David Schwimmer’s directorial effort “Trust,” starring Clive Owen, offers a disturbing look at an Internet sexual predator who slowly, unnervingly seeks out his prey – a typical, well-adjusted and athletic 15-year-old girl who he befriends in a cyber chat room.
Despite an array of warning signs, Annie is still drawn to her “connection” with Charlie, a self-proclaimed grad student. Their real-life encounter subsequently turns into tragedy when she is raped by who turns out to be a 35-year-old man.
Just how significant of a role does the Internet and social networking play in robbing today’s young generation of their innocence?
“When I was 13 it was a real challenge to get your hands on Playboy. But today unfortunately most kids before the age of 13 have seen pornography online and not just a still image – moving pictures," Schwimmer, who is also a long-time board member of the Rape Coalition, told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. "And if you’re a 9- or 10-year-old, and your first encounter with sexuality is some kind of pornography online, than that’s a definitely a loss of innocence."
But Schwimmer said the Internet isn’t the only culprit.
“Unfortunately [there is a lot of] sexualization of young adults in advertising. There used to be a big uproar about Brooke Shields in her jeans 15, 20 years ago, but now people take it for granted,” the former “Friends” star said. “I think it is a shame and I find it pretty disturbing to see a huge billboard in New York – you see a young girl that looks 15 maybe, although you can’t tell. You’re like, ‘wait a minute she’s in her underwear on the floor of a dirty hotel room or something.’ But you just drive by and you’re used to it. I think it’s a problem, and it contributes to [rape.]”
Owen, who plays a distraught father trying to deal with his daughter’s sexual assault in “Trust,” also pointed the finger at advertisers.
“Really young girls are used in a clearly overtly sexual way to sell stuff. You see it all the time and in some ways, it will make kids of that age sexual beings,” he said.
Aware of his film’s sensitive subject matter, Schwimmer went to great lengths to ensure his star, 15-year-old actress Liana Liberato, and her family were as comfortable as possible while filming the traumatic rape scene.
“There are laws and obviously we stuck with them, and it really came down to her parents and respecting what Liana felt most comfortable with. She would ask them to leave so they would not be in her eyesight," Schwimmer said. "So I set up a monitor in a separate room so the parents had the ability to see what was going on.”
Schwimmer’s main objective for “Trust” was not necessarily to provide answers to preventing such tragedies from happening, but rather ignite conversation between parents and children regarding the protocols of Internet safety.
“Parenting in the age of technology is on everyone’s minds right now. As we see, every phone is becoming a computer, and kids are savvier technically than their parents. Things like cyber bulling and sexting are becoming more prevalent. I think there are many things that the film brings up and I’m glad to begin that dialogue,” Schwimmer said. “There are countless things to try to control or spy on your kids, but really experts say the number one thing you should do is just have that relationship with your kids and be present as a parent, communicative. Try to get your kids to trust that they can tell you who they are talking to online and what they are doing.”
A new American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) clinical report was released on Monday, outlining the key benefits and risks pertaining to social networking which include cyber bullying, sexting, and a new term, Facebook depression. The report thus highlights the importance of parents diligently monitoring their children’s time online.
Furthermore, Owen said law enforcement needs to get involved by regularly visiting schools to educate on safe Internet use, and at least in his household, there are rules and regulations when it comes to logging in.
“We try not to let them [his daughters ages 14 and 11] take computers into the bedroom, they have to use the computer downstairs. But the most important thing is to have the conversation and let them know that they shouldn’t establish a relationship unless they are sure who the other person is,” Owen said. “The film also says it is not the obvious dysfunctional kid who falls victim. It is all children. Kids of a certain age are naïve and have not emotionally matured because they have not lived or experienced, and that makes them vulnerable.”