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Kids and Online Porn: What You Can Do Right Now

QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS ABOUT KIDS AND PORN

Judging by the amount of traffic this blog post  gets from search terms that surround the subject of kids kids looking at porn, I’m guessing many parents and guardians are under stress over what to do when they discover a child has been searching out pornography on the Internet.

baby at a computer looking at a scantily clad woman

No, no, baby. Those don’t work.

This is one of those family issues that falls in the cracks of being within the parents’ skill level to handle and needing a professional’s intervention. Adults are usually able to implement basic restrictions like “You are not permitted to look at porn,” but they may find themselves repeating this tenet at increasing decibel levels as the child ignores the rule and continues to break it.

When the computer goes back to the shop for the 3rd, 4th, or 5th time for repairs (read: virus cleansing), it’s time to stop yelling and take more action. Below are some approaches you can do right now for different age groups. First, though, I’d to quickly chat about natural disasters.

TAKING A HINT FROM THE NATIVES

When a natural environment is prone to shift quickly, it is essential to educate youngsters on risks. Geographically dangerous areas like earthquake fault lines, tornado alleys or flash-flood areas have been inhabited for thousands of years. People thrive in those areas by learning how to survive the sudden and sometimes unpredictable onslaught of deadly weather. The threat of bad storms is a constant spector in those native cultures. This means that each child from Day 1 is told stories, given instructions, and armed with survival techniques. As toddlers, children are taught how to duck under tables, run to shelters, or avoid certain dangerous flood paths. There is no fear or secrecy, just respect for the power of the storms and methods for survival.

Potentially damaging data on the Internet is like an earthquake, a tornado and a flash flood combined. Emails, text messages, websites, all deliver scary and/or pornographic links and images by the second. We have not yet integrated the folklore and the survival lessons we need to teach children into our culture. We must talk to children at very early ages about where they decide to put their eyes. Good idea/bad idea is a concept even the tiniest of tots understand. Good images/bad images along with good sites/bad sites also have to be part of the conversation.

I’ll go into more step-by-step detail about how this folklore can be passed down to your children in another post. For now, here are some quick tidbits of information you can use with each porn-curious child in your home right now:

STEPS TO TAKE IMMEDIATELY IF YOUR CHILDREN ARE SEARCHING FOR PORN ONLINE

Late Teens, Early Adults: 14+ years of age

I’ve encountered parents who have given up and are simply waiting until the porn-loving kid leaves the house. This endure-until-they’re-gone method, plus very good, updated-daily virus protection software may be the only hope for parents of kids in their late teens. Other things you can do to protect your family from virus, hackers, and the federal government:

  • Consult a computer network expert and perhaps isolate that child’s machine from all others in the house (yes, this is possible. It may cost extra with your Internet Service Provider).
  • Regularly monitor the machine for images that may be child pornography, because the Feds are tracking that crap and will knock on your door. If your child is a minor and you pay for the network, states vary on the level of prosecution you personally may face.
  • Take away all machines and Internet access <-This is almost impossible nowadays. Better to simply tread carefully and keep a watchful eye.

 

Early Teens, Tweens: 10-14 years of age

The early aged children of this group are just starting to understand there is a whole sex industry out in the world. If you find “porn” in your search history, assume your younger children need the definition of the word. Symantec did a study on over 1 million child users in their network and found that the word “porn” was in the top ten of words being looked up. The search mostly likely was solved by having the definition of the word on the first page. Work on a more open dialog between you and your younger kids. The goal is to get them to ask you or a trusted adult the meaning of terms they hear on the bus instead of risk seeing the horrific images that result from a web search. Images can act like real physical trauma for young children.

The tweens of this group are more seasoned. They may want to just see the opposite sex’s anatomy, or other examples of their own sex’s anatomy. This is normal. If you have some science books around or some medical anatomy sites, bookmark those and make it clear that those are the only ones permitted. Explain how the family’s finances, security and well-being can be compromised by visiting porn sites. Assume every free porn image has virus embedded in it, and explain this clearly. Assume every porn image portraying young people is child pornography and therefore a federal crime. This age group still understands the concepts of rules and authority in general. Bringing up the Feds might be a little too scary, so use your best judgment. And again, I cannot stress this enough: buy and install virus protection software and set it to update daily.

Small Children: 10 years of age and under

Most family experts show concern if children of this age group are regularly seeking out pornographic images and sexual information on the Internet. Trying to find a definition of a term is one thing. Sneaking away to look up explicit images and video is another. Start with very clear talks with all children this age. Rules of Internet use and searching behavior should be written on a list and placed next to machines. Use your instincts if something seems not right. Don’t panic, though. You’d be surprised to learn what psychologists consider in the range of normal behaviors.

If you feel as though your young child has a destructive habit that is too tough to break on your own, approach your family doctor first. (Notice I did NOT say school counselor. Over the years, I’ve had less and less faith in the public and private school systems to handle struggles with pornography. Plus, confidentiality standards are more strictly followed in a medical environment.)  Start with a family doctor you trust. Ensure there are no sensory issues, ADHD, or other mental differences that are contributing to the behavior. Ask for recommendations for counselors. Children of this age benefit greatly from sessions with an Art Therapist or Music Therapist. These professionals are fully trained counselors that utilize non-verbal expressions to help children feel comfortable and safe to open up.

Follow the recommendations of the specialists. It’s an ongoing process and will take time to reset the communication standards in your family. Don’t forget to cleanse the machines of all virus and offending material. And can I say this again? Virus protection software. Even if you trust your own children, friends of theirs might not be so pure.

GET VIRUS PROTECTION SOFTWARE RIGHT NOW

Best of luck. And remember: virus.protection.software. The kind you pay for is better than the kind you don’t, but free stuff is better than nothing. Do it today, especially if your house has PCs and not Apple computers. I run Kaspersky on my Macs, because there is virus for everything now (just less frequent for Macs).

 

Photo credit: Christine Cavalier, PurpleCar

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