Protecting your children from pornography and its effects
Dear parents, in line with our commitment to adding value to you and making your parenting process easier, please find below helpful information about pornography, its effects and how to safeguard your children from the harmful effects of pornography.
Pornography, more commonly referred to as porn, consists of sexually explicit material intended to sexually arouse the viewer. Today pornography is available at the click of a button by anyone with an internet connection, though it also comes in the form of literature, audio, magazines, movies etc. It should be noted that many movies, though not directly classified as porn, nevertheless have explicit sexual content hidden within them. Smaller children typically stumble into pornography at home, either on an unlocked smartphone, tablet, PC, or magazine collection. If pornography is accessible, the child might assume that such material is OK. A young mind believes that if mom or dad approve, it must be good. With widespread access to the Internet, curious teens may also accidentally or intentionally be exposed to millions of pages of material that is uncensored, sexually explicit, often inaccurate and potentially harmful.
The problem is, even if young children can’t understand sex or its role in relationships, the images they see can leave a lasting impression. It’s a basic premise of marketing that what people watch, read and direct their attention towards eventually influences their behaviour. When a child views and consumes pornography, he may act out the images seen onscreen with younger family members, neighbours, or friends.
Although research is still ongoing to assess the potential damage of pornography on its viewers, current research points to the fact that that early exposure to sexual content may have the following undesirable effects:
EARLY SEX: Research has long established that teens who watch movies or listen to music that glamorizes drinking, drug use or violence tend to engage in those behaviours themselves. A 2012 study shows that movies influence teens’ sexual attitudes and behaviours as well. The study, published in psychological science, found that the more teens were exposed to sexual content in movies, the earlier they started engaging in sexual activity. In a study by researcher Dr. Jennings Bryant, more than 66 percent of boys and 40 percent of girls reported wanting to try some of the sexual behaviours they saw in the media (and by high school, many had done so), thus increasing the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.
SEXUAL VIOLENCE. According to some studies, early exposure (by age 14) to pornography and other explicit material may increase the risk of a child becoming a victim of sexual violence or acting out sexually against another child.
FEELINGS OF GUILT: Watching pornography brings about feelings of guilt on the part of the viewer, eventually leading to loss of self-esteem.
ESCALATING TO EXTREME AND PERVERTED SEXUAL TASTES: The habitual consumption of pornography can result in a diminished satisfaction with mild forms of pornography and a correspondingly strong desire for more deviant and violent material. In a study of convicted child molesters, 77 percent of those who molested boys and 87 percent of those who molested girls admitted to the habitual use of pornography in the commission of their crimes.
ADDICTION: Addiction is a risk for children and youth who continually access pornographic materials. In simple terms, addiction involves an activity that was once enjoyable and eventually evolves into a necessity. Addiction can physically alter the brain and affect later behaviour. It is traditionally characterized by an uncontrollable urge, often resulting in loss of control, preoccupation with use, and continued use despite problems caused by the behaviour. The medical field has recognized that pornography consumption can be problematic, and failure to resist the urge to view pornographic images, despite the negative effects the behaviour has on social or recreational functioning, is a sign of impairment.
POOR ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE: Habitual watching of pornographic material can eventually lead to poor academic performance of a student as the student may find that when he/she wants to read, his/her mind may keep veering off to the pornographic material that was viewed.
UNHEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS: A person who habitually views pornographic material will find it difficult to have relationships, especially with members of the opposite sex. The person may find himself or herself thinking sex related thoughts even in innocent interactions with other people.
Preserving Our Children’s Youth
For most families, banning media from the home isn’t a realistic option, and so the objective is not to avoid the issue, but to approach it head-on so that your children learn about sex and relationships from their most trusted source: you. Here are a few ways that you as a parent can ensure your message is heard:
First, Be Aware of the different ways the internet can be accessed in your home .Parents must take preventive measure by locking PCs, tablets, and smartphones with a safe browser or Internet filter to eliminate the availability of pornography for kids and teens. In this category, Net Nanny is a good internet filter to use.
Second, Keep Communicating
Filters help, but they don’t prevent all contact with inappropriate content. Discuss with your children why you use filters and monitoring software. In an age-appropriate, but open manner, discuss with your children the reasons obscene content is dangerous for them. Determine an action plan for encounters with inappropriate sexual content (both in the home and out of the home). For example: turn off the screen and tell an adult. Practice the action plan in family meetings or informal discussions.
Third, Keep Checking
Make sure your children know you will keep checking all connected devices including cell phones. Help them understand the internet is a public forum and never completely private. Review internet histories regularly. Check text messages on cell phones. On a regular basis, discuss the risks of viewing obscene content. In this way, you allow your children to feel safe discussing the topic with you and make appropriate adjustments to filtering systems.
Parents should ensure they share their values and expectations regarding sex and relationships with their children. Also talk to your child about media representations of sex, relationships and gender roles and teach them to question the accuracy and intent of the messages they receive. Know what your children are watching, playing and listening to and take advantage of teachable moments to discuss any inappropriate content or behaviors with them, and please feel free to inform the school’s guidance counsellor at firstname.lastname@example.org if you think your child needs counselling in this area.