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(LifeSiteNews) — In December, I reported in this space on the sudden rise in AI deep-fake pornography — kids in middle school and younger using digital apps to create pornographic images of their peers and classmates. These scandals are occurring worldwide, with mainstream media reports documenting scandals in locations ranging from the United States to Spain. In some instances, boys have blackmailed girls with deepfake porn created on so-called “Nudify” apps, which digitally undress the girls, causing acute mental distress and trauma. 

Sexual blackmail is becoming a norm in the digital age, with smartphones facilitating the rise of sexting — most intimate images that are sent between minors get shared with others — as well as blackmail scams targeting teens with images sent in moments of weakness. (Police in Canada have warned that images are being sent by children as young as Grade 6 — which constitutes child pornography — and that some are doing so before they even hold hands with anyone.) Last year alone, a number of American teenage boys killed themselves after being targeted with sextortion scams, terrified that the images would be sent to their families.  

Another such story has been making the rounds recently, this time of a 14-year-old girl who committed suicide in her family’s north-west London home on March 12, 2021. She said goodnight to her parents at around 10 p.m. on March 11, and they found her the next morning shortly before 7 a.m. She had hanged herself. The previous evening, she had asked her parents if she could switch schools, and her mother had told her she could be homeschooled for the rest of the year. An inquest this year found that she was brutally bullied by boys at her school — and that the male students used a group chat where they shared nude photos of the girls, although the coroner was unaware of any images of Mia being shared. 

On January 23, the Daily Mail reported: 

At the inquest this afternoon the court was told that children at the school were subjected to bullying on social media, including on TikTok and Snapchat. Lily Lewis, representing Mia’s brother Douglas Stewart, cited comments from one student that in a Snapchat group run by male pupils ’girls’ faces were put on pornstars’ bodies to upset them’, and that nude photos of some of girls were shared in the group.

Although there is no evidence that this was done specifically to Mia, the relentless scrutiny of physical appearance and hyper-sexualized atmosphere of her social setting plunged her into a deep self-loathing. In one note that was read to the inquest, Mia wrote: “I look at myself. I am so ugly. I don’t deserve to live.” In her suicide note, she told her parents that they had raised her well, that she loved them very much, but that “On earth I never felt connected.” She concluded: “Let my friends have my things please. I love you lots.” 

READ: Middle schoolers are now using AI to create ‘deepfake’ pornography of their classmates

This story gives us a glimpse, once again, into the digitally driven conditions that have been created in high schools. Mia’s school is not unique in having student-run groups where intimate photographs — deepfake and genuine — are being shared by boys. According to Nancy Jo Sales, the Vanity Fair reporter who wrote the bombshell book American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers, nearly every school in America has such groups. The torment that this inflicts on the victims, who are already navigating the difficulties of puberty and adolescence, should be easy to imagine. 

The world that girls and boys are growing up in was created by adults, and we are responsible for addressing it. Regular readers may roll their eyes as I once again beat this drum, but children and teens should not be given smartphones. Comprehensive education on pornography and digital technology is essential. Sexting must be warned against, and apps that facilitate it should be banned entirely where possible. Parents must realize that their children inhabit a digital world, and that this means the struggles they face are often far different than those they recall from their own childhood.  

As the conservative writer Alessandra Bocchi noted in response to Mia’s tragic story: “Someone threatened me with fake porn photos once, thankfully I was an adult. I got over it, but I can’t explain the shame & fear (even if they were fake). This girl took her life. We need more laws to protect women from cyberbullying through porn, fake or otherwise.”

I couldn’t agree more.

READ: Deadly ‘sextortion’ scams threaten to ruin a generation of young boys

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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.