Easy access to porn is partly to blame for a rise in “sexting” between teens, a leading youth expert has warned.
It comes as police in Cootamundra last week revealed they destroyed seven mobile phones as part of an underage sexting investigation.
The phones, valued at more than $500 each, all contained provocative images of people under the age of 18.
Youth expert David Kobler – who last week presented talks at Wagga’s Mater Dei and Kildare Catholic colleges – was unsurprised by the amount of phones destroyed and said sexting was considered “the norm” among teens.
“We were at a talk recently where my wife was told a girl had received up to 100 messages from one person asking her to send photos of her breasts,” he said.
“She knows it’s sexual harassment, in any workplace it would be considered sexual harassment, but she just accepts it as part of being a teenager.
“It’s so engulfed in their culture.”
Mr Kobler said online pornography had in so many ways changed the game, with society more sexualised than ever before.
He said the average age of a young person’s exposure to pornography was 11.
“We’re not talking about the centrefold of a Playboy magazine,” Mr Kobler said. “Pornography today is often violent, aggressive and even dehumanising.”
Wagga social worker Carla Hogg said local parents were becoming increasingly concerned about the sexualisation of young people.
Ms Hogg said many parents were reaching out for help.
“Kids today, especially girls, are behaving older than what they actually are,” she said.
“They feel like they have to behave a certain way to fit in … I think it’s scary for parents; they don’t know how to deal with it.”
Ms Hogg said parents needed to open lines of communication between themselves and their children.
“Education has such an important role to play here,” she said.
Mr Kobler echoed that and said it was vital for parents not to deride the issue.
“The kids would say they could never talk to mum and dad about this,” he said.
“My hope is parents show empathy for whatever situation their kids are going through. That way they can say ‘well hang on, this isn’t what mum and dad said about sex’. Sex should be about love and respect.”