The Internet and our Children’s Safety by Cole Adams, LCSW, CSAT
I can remember back to the first time I saw pornography. I was walking home from school in the first grade and found a single page from playboy [sic]. I took the page home and hid it in the bathroom. I felt so much shame about having it, but at the same time was compelled to keep it so that I could look at it again.
This week my children graduated from kindergarten and them term first grade was mentioned. I was immediately reminded of my experience that day walking home from school and a huge knot formed in my stomach. My children are entering the age when I was first exposed to pornography.
No parent that I know wants to think that their child might view porn. Current research shows us that the average age of exposure to porn is now 8 years old. Prior to the internet, the average age of exposure to porn was age 11-13. The ease and access of the internet and digital media has created a tremendous problem for our society and our children.
Recently a dad, whom I respect very much, came to me because he was very concerned on what to do with his 5 year old son. That morning, he walked into his living room and found his son watching hard core pornography. Apparently, his son had learned to use the remote and was trying to watch Scooby Doo. At that time on his cable company’s pay per view was a hard core porn film titled “Scooby Doo: A XXX Parody (Video 2011)”. His son had clicked this title looking to watch Scooby Doo and the gang and was traumatized for life. That child will never forget the images he saw that day. I still remember the images that I saw at age 6. This father called the cable company and they walked him through setting up parental controls on his cable box. They would not discuss the absurdity of the porn that they had on their network. This type of event is just the tip of the iceberg as far as what our children are possibly exposed to on a daily basis.
Children today are being exposed to porn that is much more graphic and damaging to their mental health than in previous generations. The problem that we are facing has been labeled as a tsunami by Patrick Carnes a leader in the field of sexual addiction research. Children have access to smart phone, satellite, cable, iPads, computers, and many other forms of instant free access to pornography. Many times these forms of media and communication are totally unfiltered and unmonitored. Not only is viewing pornography a possible option for our children, but interactivity and exhibitionism are common. It is now possible to download apps that will allow you to find and interact with someone who wants to act out sexually near you. This app will tell you what type of sexual experience this person wants to experience and how many feet/miles they are away from you. Kids are currently sexting nude pictures of themselves and others via their smart phones. Kids are under the false impression that there is anonymity and safety on the internet. It could not be further from the truth. Once pictures and information are out on the web, it is virtually impossible to have it completely removed.
What can we do to help our kids? We cannot protect our kids from the world. I believe that our kids are going to see pornography. I also believe that we can do our best as parents to protect our kids as much as possible in our own home. For instance, I believe that every device at home should be filtered and monitored. Cable/Satellite should be password protected and set at an appropriate age limit for your kids. For all forms of internet access, there should be software that is placed on all computers, laptops, iphones, iPads, etc. This software should serve two purposes. First, it should serve as a blocker. A blocker will do its best to block all sites that are adult related. Software companies have improved dramatically over the years, but they are not fool proof. Porn sites are introduced daily and it is difficult for the blockers to keep up. Second, the software should monitor all activity that is done on each device including all sites that are visited and all searches made and provide a report to us the parents. On iPads and smart phones this same software should be installed and the ability to download apps should be controlled by a password that only the parent can administer. There are multiple software companies that have such products. The one that I would suggest is www.covenanteyes.com. Covenant Eyes is compatible with PC, Macs, iPhones, and iPads. If you have children or young adults, I would highly recommend taking time to research the software that suits your family best.
I would also suggest that all forms of internet access be kept in common areas of the house, not in the child’s room. If you determine to allow internet access in their room, I would also suggest that all electronics are left in the main area of the house at bed time and that it is understood that either parent has complete access to their phones, computers, and other devices.
To some this may seem like an invasion of privacy, but anything that is put out on the internet is no longer private. As a practitioner working in the field of sex addiction, I see daily the catastrophic impact that pornography and sexual acting out have on individuals and families. I am happy for my children to have a hand written journal of their own, that I promise to never read, but if they feel they need to put something out into the world via the internet, I have access too.
Reprinted by permission of author. Cole Adams is the Owner of Bluffview Counseling in Dallas, Texas. Cole is a psychotherapist, a licensed social worker (LCSW), and a certified sexual addiction therapist (CSAT).