One of the biggest challenges that parents face today is 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.
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!
You can find some fantastic guidelines on general online safety over at PixelPrivacy.
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 on how to protect children from internet dangers like porn here.
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.
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!
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 to empower their child to make smart sexual decisions. You can join my online parent support group here and visit my shop for helpful resources.