Most parents think their kids are immune to the dangers online… that they are too innocent, too smart or too “good” to get involved with pornography. But ultimately any child could get caught up in pornography use. The content that kids are accessing today is far more graphic, violent, deviant, and destructive than the pornography you or I may have encountered when we were young, and no child is emotionally or mentally prepared to deal with this content. It is our responsibility as parents to protect our children to the best of our ability.
How are kids accessing pornography?
- Internet pornography is free and easy for kids to access, and most porn sites have hardcore content on their homepage.
- There is little-to-no age verification to prevent a curious child from entering a porn site.
- Pornographers also use a variety of deceptive marketing tactics, so even if your child is not looking for pornography, it’s more likely than not that they can accidentally access pornography through a misspelled word or through clicking on an innocent-looking link.
- Some pornography is even associated with popular cartoon characters and teen icons, so a child searching for their favorite celebrity may accidentally come across hardcore pornographic content that way.
- Additionally, we are seeing an increase in the amount of cross-marketing between online gaming and the pornography industry; be aware that mature video games may include virtual pornography, sex acts, and other inappropriate content, so always check the game ratings before allowing your kids to play.
- Kids can also encounter pornography on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, where porn stars or individuals with naked pictures of themselves may message or tweet at a teen to get their attention and expose them to pornographic content.
- Finally, a new market is emerging for mobile pornography; your child could have easy access through their mobile device or through pornographic apps, so check up on their mobile internet use.
Regardless of the ways a kid may have accessed pornography, recognize that all kids are curious about sex, and a simple way for kids to learn more about sex is to go online. If you aren’t using filters on your computer or your child’s mobile device, chances are, they could learn some pretty upsetting information about sex through online pornography.
Pornography’s harmful messages
- Pornography negatively impacts the emotional and mental health of a child.
- A child will often become desensitized and will seek out more deviant, bizarre, and even violent content.
- Children struggle to distinguish between the pornography “fantasy” and the reality of authentic, intimate sexual relations.
- Kids who view pornography will often act out the behaviors they have seen.
- Pornography often depicts sex without love and commitment and often pushes the limits of what is physically possible.
- Girls and boys who see pornography feel as if they can never measure up and often struggle to perform like the porn stars they have seen online.
- Mental images can never be erased.
- Your child may be viewing pornography if:
- You notice that they are showing signs of premature sexual activity or an unusual curiosity about sexuality.
- You notice your child using suggestive terms or suddenly dressing more provocatively.
- There are increased pop-ups, spam messages, viruses, or other inappropriate content on your family computer.
- Your child has erased the computer’s history, if they change the computer screen quickly or become increasingly defensive or secretive, it’s time to have a conversation.
- Recognize that kids want and need adult guidance about sex.
- Watch out for teachable moments.
- Understand that pornography is not just for boys.
- Use parental controls, especially a filter. Monitoring software, like X3watch (www.X3watch.com), can help provide accountability in your home. It monitors where your kids go and will send you information on any questionable sites your child visited, via email. Filtering software, like SafeEyes (www.internetsafety.com/xxxchurch) will block pornographic content on your home computer. SafeEyes also has features for mobile devices.
- Ask your kids if they have ever seen something online that made them uncomfortable or curious. Ask them if they have accidentally seen sexual pictures online. If they have seen pornography, ask them how they came across it, what they saw and how it made them feel. Talk to them about whether their friends are looking at pornography. Help them to understand that you are here to help. Do not embarrass or shame them. If your kids are struggling with this content, they need your support and love to help them through.