Should parents be concerned about Internet porn?
The thing parents should be worried about most is the victimization of their children. Whether it's being preyed upon by a pedophile or experiencing crass sex totally disconnected from intimacy, it's all victimization.
Today's kids live in a culture where hard-core pornography is everywhere. Kids have an arsenal of portable devices these days which enable them to go online just about anywhere. Even if you monitor them closely at home by getting them to use child-friendly search engines and setting up OpenDNS or other parental controls, you still might not be able to stop them from looking at porn. They could see it at a friend's house, on a cell phone, or someplace where there's public access to the Internet - like the library or at school.
As far as I'm concerned, the windows in front of Victoria's Secret stores depict soft-core pornography. The same goes for Abercrombie and Fitch. When parents walk by these stores in the mall with their kids or get their catalogues in the mail, they are exposing their kids to porn.
A lot of people call in to my radio show wanting to know if they should wait until their kid asks about sex to talk about it. I just tell them that at that point, it's already way too late. You should talk to kids about sex beginning at a very, very early age because they already have a high chance of seeing porn when their age is still in the single digits.
You can say we all have different morals and philosophies about this topic, but mine is very child-centered and focused on kids having quality lives with quality relationships. I think the ultimate goal for developing a child's sexuality is making them see why connecting both sexually and spiritually is important. You need to make them see that sex is a special act, and it symbolizes deep love and commitment between a husband and wife. There are things that are sacred and sublime, and there are things that aren't. To take something sacred and put it in a meaningless context diminishes humanity, and affects not only the child's sexuality, but his or her values, such as how women should be treated.
By helping your kids see the big picture about how sex is sacred and how it is being abused largely in our culture, you will be better prepared to confront the problem of pornography when it occurs in your children's lives.
If you find out your child has looked at pornography, don't get hysterical. I think children are always victims of a form of sexual abuse whenever they are confronted with sexually provocative materials. Gently find out if someone introduced it to them. It's really important to understand the context in which they got a hold of it. It could have just been a pop-up, or their web search request came back with a porn site (e.g. they typed the word "fox" with two "x's" by accident).
And in the worst case scenario, your child could be looking at porn because it has been sent by someone who preys on kids. "Pedophiles can use access to porn to establish a bond with a child. The bond can lower a child's resistance to meeting in person, and viewing porn may lower his or her resistance to being persuaded to perform sexual acts. Showing a child pornography also is a good way to prevent detection because the child knows at some level he or she is doing something his parents wouldn't sanction and is unlikely to tell them."
Lastly, if your kid was just curious and looked at porn, don't punish them. Yelling, "We're taking the computer away and we're not going to feed you for four days," is not helpful. Instead, I think you should use the incident as an opportunity to teach your child that not everything and everyone on the Internet is harmless. It's a good time to talk to them about sexuality, how it can be exploited, and your values about sex, marriage, men, women, and relationships. In your own home, it's always a good idea to put the computer in a place where it is visible to the adults and limit the amount of time your child spends there. You initiate the Internet session, log them on and off, and use blocking software and tracking services. Basically, you set the rules. If a child breaks the rules, then they get punished, but don't punish them simply because they were curious and looked at porn. If they are going to get a punishment, it should be because they disobeyed the rules. Above all, you don't want them to feel uncomfortable talking to you about something as incredibly important as their sexuality.
Your kids are being seduced all the time, and you have to keep that in mind. I constantly see commercials that make my drop jaw. It used to be that people would get hysterical over a kid getting his hands on a Playboy
, but it's not even close to that way anymore. Our kids have lost their innocence and their sensitivity about viewing certain things that should be special. It's time to redirect and educate them.
Here are some alarming statistics
about how Internet pornography is affecting our kids: