Multi-functional, cutting-edge technology is increasingly popular among Cambodian youth today. Computer and internet usage are increasingly common. The newest mobile phones have built-in cameras, video recorders, internet and social networking capabilities, meeting all our educational, professional and entertainment needs.
Due to the widespread availability of the internet, some technologically savvy Cambodian teenagers have begun using the technology to download pornographic movies, songs and images to their computers. This leads to many problems, not least of which is the premature onset of sexual feeling.
Pornography’s power of suggestion can cause teens to have sex at an early age and risk contracting diseases.
According to a report released in September, 2006 by World Vision, an internat-ional Christian NGO, 46.6% of boys and 30.3% of girls indicated they had been exposed to pornography. The research surveyed 458 children aged 12 to 17, during a time when video-capable mobile phones and the internet were not as common.
Today, kids use their phones to watch pornography in private, and teenage pornography consumption may well be up since 2006.
Tong Soprach, who has a master’s degree in public health from the University of Cambodia, said in his research that people were being exposed to sex at unpreced-ented levels, and that the globalisation and American-isation of Cambodian culture was changing young people’s attitudes towards sex.
Watching pornographic movies can change teenage behavior. In-depth interviews with the children involved in World Vision’s research survey showed that pornography consumption has collateral damage, not simply affecting the behaviour of those who watch it.
A pornography-fuelled shift in teenage culture has seen an increase in levels of physical and verbal sexual harassment of girls, as well as a general increase in sexualised discourse among children.
According to female respondents, boys became more aggressive in their lang-uage and actions after being exposed to pornography. Some informed the researchers that, when their teachers had left the classroom, two or three boys would sometimes jump up on a desk and perform a sex skit, boasting loudly to the girls about pornography they had seen.
Moreover, some teenagers use mobile-phone video and camera capabilities to take pornographic videos or pictures of someone in private and share them with friends via Bluetooth, affecting the values of people, culture and society as a whole.
In Cambodia we have witnessed a number of pornographic images of movie stars and students that have been spread via mobile phone.
Many young people also engage in “sexting”, the newest sordid addition to the digital lexicon. “Sexting” is the practice of sending erotic images and messages via mobile phone or posting the images on the internet.
In May, 2006, Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen banned the use of video on mobile phones, amid fears that the technology would help spread pornography.
This ban followed a speech by Bun Rany, the prime minister’s wife, detailing pornography’s “negative consequences for social morality”.
In a petition to her husband in 2006, Bun Rany pushed for the video ban, saying that mobile phones would increase the “sexual exploitat-ion of women and children and other vices, casting our society into darkness”.
Now, however, 3G phone networks offer high-speed data transfer, allowing users to send images and video footage even more quickly than on the traditional mobile networks.
Personally, I think it will be difficult to curb pornography consumption and eliminate video services on mobile phones, but parents should still pay attention to their children’s phone use.
If possible, the government should block access to all indecent video sites on the internet. It’s a good sign that the Cambodian government has taken steps to help fight the market for pornography, but they need to be stricter and more effective.
In August, 2005, the Ministry of Women's Affairs launched a campaign against the sharing of pornographic photos by mobile phone when one popular actress complained that a nude photograph to which her face had been added via digital manipulation was circulated widely through mobile phones.
One last thing: education plays a vital role in teaching teenagers not to involve themselves with pornographic material.
Sex education should be available to all students, so that Cambodian teenagers can make informed decisions about their sexual lives, and protect themselves if they do decide to engage in sex.