The dysfunctional underbelly of Irish society was on full display last week when graphic images of children and women were found to have been shared in online group-chats and discussion forums.

The entire episode offers a birds-eye view of what’s been a common occurrence in the lives of many people, young and old, for some time now, with access to every kind of pornography only a few clicks away.

Most parents will have been mildly conscious of the potential for harm that smartphones and internet access provides, with many assuming that the benefit outweighs the risks for their children. That assessment surely has to be re-visited at times like this when the stark reality of how more and more young people use their phones becomes clear.

After all, what parent wants their son or daughter sending, seeing or sharing nude pictures and sex videos?

A large part of the problem in the current debacle is that the outrage about sharing the images stops in media circles once we enter the hallowed ground of consent, and then all manner of behaviour is A-Ok provided the person on full display has given their permission to be looked at or shared.

Consent, of course, is a woefully insufficient standard that falls way short of dealing with the glaring elephant in the room. What most commentators, and even educators, find too inconvenient to mention is that by sending sexual images of oneself, you are automatically being used by the person viewing you as little more than an object, a piece of meat, perpetuating the pornified swamp more and more people must wade through.

This type of degrading behaviour, whether its requesting, demanding and consuming the images, searching for them or sending them of yourself, is all part of a culture hurting people in almost every age group, causing anxiety, abuse, humiliation, relationship breakdowns, and addiction.

The mere fact a person consents to be involved in some level of pornography, whether it’s partaking or consuming it, doesn’t mean that the outcome will be good for anyone involved. Some may get money and fame, others pleasure or attention, but it certainly won’t help you with attracting the right kind of partner to marry or raising children that might avoid those pitfalls of momentary gain in exchange for longterm pain.

Whereas Minister McEntee might think she can take care of this problem by outlawing the sharing of images without consent, which is indeed necessary, the real problem is a deeper one found in the hearts and minds of people that are saturated in a culture their parents, educators, politicians and media influencers have allowed to develop into a runaway train.

Human sexuality is a good thing in and of itself, but when its appetites are fed with toxic influences then the ensuing chaos and sadness in people’s lives will quickly become evident. This is now being seen on a macro level as the sexual revolution goes into overdrive, from greater levels of marriage breakdown due to infidelity, to younger and younger children being exposed to the most explicit images available.

No parent wants their child to go down this route, whether it’s selling their pictures on OnlyFans, or seeing and sharing images that abuse the dignity of others. And it’s that awareness of human dignity that’s really missing in the free-for-all world of 21st century sexuality.

So if your child, whether young or old, does take part in this culture, does that make you a bad parent? Not necessarily, maybe you didn’t know what they were up to, but you better start teaching them real standards that will get them through one hell of a minefield.