Eight-year-old Cindy was playing around on her mother’s computer in the afternoon after school. She was looking up websites about her favorite cartoon, “Pokemon.” Towards the bottom of one search page she noticed a link that said “Pokemon Porn.” Curious, she clicked on the link and saw pictures of her beloved cartoon characters doing strange things with each other. Cindy was shocked at first, but became fascinated with the pictures. The website had links to other sites, and she began clicking on the links, this time finding videos of real people having sex. Cindy felt like she had discovered a secret adult world and she wanted to try the things she saw. She decided that when her friend Amy came over that weekend, she would show her the videos and ask her if she wanted to try it...
Just imagine your child in this situation. Unfortunately, this situation can happen very easily and does in fact happen quite frequently. A recent survey estimated that 90% of children between the ages of 8 and 16 have viewed Internet pornography, most frequently while doing their homework. It’s important to understand that we’re way beyond the days of sneaking a peak at your Dad’s Playboy. Internet porn is extraordinarily graphic, and covers every variation of sexual behavior known to man, including the deviant and abnormal.
Research has shown that exposure to Internet pornography has a host of negative effects on children. For example, children exposed to pornography learn distorted views of sex and relationships, and they become sexually active at an earlier age. Like Cindy, many of them try to act out the sexual behaviors they see in the pornography and some of them develop sexual problems that end up requiring specialized treatment. The negative effects can also extend into adulthood, as children who view pornography are more likely to suffer from sexual dysfunctions as an adult.
How then can parents shield their children from pornography? Here are a few basic steps:
Lock up any porn you have in the house – If you have pornographic magazines or DVDs, make sure they are locked away where your children do not have access to them. Many children come across pornography accidentally while rooting around in their parents’ bedroom.
If you have a personal computer, create a separate user account for your children – When you buy a computer and take it home, the first account that gets created has “administrator” privileges, which basically means you can make any changes to the computer you like and access whatever you want. If you let your children get on the computer using your account, they will be able to access anything online. Instead:
Block web browsers on any game systems your child has access to – Many game systems – including the Wii and PS3, have web browsers. Portable gaming devices like the PSP and DSi also have web browsers. These browsers can be used to access pornographic websites. Unlike the web browser on a computer, these browsers typically cannot have filtering software installed. So the only thing to do is to block access to the browser entirely. You can use the parental controls on these systems to create a PIN number that must be entered to grant access to the browser. Just make sure not to make the PIN “0000,” “1234,” or any other number the child might guess (such as the year of your birth).
If your child has access to an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad – Each of these devices has web browsers that can be used to access porn. However, you can use the “restrictions” option to block access to the web browser. It can get tricky, however. Follow these steps:
If your child has a cell phone – Many cell phones these days have web browsers. If your child’s phone is an iPhone, you can use the steps above to disable the browser. With other phones, you may be able to prevent access by making sure the phone’s account does not include web access – this is typically marketed as a separate service that costs extra. If you want your child to have web access, but want to monitor what they are doing with their phone, you can install software such as “Mobistealth,” which is a service that keeps track of web sites visited on the phone. Mobistealth also keeps track of all text messages and emails.
Be mindful of other ways your child might have access to online porn – Many children have accessed pornography at school, at libraries, and at friends’ homes. A responsible parent can tear their hair out trying to block access in their own home, only to have their child defeat their best efforts by going across the street. However, there are some steps a parent can take to address this problem:
For additional information about protecting children from pornography, including several “how to” videos that show how to put parental controls on various devices, visit our website at www.avoidingsexualdangers.com.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem