by Wayne Parker
Perhaps one of the most disconcerting things that parents can experience is learning that their child has been accessing pornography. Nearly all of us have that experience at one time or another – access to pornography is simply too easy and can happen quite innocently. But left unchecked, our children can become hooked on pornography with devastating effects.
Recently, KSL television in Salt Lake City did a series of reports on children becoming addicted to pornography at young ages, as early as 7. Consider this information from the report by news specialist Mary Richards.
Children are viewing and getting addicted to pornography on smartphones and other devices, sometimes as young as 7 years old.
By the time those kids graduate high school, experts say nearly 100 percent have seen pornography. At elementary school, counselors say the problem is ease-of-access.
“It’s just too simple to access it,” said Dr. Douglas Goldsmith, executive director of the Children’s Center.
According to a 2013 Common Sense Media study, 83 percent of 5- to 8-year-olds know how to use a smartphone or tablet. Add to that the $3 billion mobile porn industry, and experts say exposure is inevitable.
“If they have a phone, it’s likely that they’ll get exposed to pornography,” said Todd Olson, co-founder of Lifestar Network.
Or they will be shown it.
“Their friends have been exposed, and then they are going to tell their buddies, and so there’s some curiosity to that,” said Olson.
Olson said that a few years ago the average age of first exposure was 11 — now it’s 9.
So, based on this information, it is pretty much inevitable that we will be dealing with this as a parent, whether we want to or not. We have to be prepared to have the discussion when we discover that our kids have been viewing pornography or when they come and talk to us about seeing something that troubled them.
Keep communication lines open about sensitive subjects. If we are talking regularly with our children about sometimes sensitive subjects like bullying and drug and alcohol use, they will be more likely to come to us about things that they see as sensitive or taboo. Having already had good and values based conversations about sex will also help them feel more comfortable talking about their exposure to pornography.
Don’t be shocked; stay calm. Our kids will be less likely to talk with us if we react with shock or recoil in horror when we discover their involvement. It is important to talk about why porn is harmful for kids – that it distorts our view of sexuality, that it makes people seem like objects instead of real human beings, and that it makes abnormal responses to relationships seem normal and acceptable.
Implement home-based filtering to slow down access. Experts tell us that 80% of unwanted exposure to porn is happening at home, so using good filtering technology – particularly at the router level so mobile devices are included – at home can help slow the flow of porn onto devices on your home network.
Regulate and monitor access to the Internet by children. If your children have mobile devices like tablets and smartphones, implement filtering and parental controls. Better yet, don’t give them access to mobile data unless they are on a wireless network. Networks at school and libraries are usually filtered, but recognize that access at the home of some parents may not be. Check their browsing histories and make sure that you have all their social media passwords. Remember, the best “filters” are those provided by the hearts and minds of our kids, and parents can influence that filter.
Encourage awareness in your community. Most communities have organizations that work to address pornography and its influence on our children. Consider working with your local community council, PTA and church to invite experts in to train parents on how to combat pornography access.
Keep them busy during free time periods. Children accessing porn usually do it during periods of isolation and when there are not other demands on their time. Keeping kids busy with more productive and uplifting activities can make a difference. Extracurricular activities, playgroups, scouting and athletics can help them have less free time and keep them engaged in things which build rather than tear down self esteem.
Wayne Parker is also the author of Power Dads: The Ten Basic Principles Successful Fathers Use to Raise Responsible and Happy Children.