Sunday, 10 July 2016

Keeping Kids Safe

Part 1/3 (to see other parts of the article, click on the pages at the bottom)
Protecting children from pornography exposure

by Cath Hakanson (See all authors)

When to start talking.

When do we start talking? A lot sooner than most parents are comfortable with.

Research suggests that children as young as 10-11 years of age have viewed pornography, with some suggesting that it may be as young as 5 to 6 years of age.

Basically, as soon as your child is able to use a search engine, or is watching videos on YouTube, there is a good chance that they will stumble across porn. Which means that you need to start talking age-appropriately to kids from as young as five or six. (And yes, you can talk age appropriately to a five a year old without scarring them (or you) for life.)

Even if you are a technology free household or restrict your child’s access to the internet, your child is still at risk as they may still stumble across sexually explicit material outside the family home.

Kids and porn – know the signs.

There are a few warning signs that may signal that your child has been accessing sexually explicit material:

  • Find evidence of pornography in your browser history (older kids will be smarter and may delete any history).
  • Discover that the browser history has been cleared on the family computer.
  • You notice an increase in pop-ups, spam messages, viruses or other inappropriate content on the family computer.
  • Unexplained charges on your credit card, mobile, tv or internet service bill.
  • Your child lies about their computer use.
  • Your child is spending large amounts of time online, especially at night.
  • Your child locks the door when on the computer in their bedroom.
  • Your child quickly changes the monitor screen, hiding what they were looking at, when you enter the room.
  • An unusual curiosity about sexuality.
  • You overhear your child talking about sexually explicit material.
  • Your child talks about women and/or sex in a disrespectful, physical and highly sexualised way.
  • Your child starts displaying inappropriate sexual behaviour.
  • Your child appears depressed and withdraws from everyday family life.

My child has already seen porn. What now?

Sometimes we go to start our first conversation about pornography with our child, to discover that we are too late and that our child has already viewed it. For kids today, the reality is that it is harder to avoid pornography than to find it.

If your child has already stumbled across pornographic material, it is important to stay calm. Let them know that you aren’t angry with them, and reassure them that you are glad that they have told you, so that you can help them to make sense of what they saw.

Ask them how they came across it, what they saw, and how it made them feel. It is important to not embarrass or shame them during the conversation.

If they were shown it by a friend, let them explain what happened, talk about how it made them feel and how they can respond if it happens again.

If they went looking for it, let them explain why they went looking for the material, talk about how it made them feel and discuss better ways for them to find out about sexuality in the future.

If your child has been viewing pornography frequently, you may be wondering if you need to seek professional help. This is a difficult question to answer as it depends on the severity of the material that the child was viewing: were the images limited to just body parts or did it include graphic sexual acts, violence or animals? Has the child acted out in a way that is sexually inappropriate or acted out what they saw with another child?

If your child is clearly traumatised by the material viewed, regularly views pornography, or later ‘acts out’ sexually with against another child, then you will want to consider seeking the help of a health professional with expertise in the area of pornography. True Relationships & Reproductive Health have created an app, The Traffic Lights®, that can help with identifying and managing sexual behaviours in children and adolescents.

If your child is viewing pornographic material frequently, you may be wondering if your child has an addiction. Sometimes it can be hard to determine the difference between a habit of watching porn and an addiction where you try to stop but just can’t. Whichever it is, there are some things that you can do as a parent to help your child. And keep in the back of your mind, that sometimes viewing pornography is a sign that something else is going on. Sometimes kids become sexualised before they are ready, and seek our pornography because of this.