Protecting Your Children From Internet Porn

Check out these 5 simple steps for protecting your children from the dangers of pornography.


by Ashleigh Lorenz | staff writer for The Snap Mom

According to the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, most children will be exposed to Internet Pornography by the time they reach age 11 (1). Many of these children don’t set out to view these vulgar pornographic images, rather they are introduced by another child, or they stumble upon them while searching the Internet for a homework assignment. As parents, it is imperative that we understand that early and increased exposure to pornographic images can lead to brain changes similar to those seen in drug addicts (2). When pornography is viewed, the pleasure center of the brain is stimulated and dopamine is released. The brains of pre-teens and teens are dominated by these pleasure-seeking areas (thus explaining the emotional rollercoaster called puberty) and are highly vulnerable to addiction and rewiring. When repetitive increases of dopamine are experienced, the teen brain is rewired to crave that stimulus over and over again (3).

It is also important to understand how pornography normalizes domination, rape and other forms of sexual violence and how this normalization severely impacts the way young men and women are being taught to view the male/female relationship. “As pornography has become more acceptable, both legally and culturally, the level of brutality toward, and degradation of women has intensified” (4). Furthering the divide between the male/female relationship, repeated exposure to pornography can establish a person’s sexuality completely apart from real-life relationships, thus impacting our children’s abilities to form true, real life, intimate relationships (5).

So how, in this digital age of unbridled exposure, are we able to protect our children against the harms of pornography?

Below are 5 ways to safeguard your children against exposure to Internet pornography.

1. Change your phone settings.

Many parents feel safe in the fact that their children don’t have access to their own cell phone. However, when you purchase a phone, it is factory set to x-rated, meaning your child can access porn sites with the touch of a button. To change the settings on your phone to a more child-friendly rating:

iPhone Users:

1. Go to Settings

2. Select General

3. Select Restrictions

4. Select Enable Restrictions

5. Type in a passcode that you will remember in case you need to change the restrictions in the future (this should be completely different form the Lock screen pass code, otherwise kids will know it).

6. Under the Allow section, turn OFF any apps that you don’t want someone accessing without your permission.

7. Scroll down further to fine tune different aspects of iOS from restricting Game Center use to filtering out specific websites, or only allowing certain ones. (6)

Android Users:

1. From the home screen, pull down from the top right and select settings. Scroll down to and select Users, then select “Add user or profile.” You can create either a normal User Profile or Restricted Profile. Tap on the latter.

2. If you haven’t done so already, you’ll be prompted to set up a screen lock for your device. Select Set Lock, then choose to use either a pattern, PIN or password lock and follow the instructions.

3. Select the settings icon next to the “New profile” to give it a name.

4. You’ll now see a list of apps installed on your device, with on/off toggles to the side. By default, the restricted profile is unable to access any of these. Go through the list and toggle on only the apps you are comfortable with your child accessing. The list includes any web browsers installed on your tablet, so leave these switched to off to avoid accessing porn sites.

5. From the lock screen, you’ll now find your account is protected with a pattern, password or PIN, while your child can instantly access their own account-but only the apps you deemed appropriate. (7)

2. Have a designated “Computer Zone” in your house

Don’t allow electronic devices in your children’s rooms (this goes for friends who are visiting your children too), rather place a computer in a central location. This exposure decreases the chances your child will seek out explicit content on the Internet and it allows more opportunity for you to dialogue with your child about what they are viewing.

3. Talk, Talk, Talk

Brandon Patrick, a sex addiction therapist, recommends that parents begin talking to children often and early about the harms of viewing porn. “While the dangers behind porn exposure are real, Patrick said another danger can be lurking in the way parents react: shame. It is easy for concerned parents to panic when they learn that their kids are seeing porn… children who are humiliated or punished for looking at pornography will simply learn to hide it and turn to it more and more to feel relief from any guilt that they may feel.” (8) It is important that parents are on the same team as their children, fighting this together. Simply saying “it is bad, don’t do it,” increases the allure and then can evoke feelings of shame and confusion if a child does experiment with viewing porn and finds that they are interested or aroused. They were told it was bad, so now they must be bad. “Tell them why it is bad and why they should avoid it” (8). Acknowledge that your child might be embarrassed to talk to you about the subject, but highlight the importance of it as well. Reassure them that it is okay to be curious about sex and that they can always come talk to you.
Depending on your child’s age, consider purchasing a book such as, “Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids.” This timely tool is an indispensable resource for starting a dialogue with your child about the dangers of viewing pornographic images. This book is most appropriate for ages 5-12, as it spells out the biology behind porn addiction and helps parents and kids develop a plan to safeguard against these images. Jenson and Poyner provide ideas on how parents can help their children develop their own internal filters so that they can become “porn proof” (9).

4. Invest in Parental Control Programs

There are many filtering programs that can protect against porn being accessed by your computer. There are free programs such as Windows Live Family Safety 2011 and Qustodio v1.9 as well as programs with special features that you must purchase such as Net Nanny and AVG Family Safety. Research what software is the best fit for your needs and get it installed today!

5. Limit Screen Time

Limiting the amount of time your child is allowed to be face to face with a screen, decreases unnecessary exploration of inappropriate content. “The average teen spends 8 hours a day in media-usage. This continued consumption of media often perpetuates the sexualization of kids and teens. It’s not just the pictures, it’s the ideas. They are watching TV shows…about sexually inappropriate stuff.” (10) Consider creating a media “budget” that includes, television, Internet, gaming, handheld devices and Internet usage. Limit the total amount of time that children are being exposed to media and allow children to earn their time based on chores, behavior, etc.

All it takes is a quick scan of the most popular television shows or a walk through the mall to clearly see that our children are being raised in a hyersexualized culture. Our cyber world creates easy and immediate access to images that can have lifelong impacts on your child’s brain, relationships and world view. While you cannot guarantee your child will be forever sheltered from these dangerous images, you can take a huge step to protect your child’s innocence by taking steps to porn proof your children today. 

About the author:

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Ashleigh is a licensed clinical social worker who spends her days chasing her three kiddos around. When not in the mommy role, Ashleigh works as a program therapist at Selah Freedom, an organization that works with survivors of human trafficking.


Sources:

2. Hilton, Donald Jr. MD, FAANS. “Pornography and the Brain. Public Health Considerations.

3. http://www.teensafe.com/blog/web-pornography-addiction-affects-teenage-brain/

4. http://www.vawnet.org/sexual-violence/print-document.php?doc_id=418&find_type=web_desc_AR

5. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lauren-dubinsky/pornaddition_b_1686481.html

6. imore.com

7. pcadvisor.co.uk

8. http://national.deseretnews.com/article/3280/how-to-talk-to-your-child-about-the-negative-effects-of-porn.html

9. http://www.amazon.com/Good-Pictures-Bad-Porn-Proofing-Todays/dp/0615927335/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1447814157&sr=8-1&keywords=good+picture+bad+picture+book

10. http://www.covenanteyes.com/2012/05/18/planning-summer-safety-in-sexualized-culture/