Talking to Your Children About Porn and the Internet

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There are now two uncomfortable talks you have to have with your kids as they grow up.  The first is the “sex” talk, but now in the age of the internet the other one is the “porn” talk.

All of our kids both boys and girls will come across it eventually, some by accident when playing around on the internet, their friends or peers might show them something, or some of our children will be looking for it whether we like it or not.  These days it’s not a question of “if”, but “when” they come across porn on the internet.

I don’t need to give you the stats, but just in case you’ve been hiding under an internet rock, there is a lot of porn out there in online world.  Recently we did a post about the Musically app and the content that can come up on that, and while not “porn” as such, it’s about being informed, smart and realistic about what your child has access to.   That’s what this article is about, being informed, smart and realistic about what your child has access to on the internet whether you like it or not.

When your kids are younger, say under 10 and don’t yet have their own devices they are taking with them out of the home, you can use internet filters, different passwords and other protections that can limit the content that your child will be able to view.  That’s great when they are in your home and you control the technology, but one day they will have their own phone on which they can pretty much do anything they want.  Also they will be at school or at friends houses where other kids and their parents are in control of the technology.

The biggest question most parents have about this conversation is “If I talk to my kids about porn won’t it make them more curious?”  Our answer to that is that they’re going to come across it at some stage.  Either the internet or their peers educate them on porn, or you do. That’s the choice you have. Another way to frame it if you really think you kids are not ready for the conversation is to frame it as “What are good and bad images on the internet?”.

So what to do then?  Firstly stay cool, stay calm, don’t overreact or make them afraid of the conversation.  How you react or approach the topic of pornography, and any other troublesome content, with your kids will determine how open they will be to talk about it with you in the future.

One way to think about the issue is in terms of Filters.  Your job as a parent is to help filter out the appropriate from the inappropriate content on the internet.  Your child will need two types of filters in place to protect them in their on-line world, they are “external” and “internal” filters. “External” filters are those that you and others put into place to protect them, and “internal” filters are those you help them develop within themselves, the intellectual and emotional tools they need to make good choices about what they are looking at.  Here they are in a bit more detail below.

External Filters

router-157597_640External Filters are those things you can put into place on your technology devices that can physically stop your child from seeing certain content on the internet.  They come in the following forms:

  • Separate logins that allow different levels of access e.g. a login you give your kids might only allow them access to apps and programs already on the computer and not the internet itself.
  • Location of computers and devices: Don’t let your kids have access to computers or devices in their bedroom, make sure it is out in the open in an area where you can supervise what they are doing.
  • Internet Filters: These are programs that you can install on your computer to block particular content from being viewed or accessed.  Popular brands incklude net-nanny, K9 web protection, Most IBSP’s (internet service providers) will have some information on their website on internet safety.  Websites like Techradar give good information about the best parental control software available, see http://www.techradar.com/au/news/software/best-free-parental-control-software-9-programs-to-keep-your-kids-safe-1140315
  • Parents of your children’s friends: When your kids stay over at friends places, what are the limitations they have around internet use and access?  Do they have the same standards as you in terms of what their kids see and how that is monitored?  Ultimately if you are not happy with how a parent of a friend of theirs deals with this issue then the filter you can put into place is that you don’t let them go over to that house, or have a sleepover etc.  This may sound extreme to some people but if you have standards then how far are you prepared to go to protect your children?

Internal Filters

These are the mental, emotional and intellectual filters or the decision making framework from which your kids make their own judgements about what they see on the internet. This will depend on your own personal view of pornography but here’s some options of things to discuss.

  1. What is Pornography? Firstly discuss it with your kids.  What is it, why does it exist in the first place?  Discuss your values around it with them.  Why you think it is not appropriate for them to be seeing it on the internet.  Define it so that they know what you are talking about, bring the topic out into the open rather than pushing it under the carpet.  For something a bit more in depth see http://protectyoungminds.org/2012/04/30/defining-pornography-for-a-seven-year-old/.  Once again if you really feel your kids are too young for the conversation on porn then you might frame it as “What are good and bad images on the internet?”
  2. Explain the harms of pornography, for instance the addictive qualities of pornography and what it can do to people’s brains. If you need more info on this search “harms of pornography on young people” on the internet for some articles and scholarly research.
  3. Give them a plan of what to do when they come across it e.g.
  • Close the page down straight away or turn the computer/device off
  • tell someone (preferably you or your partner) straight away, reassuring them that they won’t get into trouble.

A good resource for parents is the book “Good pictures, bad pictures: Porn-proofing today’s young kids”  by Kristen A. Jenson.  It is targeted at 8 to 12 year olds.

Of course the conversation you might have with an 8 year old will be different to the one you have with a thirteen year old when hormones and the opposite sex are of more interest.  Here’s some links to a range of articles that offer good tips on talking to teenagers:

http://mashable.com/2012/10/08/talking-to-kids-about-porn/#nqPZ1b0iQSq7

 

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