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Lauren B. Stevens is a freelance writer and influential blogger. She is passionate about social media and literature.
Jul 27, 2016
Where would we be without the Internet? It’s a wonder how people parented before the Internet and search engines, with the ability to search for answers to common quandaries (why won’t my baby sleep?), ailments (my child has a weird-looking rash, should I be concerned?), and even groups for parental support. But how much information is too much for our children to access?
McDonald’s and Starbucks recently made the bold move to filter their complimentary WiFi to screen access to pornographic sites and related content, a move already put into place by popular restaurant chains, Panera and Chick-Fil-A. The move by both McDonald’s and Starbucks is in response to the urging of two anti-pornography groups, Enough is Enough and the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.
Consider the following stats from FightTheNewDrug.org:
If you think these numbers seem high, and the age of exposure young, you can blame accessibility. With the up-and-coming generation being the first to have access to the Internet from birth, almost any information children want is literally at their fingertips.
With children accessing the Internet at earlier and earlier ages, often as young as three years-old, having greater control over the content your child has access to is becoming a pressing concern. Think about the times you’ve let your little one use your phone or a tablet to watch sing-a-longs or cartoons on YouTube; without parental controls on the device your child is using, your son or daughter can easily stumble across a video with explicit content.
A New York Times article, “Parenting in the Age of Online Pornography,” highlights just how pervasive the Internet is in exposing children to mature content. Findings by the Crimes Against Children Research Center (CACRC), at the University of New Hampshire, are shocking. Using a sample of 10 to 17-year-old children, CACRC found that 42 percent of children had seen pornography, and of those children, sixty-six percent had come across the content accidentally.
What these statistics mean for parents is that communication is of the utmost importance. The days of checking out library books about sex and puberty, and sneaking peeks at men’s magazines, have been replaced by children searching online and coming across often graphic misrepresentations of sexuality. Instead, parents need to have conversations about sex and appropriate Internet usage before it becomes an issue.
While you can’t protect your child twenty-four hours a day, you can make sure that your children aren’t being exposed to inappropriate content at home and on their mobile devices. Parental control software, such as Net Nanny®, gives parents more control over the content their children access on the Internet, and provides parents the ability to view the search terms being used. If your child is searching for explicit or sexual content, you’ll be aware and can have an open conversation, in alignment with your family’s values.
If you’ve put parental controls in place, but your child is exposed to inappropriate content at a friend’s house, having open lines of communication may result in them coming to talk to you about it. Whatever you do, stay calm. Net Nanny blogger & Psychologist Annemarie Lange can guide you through handling what to do if your child has unintentional exposure to pornography.