When Your Child is Exposed to Cyberpornography
Sooner or later, it’s going to happen.
Your child will look for something in a search engine, and a pornographic image will appear on the monitor. A simple mistake like misspelling a URL or typing .com instead or .org can land an unsuspecting child in terra incognita, or unknown ground.
The internet is a vast collection of web sites with more than four billion users online. There are 33.5 million users of pornographic sites at any given time. There is a strong likelihood that children will come across cyberpornography at least once before their 18th birthday. On average, children see their first pornographic images at the age of eleven. As early as 2007, nine out of ten boys had seen online pornography. Six out of ten girls witnessed it.
So how can responsible parents prepare their children for the inevitable?
Have the talk, a little at a time
As uncomfortable as you might be, have the talk with your child about the dangers of online pornography. Explain that there could be surprising images that appear in searches. If they do, it’s best to avoid clicking on the image. Instead, alert an adult.
How much detail you provide will depend on the age and maturity of your child. Talk honestly about sex, explaining that the online images don’t represent reality.
Sometimes children aren’t aware of what constitutes cyberpornography. Cyberporn is the display of obscene images, especially those depicting sexual act. Even sexting is considered online pornography. Sexting is the distribution of pornographic images and communications through digital means. It’s illegal to expose minors to sexting, even if another minor sends it.
There are many software solutions to assist parents in managing the content their children might be exposed to.
Site blockers like Net Nanny can help you control what your child sees online. Porn-blocker software enables parents to construct a virtual fence around the perimeter of their children’s internet searches. Parents receive reports of any online searches conducted on identified devices. They also can see which apps their kids use and get real-time alerts regarding the appearance of adult-content.
You likely won’t be able to block every bit of cyberpornography from your child’s internet experience. You can significantly reduce the likelihood of exposure.
Your reaction to online pornography will influence your child’s perception of cyberporn and even sex. Overreacting may make children more curious to find out what the big deal is all about. Shaming children about coming across online pornography is just as detrimental as ignoring the incident altogether.
Instead, listen to your child. Discuss what happened and then move on – but be prepared to come back to the conversation if it happens again.
What if it’s too late?
There’s no such thing as too late. Parents can always intervene on behalf of their children.
Children who are addicted to tech may be more likely to view online pornography. Get your child involved in activities that don’t require technology. Extracurricular activities like dance, sports, and theatre make excellent alternatives to being online. So do family nights and other outdoor experiences.