Written By Brittany Beisner
“Philip Morris only wanted our lungs. The app store wants your soul.”-Bill Maher
Human trafficking has become almost a buzzword these days it seems. Recently this subject has been gaining attention in the news. Research studies have shed light on the extent of the problem, especially among our youth. Human trafficking is defined in the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act as the “recruitment of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud, or coercion) for an improper purpose including forced labor or sexual exploitation.” But what do we really know about the problem and how can we get at the root causes to create sustainable change? Perhaps in order to combat the demand side of this issue we need to turn our attention to the controversial topics of pornography and technology addiction. The demand side is defined as the number of people wanting to buy a human being. Pornography has been connected or associated with gender-based violence and sexual exploitation. But, pornography currently floods the social media of youth and has never been so accessible as it is now with the growth of smartphones. Technology addiction has now been linked to negative mental health and poor brain development of youth. Pornography and technology addiction together, are creating the most vulnerable population to date to dangers such as human trafficking.
PORNOGRAPHY AND ADDICTION
Pornography’s link with human trafficking continues to be debated. While the exact role porn plays may be up for discussion, the fact that porn perpetuates sex trafficking through a variety of ways is undeniable. First, porn presents unattainable sexual standards, detracts from loving intimacy and promotes violence against women. It is also an industry people are forced or coerced into participating in. “Pornography, prostitution, and trafficking are the same for the person who is being sexually coerced and exploited for profit. The same oppressive experiences channel women into each, same kinds of violence against women are perpetrated in all, and the emotional consequences are the same.” Trafficking is part of porn, victims are made to produce porn, porn helps teach and desensitize victims, and porn increases demand for commercial sex.2 According to Michelle Lillie with Human Trafficking Search,
It is commonly known in the anti-trafficking field that 80 percent of survivors report that their customers showed them pornography to illustrate the kinds of sexual acts they want performed. Pornography is also used by traffickers to train victims about sexual acts and situations buyers prefer. Besides being forced to watch pornography, victims of sex trafficking often have a much more violent and personal interaction through forced performance in the industry. In every country, almost half of the respondents said that they were forced to make pornography while enslaved in sex trafficking.
The pornographers are purposely cultivating a demand for young-looking subjects and often the subjects actually are minors. Highly used search words like “step-sister”, “cheerleader”, and “teen” all fuel a pedophilic addiction and acceptance. “Porn is deeply and increasingly implicated in virtually all forms of sexual violence. We cannot speak about rape, child sexual abuse, commercial sexual exploitation, teen dating violence, domestic violence, sexual harassment, college sexual assault, sexting, or teen suicide following cyberbullying without understanding porn as a driving force behind the normalization and legitimization of violence against women and children.” The argument here is that pornography helps to fuel all these aspects and now with technology such as smartphones, youth has even easier access. Technology has not only made pornography easier to access but also is allowing children to be exposed at a younger age. This easier access coupled with the mental health effects of technology addiction is creating one of the most vulnerable youth populations susceptible to things such as human trafficking and suicide.
Pornhub released their 5th annual report bragging about their accomplishments in 2017. Last year also marked the 10th anniversary of Pornhub. In this report, there are shocking statistics that really drive home what an enormous industry pornography truly is. The United States continues to be Pornhub’s largest consumer of pornograohy by an extreme degree. According to Pornhub, they had “28.5 billion visitors annually, which turns out to be an average of 81 million people per day.” The site also boasts that “over 4 million videos were uploaded in 2017, including 810,000 amateur videos. That’s more videos than the number of people who visit the Great Wall of China each year. In total, 595,482 hours of video were uploaded, which is 68 YEARS of porn if watched continuously. In fact, every 5 minutes Pornhub transmits more data than the entire contents of the New York Public library’s 50 million books.4” Amateur porn is known to be quite often a source of illegal activity and trafficking. Pornhub created infographics on the ages of their users but conveniently only starting at age of 18 with the largest population being 18-24 years old. Highly trafficked search words such as “fidget spinners” and “minecraft”, it is hard to imagine no minors are involved. In fact, research shows that 1 in 10 children under 10 years old have seen porn, and the average age of children seeing their first porn is 11 years old. “Dopamine is four times stronger in an adolescent brain than an adult and 1 in 10 12-13 year olds fear that they are addicted to porn.” There are many case stories of people, young men especially, who began watching porn so young that by the time they were a teenager they needed to watch hardcore more violent scenes to feel aroused and porn-induced erectile dysfunction became an issue for them. Pornography addiction is made worse by smartphones. Pornhub states that “over the last several years, mobile devices like smartphones and tablets have become the primary medium on which most people enjoy visiting Pornhub,4” which leads us into the topic of technology and the rise of smartphones.
TECHNOLOGY AND ADDICTION
Self-esteem has continuously been marked as a high-risk factor in creating vulnerable victims to such things as sex trafficking. Now studies are finding that today’s youth are quickly becoming one of the most depressed generations and the reason may actually be smartphones. Technology addiction is becoming a socially acceptable behavior addiction. We discuss the dangers of online safety such as talking to strangers, but we are not discussing the harmful effects of the amount of screentime and the emotional dangers that come from peers online. We are just now starting to detect effects such as developmental delays, unintelligible speech, learning difficulties, anxiety, depression, missed motor skill milestones, and sleep disorders that are associated with technology use at a very young age and overuse. According to one Tedtalk: “the app companies are hiring neuroscientists and behaviorists to work along with their programmers to develop products that keep users hooked.7” A compilation of studies from this same talk found that “there is decreased brain activity in adolescents and that drug and technology addicted brains have similar damage.” In another study, researchers found “more patterns of abnormal white matter on brain scans of internet addicts compared with non-addicts. These changes showed evidence of disrupting pathways related to emotions, decision-making, and self-control with similar changes in brain scans of addicts of alcohol, cocaine, heroin and meth.” The generation that was the first to spend their entire adolescence with smartphones has been coined iGen. This has led to many effects on their emotional health, social interactions, and the way in which they interact with the world. Technology addiction is especially harmful to adolescents as their brain is still developing and social skills are being cultivated. One result of this can be seen in the rising suicide rates of youth today. One study found that “suicide rates for teens rose between 2010 and 2015 after they had declined for nearly two decades, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It suggests that one major factor could be rising social media use and cyberbullying.” In fact, the term now used to talk about suicides from cyberbullying is cyberbullicides. An analysis by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that “suicide rates among teenage girls ages 15-19 hit a 40 year high in 2015 and between 2015-2017, the rates doubled among girls and rose by more than 30% in teen boys.” Today our youth is feeling hopeless, depressed, and not socializing as much. There must be a reason that “50% more teens suffer from major depression now versus six years ago and girls ages 12-14 are three times more likely to commit suicide.” There is overwhelming evidence that this turn occurred with the widespread use of smartphones. When Steve Jobs was asked in 2010 about how his kids must love the ipad, he said, “actually we don't allow the iPad in the home. We think it is too dangerous for them in effect.” Steve Jobs and many others in the technology industry have been quoted saying the same. They are all too aware of the damaging effect of these devices they are promoting and do not allow them in their homes.
This article is only touching on the mental effects of technology addiction creating a vulnerable population to human trafficking recruitment and other risks. A majority of the human trafficking recruitment is occurring online and in many of the apps on any given smartphone. There is troublesome evidence of how traffickers are using technology to recruit victims. Pornography and technology addiction are increasing the vulnerability to a variety of mental health issues. One article stated the following, “It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.” This is a very serious statement that demands that we pay attention and support entire generations of youth.
Human trafficking is a significant social problem, especially for our youth. Poor mental health, low self-esteem, and pornography is creating the perfect storm of vulnerability. The way to combat an issue facing a vulnerable population is to create a more resilient population in its place. We need to empower today’s youth with the knowledge and understanding of technology addiction, pornography and the effects on their brain development, sexual and mental health. Studies conducted have shown that children do make better choices for themselves and friends when they are given information and supported. This is beginning to be done in schools through group programs that teach gender equality, empathy and empowerment. These programs should be required curriculum in schools today along with victim services and trauma-informed help. According to Zurbriggen and Roberts, “Children today need media literacy education, so they can counteract toxic messages about their sexuality. They can learn to assess the sexually exploitive messages that are lodged in technologies from video games to cell phone applications to Internet pornography.” There is no denying that this is a digital age and there are many amazing inventions coming from technology, however, we can not ignore the deadly negative side effects as well. The solution will involve schools, parents, caregivers and communities all working together. Communities should not only place responsibility on parents and children but also on the pornography and telecommunications industry itself. There should be a larger call to the government to engage with these industries in order to decrease children’s access. Together we can empower through education and provide support so that hopefully one day victims services will no longer be necessary.
 Google search. (2012, January 28). Retrieved from http://prostitutionresearch.com/google-search/?cx=010344503708143157676:zeoxzpjf3aw&cof=FORID:9&ie=UTF-8&q=http://prostitutionresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Pornography-prostitution- trafficking.pdf&siteurl=prostitutionresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Pornography-prostitution-trafficking.pdfAccording&ref=&ss=2474j860990j11
 The Connection Between Sex Trafficking and Pornography • Human Trafficking Search. (2017, August 22). Retrieved from http://humantraffickingsearch.org/the-connection-between-sex-trafficking-and-pornograph
 Pornography: A Public Health Crisis [Collection of papers from Symposium held at the U.S. Capitol on July 14,
2015]. (2015, July 14). See https://fightthenewdrug.org/dr-gail-dines-why-porn-is-a-public-health-issue/
See also https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/may/08/slutwalk-not-sexual-liberation
 2017 A Year In Review https://www.pornhub.com/insights/2017-year-in-review
 Technology Addiction and What you Can do About It. | Ben Halpert | TEDxSaintThomas. (2015, July 09). Retrieved
 Rowan, C. (2017, December 07). The Impact of Technology on the Developing Child. Retrieved from
 Empowering Kids to Rise Above Technology Addiction | Lisa Strohman | TEDxPasadena. (2017, November 16).
Retrieved from https://youtu.be/6qsQXRqREwM
 Jaslow, R. (2012, January 12). Internet addiction changes brain similar to cocaine: Study. Retrieved from
 Associated Press. (2017, November 14). Rise in teen suicide connected to social media popularity: Study.
Retrieved from https://nypost.com/2017/11/14/rise-in-teen-suicide-connected-to-social-media-popularity-study/
 Plight of the 'screenager': Is social media taking a deadly toll on teens? (n.d.). Retrieved from
 Tucker, I. (2017, August 13). Are smartphones really making our children sad? Retrieved from
 Alter, A. (2018). Irresistible: The rise of addictive technology and the business of keeping us hooked. New York: Penguin Press.
 Twenge, J. M. (2018, March 19). Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? Retrieved from
 Empowering Kids to Rise Above Technology Addiction | Lisa Strohman | TEDxPasadena. (2017, November 16).
Retrieved from https://youtu.be/6qsQXRqREwM
 Woolley, L. (2014). Book Review: The sexualization of girls and girlhood: Causes, consequences, and resistanceZurbriggenE. L.RobertsT-A. (Eds.). (2012). The sexualization of girls and girlhood: Causes, consequences, and resistance. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 338 pp. $59.99 (hardcover). ISBN: 9780199731657. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 38(1), 153-154. doi:10.1177/0361684313506554
 McKibbin, G., Hamilton, B., & Humphreys, C. (2018, September 17). Hold pornography to account – not education programs – for children's harmful sexual behaviour. Retrieved from http://theconversation.com/hold-pornography-to-account-not-education-programs-for-childrens-harmful-sexual-behaviour-68473