A mother in Ottawa, Ontario, was dismayed when her daughters saw a man watching ‘something inappropriate’ on a library computer. As it turns out, he was watching hardcore pornography in a very public, high traffic area of the library.
But when Jennifer St. Pierre complained about what her daughters had seen, the library’s response was that the man was entirely within his rights. The Ottawa Public Library permits people to watch pornography on the library computers, as long as they’re over 18 and viewing legal material.
All the staff can do is ask them to move to a different computer. In other words, parents are the ones who have to keep their kids from seeing someone’s screen full of porn.
“If they are letting their children go off on their own, that risk is going to be there, wherever they go.”
Catherine Seaman, Ottawa Public Library
As quoted in CBC News
Read the whole story here.
The library is framing this as a censorship/access to information issue. But libraries should be safe spaces for everyone, including families. Article 17 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child requires Canada to develop the means to protect children from forms of media that are ‘injurious to his or her well-being.’
Research indicates that frequent exposure to pornography, especially at a young age, can result in a reduction in grey matter in the brain, cause children to be aroused by sexual violence, lead to porn-induced erectile dysfunction, and drop academic performance. All of this certainly qualifies as ‘injurious and harmful.’
Isn’t it ironic that a place of learning can expose a child to something that undermines the health of their brain?
While some libraries understand that an adult’s access to online content shouldn’t come at the cost of kids’ safety, others are digging in their heels. Our friends at Defend Dignity have launched a campaign called Choose Change, where people can urge companies and organizations (like Toronto Public Library, for example), to make their environments safer for everyone.
Because no child should be exposed to graphic sexual violence when wandering around a library.
P.S. We’ve recently made an infographic about the unsexy effects of porn. Check it out!
Update: The Ottawa Public Library has changed its decision. Read more here!
Feature photo: By jarmoluk, Creative Commons via Pixabay