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(LifeSiteNews) — I’ve been giving presentations on pornography for a decade, and during that time I’ve heard a thousand versions of the same heartbreaking story. A young boy stumbles across porn on a computer, smartphone, iPad, or some other digital device. The primal power of the sexual imagery that he does not fully understand but pulls him in nonetheless captures his imagination; draws him back over and over again; and eventually, renders him an addict.

The average young man with a long-standing porn addiction, in my experience, first watched or saw porn in Grade 6. In the past several years, however, I’ve increasingly encountered young people who got hooked on porn at younger and younger ages. Once I spoke with got addicted at age 8; another who shared his story with me started at age 5. At age 15, struggling to get free, he’d already been looking at pornography for a decade. The porn industry robbed him of his childhood, which he will never get back.

Imagine that for just a moment: From kindergarten to the tenth grade, pornography dominated his life.

I’ve been covering the normalization of sexual violence by pornography in this space for several years now, and the evidence of how porn deforms the mind and twists healthy views of sexuality beyond all recognition has been mounting almost by the month. A generation of young people are getting their views of sex from porn — and the porn they’re watching is not only degrading and dehumanizing, but also violent and sadistic.

The latest development in this unfolding cultural tragedy was reported by The Guardian early this month. In a recent survey by the children’s charity Barnardo’s, which worked with 382,872 children, parents, and caretakers in 2020–2021, staff observed “a rise in the number of children participating in acts they have seen in pornographic videos, despite feeling uncomfortable or scared.” Children, the report says, see porn nearly everywhere — on the bus, in school bathrooms, in the hallways — and as young as age seven.

Banardo’s staffers are sounding the alarm, stating that pornography is incredibly destructive to child wellbeing, with one child sex abuse expert noting that it is turning into a crisis.

“I started out as a primary school teacher eight years ago, and I’ve been worried about children seeing porn ever since,” she stated. “Children don’t have to be able to type to see porn — it can be sent to them or shown to them on someone else’s phone. They see it at school, in the corridors, in the bathrooms, on the bus. There is just no censor on any of it — one video leads to another. If you can imagine it, it exists as porn, and children are seeing it. I am working with a teenager who was sexually abused by a family member. This young person had been exposed to porn and it was perpetuating what the abuser told them — that this is normal, that it’s not abuse.”

Not only are children increasingly likely to imitate the violent behavior featured in most mainstream porn, but porn is also playing a key role in grooming children for abuse from adults. “A common role play theme on porn sites is intra-familial abuse — on mainstream sites you will see fetishisation of grandad and granddaughter sex, or stepfathers and stepdaughters,” noted one expert. “This may lead to a young person not disclosing or getting the support they need. From both angles it is dangerous; it puts the child at risk and encourages the perpetrator.”

Banardo’s staff warned that children’s views were being molded by porn, with 28% of those surveyed saying that “it led to children displaying inappropriate sexualised behavior,” 22% noting that porn was negatively impacting mental health, and another 12% saying “it normalised abusive or exploitative behaviour.”

In response, Barnardo’s Vice-President Baroness Floella Benjamin DBE called on the government to take action: “Over the last decade or so there has been a real explosion in the availability of online pornography and the mainstreaming of violent sex. Although much of this pornography is legal, exposure to this material can be extremely harmful to children. The Government must ensure that age verification applies to all content that is harmful to children and that pornography sites are properly regulated. Children should not grow up seeing these images because it will affect them into adulthood and as I always say, childhood lasts a lifetime.”

Perhaps they will finally listen. If not, children will continue to be sacrificed to our civilization’s most perverse addiction — and reshape human relationships for decades to come.

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Jonathon Van Maren is a public speaker, writer, and pro-life activist. His commentary has been translated into more than eight languages and published widely online as well as print newspapers such as the Jewish Independent, the National Post, the Hamilton Spectator and others. He has received an award for combating anti-Semitism in print from the Jewish organization B’nai Brith. His commentary has been featured on CTV Primetime, Global News, EWTN, and the CBC as well as dozens of radio stations and news outlets in Canada and the United States.

He speaks on a wide variety of cultural topics across North America at universities, high schools, churches, and other functions. Some of these topics include abortion, pornography, the Sexual Revolution, and euthanasia. Jonathon holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in history from Simon Fraser University, and is the communications director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.

Jonathon’s first book, The Culture War, was released in 2016.