DARIEN HENRY, principal of the Montego Bay Community College (MBCC) in St James, is strongly recommending that Jamaica’s education system should get proactive in arresting the widening wave of pornography addiction among the nation’s schoolchildren, which he insists is negatively affecting their capacity for learning.
Henry sounded the warning on Thursday evening while addressing the Montego Bay leg of the Press Association of Jamaica’s (PAJ) public forum dubbed ‘Children, Sex and the Media – Regulation and Responsibility in the Digital Age’.
The forum, which was held at the MBCC, was part of the PAJ’s week of activities for the annual celebration of National Journalism Week.
“We are grappling with the addiction problem, not just to cell phones or media technologies, but addiction to pornographic technologies, and it has become infused with the teaching and learning process. Our young people have become distracted in teaching and learning, and the question is how we can get our young people to become disciplined and well calibrated so they can contribute to society,” Henry told the forum.
“The education system has to respond with a sense of urgency at the high-school level, and at the primary-school level. The issue of pornography, the issue of open sex, has become so much of a concern that we need to turn a greater spotlight on it. Policy needs to respond, and teaching and learning need to respond,” Henry added.
He also noted that there has been a gradual desensitisation among parents to the effects of pornography on their school-age children, citing incidents during his tenure at Cumberland High School in Portmore as an example.
“Access to porn has become so normal that ‘a nuh nutten’. I remember, when I was at Cumberland, we called in parents regularly because we found students viewing porn in class, and they were hiding and viewing it, and the parents said ‘A nuh nutten, him do it all the time’. Parents don’t care about educational progress anymore,” Henry lamented.
“We need to study the implication of pornography addiction and its implication on teaching and learning. Di pickney dem nah learn, they are distracted, and we need to get them back into a space where they are loving learning,” he continued.
Henry’s warning comes in light of statistical data compiled by Google Trends between February 6, 2022 and January 8 this year which show that Jamaica is in the top 10 countries which have had the most searches for pornographic content on Google during that period.
According to the data, Jamaica was ranked at number six in the world for searches including the term ‘porn’ during the period, behind Mongolia, Nepal, Myanmar (Burma), Zambia, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Sex in classrooms
That information follows a risk assessment study conducted in 13 schools by the National Council on Drug Abuse last September, which revealed that some students had been videoing themselves having sex in classrooms, along with school fights.
Meanwhile, Windsor Wellness Centre founder and chief executive officer Dr Alfred Dawes told Thursday’s forum that Jamaica is at risk of normalising increasingly shocking social media content, or ‘outrage porn’, to include sexually explicit content.
“In the era of social media, we run the risk of being desensitised by what I call outrage porn, where we see these incidents, whether it is schoolchildren fighting, using drugs, doing sexually suggestive dance moves, or being egged on by adults to do sexually compromising acts. We are seeing all of these things and normalising them, and, whereas the Broadcasting Commission regulates the mainstream media, nobody is regulating exactly what is being shared on social media,” said Dawes.
“The more outrageous the videos and stories, the more likely they will go viral by definition. It hurts the victims because they have to deal with that excess negative attention at that formative period in their lives, and it is hurting the nation because we are getting desensitised to these acts,” Dawes added.