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Conference to focus on problems of porn

By Kelly McConkie Henriod

Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, May 4 2011 11:55 p.m. MDT

There's no way to know how much money pornography rakes in every year, because numbers are hard to pin down. But according to BYU Women's Services department, the porn industry is worth well more than $55 billion worldwide. By comparison, the National Football League brought in $7.8 billion last year.

And in some ways it's no surprise. Pornography continues to creep further and further into the mainstream media, and kids are being exposed to pornographic imagery at younger ages than ever. It's estimated that 70 percent of men aged 18-24 will visit at least one pornographic website a month.

Utah is no exception. Just last March, elementary-aged students in Park City were able to access pornographic content while at school. And last week, the Utah Crimes Against Children Task Force wrapped up a cyber investigation that led to the arrests of 39 men and put 114 others under close surveillance for creating and viewing child pornography. The crackdown was the largest in the state's history.

Incidences and statistics like these are why the Utah Coalition Against Pornography is seeking to raise awareness about the seriousness of the problem in Utah. At its 10th annual conference coming up on Saturday, group leaders hope to offer support and advice to those grappling with pornography addiction and give suggestions for how families can defend themselves against the invasion of these graphic images into their homes.

"It seems that the more we read about what researchers across the country are finding, and the more we learn from surveys taken among young people, it's apparent that accessing pornography is easier than ever, and yet many people feel that it's harmless, that there's really no problem with pornography," said Pamela Atkinson, chair of UCAP and member of the Deseret News Editorial Advisory Board. She explained that the focus of this year's conference is going to be on helping families prevent children from viewing pornography, and on reminding people that pornography is still a pervasive problem with devastating impacts. "We're going to be reminding people that this problem is growing, and how now it's hitting kids down into the fourth and fifth grades at this point," said Atkinson. "Our goal is to help families prevent pornography from becoming a problem in their homes, and give them resources and actual tools to help them combat this."

Set to present at the conference are a number of marriage and family counselors and therapists, content-blocking software developers, and prominent business people, such as Mark Willes, CEO of Deseret Management Corporation (which owns the Deseret News), and Brent Bishop, founder of Greenbacks All-a-Dollar, and member of the National Steering Committee for the Marriott School of Management at BYU.

Jeff Ford, a licensed marriage and family therapist will be one of the presenters at the conference, said that his message will be centered around children, and will be geared towards parents who are struggling to know how to approach the subject of pornography with their kids. According to Ford, internet and software filters are not protection enough- there needs to be open discussion among family members about the effects of pornography. "Relationships between parent and child become the most important thing — not technology," said Ford. "One of the biggest problems I see in my practice is that parents and kids are not talking about pornography but instead are relying on high-tech solutions to the problem. I will be focusing on how parents can create a safe environment for their kids to come to them if they have a problem with pornography."

Ford also explained that he will be talking about how parents may need to change their attitudes about people who are addicted to pornography, and understand that it can be harmful to make the assumption that because someone has an addiction to pornography, that the person is a pervert, or that there is something wrong with them.

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