across the country. Most schools offer no sex education.
Dr Ahmed Al Mai, head of child and adolescent psychiatry at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, said there was a lack of awareness among many parents about the perils posed by the internet.
“Many parents are unaware of the hidden dangers of their kids using the internet,” Dr Al Mai said.
“Access needs to be limited and restricted by parents. There is an online game for children that shows a naked woman when the player wins.
“It shows as a kind of reward for the child, which will make the child think that such behaviour is acceptable when this is improper in our society.”
He said there were also pornographic cartoons on the internet that were harmful to children.