Inside: Knowing how to protect children from internet dangers (like online porn) can be tricky. Find out how to protect your child from it's harmful effects.
One of the biggest challenges that parents face today is knowing how to protect children from internet dangers like online pornography.
Back when we were kids, pornography was hard to find and consisted of magazines that were hidden in your father’s wardrobe and contraband videos that you furtively watched when no one else was home.
For kids today, it is a different story as it is now harder to avoid porn than to find it. And parents need to learn how to protect children from internet dangers like online pornography.
Pornography has become increasingly acceptable, accessible and more freely available than ever before. Kids can view sexually explicit material with one click of the mouse, from soft-core (the type of images found in Playboy) to hard-core (material depicting graphic sex acts, live sex show, orgies, bestiality, and violence).
Talking to kids about porn isn’t easy. Most parents feel that they don’t know enough about the topic and are unaware of just how ‘nasty’ and damaging modern day porn really is.
As parents, it is our responsibility as parents to protect our children to the best of our ability. But how do we protect children from internet dangers like pornography?
You’ll find more information about sex education in my Sex Education 101 page.
Pornography isn’t new but the high volume and the way that we access it is! With kids today spending more time online than ever before, the risk of exposure is much greater.
The type of porn that is being viewed has changed, with high levels of violence directed at women who appear to be enjoying it!
Porn gives kids the wrong messages about what sex is really about, with some research suggesting that it can create problematic sexual behaviour as well as negative views towards women. It can be addictive and has a negative impact on the emotional and mental wellbeing of a child.
Which means that more than ever before, it is important that parents learn how to protect children from internet dangers.
No child is safe from internet dangers like pornography, with kids finding it either accidentally, through curiosity about sex, or being deliberately shown it. The average age of first exposure to porn is 11 years of age, with some reporting that it can be children as young as five years.
As soon as your child is able to use a search engine, or is watching videos on YouTube, there is a good chance that they will stumble across porn. Even if you are a technology free household, your child may still stumble across porn outside the home.
And regardless of their age, you need to be having this conversation.
You may not be able to prevent your child from stumbling across internet dangers like porn, but at least you can minimise the potential harm by preparing them for it. And no, you aren’t taking away your child’s innocence by talking to them about porn. That will happen when they come across it unprepared!
Here are some suggestions on what parents can do!
Warn your child that they may find private pictures or movies of adults doing private things together, they may be naked and it may look like they are hurting each other. We call it porn or pornography.
Try reading them a book like ‘Hayden-Reece learns what to do if children see private pictures or movies’ by Holly-anne Martin from Safe 4 Kids. This book is fantastic as it gives you the right words to use, when talking about a topic that makes you feel uncomfortable. You can find more books in this list of children’s books about pornography.
Books can help when trying to start a difficult conversation.
Tell your child that they may accidentally find these images or videos on the computer, their tablets, cartoons, video games, YouTube, phones and even books or magazines.
That if they stumble across these images, that they need to turn it off or turn away and to talk to a parent or trusted adult immediately. Reassure them that they won’t get into trouble.
Discuss what your family rules are about using technology ie computer, tablets, and other devices eg time limits, public chatrooms. The computer should ideally be kept in the main living area, with the screen positioned so that it is easily visible. Devices should also be kept out of bedrooms.
If your children are younger, you may want to consider using software filters or child friendly apps (like YouTube Kids) or blocking popups. Just remember though, that your child may still stumble across images in other ways eg through friends and unfiltered computers.
Like all things when it comes to teaching kids, it takes many conversations. Have small frequent chats using simple, straightforward and age appropriate language that your child can understand.
When it comes to talking to our kids about tough topics like kids and porn, there are two ways that we can go about it.
First, we can answer the questions that our kids may fire at us. Luckily for us, kids are very curious about the world around them, and will often ask about stuff that they don’t understand or are curious about. And if you’re worried that you won’t be able to answer their questions, then The Sex Education Answer Book can help. It contains age-specific answers to the most common questions that kid’s like to ask parents about sex.
Second, we have to bring up the conversation ourselves. Not all of us have kids that ask questions about sexuality, which means that it is up to us, the parents, to find a way to bring up the subject ourselves.
The challenge then, is in how to bring up the subject of kids and porn, so that it doesn’t feel like a lecture (I don’t know about your kids, but mine will instantly stop listening if they think that there is a lecture coming their way). Which means that we need to find a way to start the conversation ourselves.
Books are one way to start a conversation naturally and casually.
So how do we go about using a book for a conversation starter about kids and porn?
Well, you can read your kids a book on a certain topic, and chat about it whilst you read it. You can get some tips in this article on how to read books about sex to kids.
But you can also then refer back to that book later on, when you want to talk again about that topic.
For example, I might want to talk to my daughter about pornography.
There are a couple of ways that you could have the conversation.
You could say something like ‘Hey, I was having a look at this book today and saw that there was a section on pornography in it. Have you found that sort of thing yet, on the internet?’
Or, something like ‘Hey, remember how we read that book last week where it talked about how sometimes you can find things o the internet that you don’t expect to find? Well, I was wondering if that has happened to you yet?‘
You can even refer back to a book to help with answering a question.
If your child asks you a question, like ‘What’s pornography?’, you could say something like ‘What’s pornography? Well, remember that book that we read, where they talked about how you can find things that you don’t expect when you go to the internet, well pornography is one of those things.’
You can then go back and reread the book together.
The joy of kids and porn books is that the books provide you with information that is age-appropriate and written in a way that your child will understand. We can use the words from the books in our own conversations with our kids. A trick that I sometimes use with my own kids, is to write a few points on a piece of paper, that I can then refer to during the conversation. This means that I don’t have to worry about remembering the exact words and I felt much less clumsy when actually talking.
You’ll find some find some fantastic age-appropriate childrens books about pornography in this list.
Yes, you can! You may not be able to prevent your child from stumbling across internet dangers like pornography, but you can delay it from happening and give your child the power of knowing what to do when it happens.
And remember, the first conversation is always the hardest!
My mission is to create resources that will help you to naturally talk to your kids about sex, all while respecting your personal values.
Which means that inside this website, you'll find lots of resources to help you with talking to your child about love, sex, relationships and growing up.
My Sex Education 101 page includes all of the information on sex education. You'll find lots of different blogposts to help with getting started, on a wide range of different topics.
You'll find videos about sex ed in my Sex Education Videos resource page that you can watch with your child or to learn more about sex education yourself.
You’ll also find an extensive range of sex education books for children, for kids of all ages. There's even some books in there for parents!
If you're looking for some ideas on how to talk to your child about bodies, Let's Talk About Bodies, will help you to start naming the private body parts and to have shame-free conversations with them about bodies. It is filled with lots of different ideas on how to have natural converasations with your child about their body.
You'll also find some child friendly anatomically-correct cartoon illustrations of the genitals and internal reproductive organs that are appropriate for children from the age of 3 and up. Let's Look at Different Body Parts is a printable that will help take the awkward out of talking to your child about their body, so they grow up feeling educated, confident, and comfortable in their own skin.
If you need some help with explaining sexual intercourse to your child, then Let's Talk About Sex, will help you explain sex to your child in a way they will understand. It breaks it down into simple steps that take the stress out of explaining!
If you're unsure about how to answer your child's questions about sex, then The Sex Education Answer Book will give you age-specific answers to the most common questions kid's ask parents about sex. Which means you don't need to worry about finding a child-friendly explanation that your child understands.
I'm Cath, a sex educator living in Australia with my husband and 2 kids. I help parents to talk about sex (with less cringe and more confidence) and empower their child to make smart sexual decisions. To find a better way to talk about sex, you can join my community of parents and visit my shop for helpful resources.