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Child porn

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He'll be okay.

He'll be okay.

Bear with me today, 'cos it's gonna get a little uncomfortable: I want to talk about child pornography.

Well, not the "real", disgusting kiddie porn, but the stories we in the media seem to extrude endlessly about children being maimed or killed in exceptional circumstances.

Like its close relatives - disaster porn and grief porn - this type of child porn is cloaked in the ostensibly respectable motive of wanting to "alert parents to hidden dangers", rather than the more believable drivers of titillation and commercialism.

The endless repetition a few weeks back of CCTV footage showing a Chinese two-year-old about to be flattened by a van is a case in point.

I'm not sure what TV stations worldwide were hoping to achieve by running the story, save that it was horrific vision and, when passersby ignored the injured child, it reinforced the fashionable notion that everyone but the viewer is an arsehat.

However, you could argue it had a tenuous grounding in "alerting parents to dangers", (although I reckon most of us have got the message about keeping kids out of the path of speeding vehicles).

If a child aged between one and 14 is going to die in Australia, the biggest threat aside from cancer is a motor vehicle accident, with 31 kids taken this way in 2009, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports.

Various forms of cancer claimed at least 49 children that year, drowning and accidental submersions 30 kids, metabolic disorders 24 and cerebral palsy and other paralytic syndromes 21.

And, yes, the news media do occasionally latch on to these commonplace tragedies and beat the drum of doom, but not to the extent of stories of children falling from windows, being choked by blind cords or getting backed over by four-wheel-drives.

And Lord help us all if a kid falls off a slippery dip and leaves this earth.

I am not discounting these threats to little ones by any means and understand all parents should be aware of the various dangers to children, even though not one kid was killed falling off playground equipment in 2009.

It's just these things are not the main game if you're set on obsessing over your sprog's safety. In fact, of the four media-favourite threats I just mentioned, only "pedestrian injured in traffic accident" - which I'm guessing includes kids being run over in their driveways - makes the ABS's top 10 causes of death.

As a new father I understand the dread many parents feel about their children being hurt or killed, especially if it's because of something vastly preventable we've stupidly overlooked.

Often, however, I just feel nauseous at the way a freak or rare accident is massaged into a tabloid tale of terror, which then reverberates through mothers' groups and blokes at the gym.

Quite frankly, I don't want to live in terror of my child being killed, nor do I wish to view the world as a collection of near misses waiting to snatch her away.  It's exhausting and, more to the point, it's a falsehood.

I also don't want my daughter growing up stewed in anxiety because I yelp every time she passes an object not muffled with bubble wrap and packing tape.

The media have a job to do in warning parents and I've no doubt that it's part of the reason we now see most backyard pools fenced.

But, on the whole, you'll have to excuse me if I ignore the fear-mongering and teach my daughter to do so as well.

She'll have plenty of time to cower once she's an adult and being "warned" by the media about terrorists, rapists and murderers on every street corner.

Sam de Brito's latest novel Hello Darkness is in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter here.

31 comments so far

  • Not even going to atttempt a segue from the topic. Just wanted to say that I am LOVING Hello Darkness. Every few pages I want to write down a sentence and commit it to memory. There is beauty in the ugliness of self-doubt and the daily internal struggle to make sense out of ... this. This thing. Don't ever doubt that you're making a difference, Sam. You are. Don't ever stop.

    Commenter
    Carrieon
    Location
    Perth
    Date and time
    November 07, 2011, 6:54PM
    • You might want to rename this, de Brito. Terms like 'disaster porn' and 'grief porn' really mean nothing except for being a somewhat macabre way of describing the media's treatment of certain events. Child porn, on the other hand, describes something that is despicable.

      If you really want to stick with the porn theme, maybe something like 'protective parenting porn' would be more a more accurate way to describe what you're talking about.

      Commenter
      hired goon
      Location
      heartbreak city
      Date and time
      November 07, 2011, 7:23PM
      • Well what do you expect in today's world where kids are placed front and centre by any adult to push an agenda. Just think of the children indeed. The fact is instead of childhood been a time of development to learn about self and the world and develop personal and interpersonal skills for survival it has been comodified.

        In one insatnce children are used to sell everything from health insurance because they are so cute to then be the first portt of call to sell whatever needs selling to to then being rallied against about all that is wrong in society or to use one child's unfortuante circumstances to push a product or idea.

        To me the way Western Society interacts with children is odd. There is this weird form of ownership about being a good parent by doing this that, or showing how great you are by proving yourself to others through how you parent or holding some demi God up as a role model to push a PC message, instead of society as a whole being a role model in offering guidance where needed and showing leadership to our young by example.

        Instead we exploit children and their problems (StKilda school girl, Bali 14yo, road accidents, autism, childood body issues and weight) by putting the most vulnerable front and centre and then claiming we are doing it not to benefit ourselves or to sell a product or get rich but for our children. Bullshit.

        Commenter
        Dale
        Date and time
        November 07, 2011, 7:28PM
        • i was recently riding a bike around the park behind my house with my kids when the younger one (aged 6) stopped & started whinging because he lost a race with his brother. I'd just read this great article by Lori Gottlieb called "how to land your kids in therapy" so instead of stopping to wait for him I kept riding, thinking to myself I've got to start harden the F up.
          This made him cry louder so after a few minutes I rode back to see how he was doing. There was a couple locking up the tennis courts on the other side of the fence (the park was closed, we & a handful of neighbours have access from our back gates) & when I arrived the bloke started going off his brain at me. "What are you doing leaving a little kid alone in the park?? Are you crazy?? Any pervert could have taken him!!" I begged to differ, pointing out that the pervert would need to jump the 9ft fence. My nonchalance just had him more incensed & I let him rave on, it slowly dawning on me that the poor guy was just terrified on account of my child, & really maybe I should be grateful instead of defensive.
          Afterwards I felt guilty, not for leaving him for those few minutes, but for dismissing the couples' fear as an overaction, so I called the ph no. on the tennis court to apologise, ended up having a 1/2hr chat with the wife (which was a relief, because I may want to hire those courts one day!).
          The disturbing thing is that since then I've been a lot more paranoid, I start to panic when my children are out of sight, like I've been infected by fear

          Commenter
          heidi
          Date and time
          November 07, 2011, 7:38PM
          • Now that you've posted this Sam, I pray to God irony doesn't strike you and one of the less common tragedies happens to your little girl.

            Why even bring it up? - Sam

            Commenter
            X
            Location
            Melbourne
            Date and time
            November 07, 2011, 9:32PM
            • Good post Sam. I feel the same way about my kids. Yes you have to look out for them, and to be fair one of the hardest things is not fussing as much as they get older. However they can't, or shouldn't, be cocooned from real life, how on earth are they going to learn to look after themselves if you don't ever let them?

              On an entirely different note I just discovered that the school Stormy Jr will be starting at next year is having a film night this Friday - showing the 1966 Batman movie. Can't miss that, but then I'll have to explain that no, you can't just pull out the Shark Repellent Bat Spray...and of course, some days you just can't seem to get rid of a bomb.

              Commenter
              Stormy
              Location
              Cumberland Oval
              Date and time
              November 07, 2011, 9:56PM
              • I can't watch those things or read about them. Especially the little Chinese girl.

                There are certain car wrecks I'll read about simply to rant against them (such as Kim Kardashian) but stuff like that is my limit.

                Commenter
                Bender
                Date and time
                November 07, 2011, 9:57PM
                • I think that we should rename this as it doesn't just affect our fears for our children.
                  I think we should call it Disaster Anxiety, DA for short. Not that old brand of Dinner Ale.
                  Proponents of these include the following:
                  1. Journalists, editors wanting to fill space in their publications, current affairs show , blog etc.
                  2. Would be commentators wanting to make a name for themselves. Eg, the would be candidate for political parties.
                  3. The intellectual who wishes to bring attention to their exciting thesis on some danger not otherwise public. Eg falling bits of branches, food allergies, etc. Just name your danger/fear here too.
                  Of course we are running into that period of malaise, when the usual media go on holiday, Parliament on leave (which is pretty well 6.5 days per week when you think about it).
                  So all the pseudo commentators will trot out their so called specialities to scare us witless. Watch out for Stephen King readers throwing their old books out of windows- I think I'll do a Phd in that and call myself Dr.
                  But really it shows us that our lives are very comfortable and relatively safe. We rarely hear of children dying of childhood diseases as they once did. The road toll is down, it used to be about 1,000 per year in NSW.
                  Safe doesn't sell newspapers, TV or get poliies voted in.
                  Give us DA anytime.
                  Then again KB tasted sweeter.

                  Commenter
                  The Old Guy
                  Location
                  Marrickville
                  Date and time
                  November 07, 2011, 11:12PM
                  • @Carrieon | Perth - November 07, 2011, 7:54PM

                    My thoughts exactly. I'm enjoying the book very much.

                    Commenter
                    ditto
                    Date and time
                    November 08, 2011, 7:21AM
                    • I refuse to let my kids grow up believing there's a creep on every corner just waiting to 'get them'. If I do that, the creeps win.

                      They need space to grow up and become 'street-wise'. There may or may not be a risk to them in raising them this way, but I fear the risk to them by not raising them this way is greater.

                      Commenter
                      SuzyQ
                      Location
                      Sydney
                      Date and time
                      November 08, 2011, 8:28AM

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