New state-wide campaign focuses on protecting kids from online dangers

CAPITOL HILL – Children have a right to be protected from sexually explicit material – that’s the idea behind the Safe Internet for Utah Kids Campaign launched Thursday at the Utah State Capitol.

Researchers say the average age children are exposed to pornography is around 11 years old – too young for their developing brains to handle, leading them down the road to addiction.

“I do feel such a responsibility because this world that we live in, there’s just so many influences,” said Dr. Jennifer Brown, Director of Safe Internet for Utah Kids.

Brown is a mother of five young boys. She wants to raise awareness about the damage pornography inflicts on kids.

“It’s taking so much from them and there’s so much suffering," she said.

Pamela Atkinson, President of Utah’s Coalition Against Pornography, says research is coming together showing a link between pornography use and suicide.

“There are youth that do become addicted to pornography and who do find that it’s ruining their lives and they do commit suicide," she said.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is also joining in on the fight.

“We also want to protect our children from being exploited as subjects of pornography," Reyes said.

From June to July of 2017, The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force investigated more than 200 cases involving child pornography, where adults preyed on kids to send sexually explicit pictures of themselves. Many were victims of "sextortion."

ICAC also investigated 80 enticement cases where adults enticed minors over the internet or shared pornography with them. They made 22 arrests.

In the majority of these cases, Reyes says the perpetrator used multiple apps to target kids.

“Here's my rule: if the kids use it so do the predators," Reyes said of those applications.

Parents must use filters to monitor apps children are using on their mobile devices and computers.

“There's a lot of tools out there to be in control of your kids' phones,” said Dr. Brown.

The campaign is also focused on changing laws to deal with what they consider a pornography epidemic. Senator Todd Weiler, R-Utah, has been vocal in those efforts.

“For us to pretend like this is going to have no impact on our society, I think is the most naïve position that we could possibly take," Weiler said.

To learn more about Safe Internet for Utah Kids, and how you can get involved, click here.