When I’m talking with parents about the accessibility and impact of pornography on kids today, they often want to shut down, plug their ears or pretend that their kids are good enough to stay away from hardcore porn. Unfortunately, the largest viewers of online pornography are teenagers today, and the vast majority of kids will accidentally encounter pornography online. So what’s a parent supposed to do? Here are three simple steps that I hope that you will consider taking this week to help protect and care for your kids.
Educate Yourself: It’s time to move beyond paralyses and wake up to the realities regarding online pornography. Today’s online pornography is incredibly graphic, addictive and violent, and if you aren’t using filters on all of your Internet-enabled devices, chances are strong that your child will come in contact with this material. Even good, smart kids can be easily caught up in pornography addiction, impacting their understanding of sex, their offline sexual activities and opening the door to a lifetime of shame and depression. It’s your job as a parent to wake up to the realities of online pornography and make a stand to protect your kids today. (See our pornography parent guide to learn more about the impact and dangers of pornography).
Prevent Access: The vast majority of parents that write to us only start caring about protecting their kids online after it’s too late and they’ve discovered that their child has an addiction to online pornography. Please don’t wait until it’s too late. Use a strong filter (like SafeEyes or our X3watchPRO) and accountability software on all Internet-enabled devices, regardless of the age of your child. I have talked with parents who have discovered their five year old going online watching pornography, so it’s never too early to start to protect your kids. If your son or daughter is already struggling with addiction to or use of online pornography, install filters and parental controls to prevent further damage and to stop future access today—don’t wait for their use to “blow over”.
Address & Love: Engage in regular conversations with your kids about healthy sexuality, pornography and online safety in an age-appropriate fashion (check out our “Action Steps” and “The Talk” to help). Tell your kids to come to you if they ever encounter something scary or upsetting online, and watch out for some of the warning signs (some are listed here) that your kid may be struggling with pornography. Remember to never embarrass or shame them if you do discover they are looking at online pornography. Chances are they are already ashamed enough. Instead, extend your love and compassion to them and let them know you are going to do everything you can to protect them and help them with their struggle.