ST. GEORGE —The “pornification” of society, and the effects it has on younger generations, was the theme of the “Empowered to Change,” conference held by the Utah Coalition Against Pornography in St. George.
The conference was held at the Dixie Center from 9 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. Saturday, featuring keynote speakers Lt. Gov. Spencer J. Cox and Collin Kartchner.
The Utah Coalition Against Pornography was formed to help individuals, families and communities learn how to protect themselves and heal from the potential effects of pornography. According to the coalition, repeated exposure to porn has a tangible effect on consumers and is connected to declining relationship satisfaction and various forms of exploitation.
During the conference, experts, health professionals and community leaders provided information and resources to those in attendance. The conference also featured a series of breakout sessions on a variety of topics, including objectification, betrayal trauma, healthy conflict and digital dependency.
At the event, they discussed how pornography use by adolescents and young adults often leads to a distorted view of sexuality.
A recent study revealed that teens and young adults use pornography more than any other age group, and even rank not recycling as more immoral than watching porn.
Marylynn Goudy, a member of the conference planning committee, felt compelled to protect her children and help those affected by pornography after she saw first-hand the devastating effects it can have, on not only the individual using it, but the entire family, when she ran a support group years ago.
“Pornography use builds over time, and while it starts out small, it can become a big problem very quickly, with an increase in both the frequency and level of deviance,” she said.
Kartchner, founder of Save the Kids, has been on a crusade to help people, both young and old, rise above the negative effects of social media and screen addiction.
He said that apps like Instagram and Snapchat provide easy access to pornography, were not designed for kids, and may even be ruining young lives.
During his presentation, he presented a Disneyland scenario to illustrate how many children are suffering from a lack of interaction with parents who are addicted to their smartphones.
When a child visiting Disneyland has the opportunity to hug a princess character, like Cinderella, it is the child who decides when the hug is over. One of the rules of being a character at the park is that they are to remain in the nurturing embrace until the child gives the cue and begins to separate, Kartchner said.
Then he showed the audience a video in which one young child remained in the cuddled position with his eyes closed, held tightly by the princess, for more than two minutes.
He also explained how that disconnect, too much screen time, and easy access to harmful material, can be the underlying link to the current rise in teen depression, social disconnection and lack of self-esteem. It can also create emotional distance within the family system, and that lack of engagement can also cause children to withdraw or act out as they hold in their emotions, leaving them riddled with doubt.
“Smartphones and social media are the new drug of choice in homes,” Kartchner said, adding they have hooked parents, disconnected them from their kids, and serve as a distraction to who is truly important.
Adults give children a smartphone and then expect them not to make mistakes, he said, which is unrealistic considering children have underdeveloped brains. Instead, he said, parents need to be there to guide and love their children so they can make better choices going forward.
For more information on the Utah Coalition Against Pornography, resources and videos of speakers and community partners, click here.
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