Article at a Glance

  • The Internet and mobile devices have made it so that most children will probably be exposed to pornography at some point.
  • Maintaining an open relationship is the best way to help guide your children through these challenges.
  • You can also protect your children by learning what to look for and practicing good Internet safety.

Pornography isn’t new, but it is much more accessible than it has ever been before. And this has a lot of parents understandably worried.

No longer on the peripheries, pornography has become mainstream. According to Playboy, 30 years ago 40 percent of adults said they watched porn—it is now up to 80 percent.

Pornography is now available to children on home computers, cell phones, and tablets. A study from the London School of Economics shows that 9 out of 10 children between the ages of 8 and 16 have viewed pornography on the Internet, most often unintentionally. Often the question isn’t if your children will see pornography, but when. This generation is the first generation to ever have this kind of exposure, and health experts are still figuring out what the long-term effects will be.

But they have found that when children stumble upon pornography, it can leave long-lasting and confusing images. Much of what is online isn’t just a little racy; children are finding images and videos that can be incredibly graphic.

Many children and teens are also using the Internet pornography to learn about sex. Unfortunately the information they are getting is often very disconnected from reality. Another British study from Plymouth University found that a third of people from the ages of 16 to 24 found sex with partners difficult because of what they had seen online.

Pornography has become so available that it is very hard for parents to monitor their children’s activities. Many children cite examples of watching pornography at home late at night or at school from their phones. And the digital gap between parents and children hasn’t helped. Children are generally more adept at using technology then their parents and are very good at covering their tracks.

It is easy to feel a bit scared and helpless, but there are things we can do as parents.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Children who have been exposed to pornography need to know that they can talk to you. They should not feel guilty about accidently seeing something, and they will need your help to process what they saw. When appropriate, talk to your children about what real love and real sex is. Help them understand the nature of pornography and its dangers. Let them know that they can ask you anything and be careful not to respond with shock or anger when they do confide with you.

Children and teens who are already struggling with pornography need to know that their parents are there to lovingly help and support them.

What to Look For
It is important not to jump to conclusions or to be overly suspicious, but parents also need to be watchful. If you feel like your child might be struggling with a pornography problem, talk to your child in an open and caring way. Things to look for:

  • Using the computer late at night when everybody else is in bed or being overly tired all the time.
  • Excessive computer usage.
  • Suspicious behavior like quickly changing the screen when somebody walks into the room.
  • Depression, lying, acting emotionally disconnected or withdrawn, and irritability.
  • Poor school performance.

How to Help Your Child
Hearing that your child has a problem with pornography can leave you feeling shocked, disappointed, and angry. But it is important to respond in a calm, respectful, and loving way. Let your child know of your love and that you are there to help. Finding out how involved your child is and how it began can help you determine what kind of help and direction might be needed. As your child works to overcome the problem provide help and encouragement. Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open.

Practice Good Internet Safety
The Internet is a wonderful tool and has changed our lives dramatically. But parents have to teach their children how to use it responsibly. Unfortunately there is no foolproof way to filter everything out, but there are steps you can take to better protect your family.

  1. Keep home computers in high-traffic areas where they can easily be monitored. Keep computers out of bedrooms or rooms with closed doors.
  2. Although Internet filters can often be overridden by technology-savvy children, it is at least one more obstacle between them and inappropriate content. For reviews on Internet filters and a list of their features, visit www.internetfilterreview.com. You will want to find a filter that allows you to see what sites have been visited and what emails have been sent. It is also helpful if it tracks instant messaging and any chat room activity. Many filters also allow parents to limit access to just a small group of trusted sites. You will also want to find a filter that works with your mobile devices.
  3. Most cell phone companies have programs that allow you to monitor and control your children’s cell phone usage. You can set time restrictions on when they can use the phone and you can set lists of blocked and trusted contacts. It is a good way to limit nighttime Internet use. Contact your cell phone provider to find out more.
  4. Children often stumble on pornography accidentally. Let them know that if they do that it isn’t their fault and that they need to come tell you. Unfortunately many of those sites purposefully make it very hard to leave the page. So it helps to teach your children that if they can’t leave the site, to just turn off the computer.
  5. Teach your children Internet safety. Teach them to avoid ads, aimless surfing online, chat rooms, bulletin boards, and other unfamiliar areas on the Internet. They should also never share personal information online or open an email from somebody they don’t know.
  6. Staying on top of trends and technology allows you to be aware of new potential dangers. Children often face challenges that even their older siblings might not have faced.
  7. Involve your children in your efforts. Let them know what you are doing and why you are doing it. Explain to them that you are doing this in their best interest and that while you won’t be policing their every move that you will be keeping an eye on things to make sure they are safe. Establish clear limits and then follow through consistently. And if you find that your child has visited an inappropriate site, use the opportunity to communicate rather than lecture.
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Protecting Your Children From Internet Pornography

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