(Pictured: New Zealand-based filmmakers Zareen Sheikh-Cope and Rob Cope with their four children)
The information in the new documentary “Our Kids Online” highlights why the Culture Reframed Programs for Parents are so critical. The filmmakers outline four key ways to protect kids: Educate Yourself, Educate Your Kids, Install Filtering and Monitoring Apps, and Become and Stay Aware of What Your Kids Are Doing Online. Our Program for Parents of Tweens and our Program for Parents of Teens will help you get an A+ in all of these areas!
NEW DATE! Join our Facebook Live interview with the filmmakers on Wednesday, June 3, at 8 pm ET.
By Zareen Sheikh-Cope
It would be fair to say that making an educational documentary on the impact of porn and predators on kids was never on my life ‘to-do’ list.
But when my husband Rob and I were looking into the pros and cons of handheld devices for our kids, we stumbled on some really worrying information. We are a blended family—I have a 10-year-old daughter and Rob has three kids, ages 15, 12, and 9.
We came across article after article about kids accessing hardcore, violent porn online. Even worse, a rise in the number of cases of child-on-child sexual assault were documented in which exposure to this type of porn appeared to be the causative factor.
As parents living in a world where it is the norm for young kids to have their own devices, it was really troubling. We didn’t want our kids exposed to this. We wanted our kids to experience authentic intimacy and mutual respect with sexual partners. We wanted them to experience the fun and excitement that come with healthy sexual relationships, and to learn from the awkward, fumbling around that was a part of our own youth. Instead, the online content that kids could be exposed to would introduce them to confusion about boundaries and consent, and depict violent, degrading acts as “normal” sex. Access to this content well before they had any experience in a real relationship could be so damaging.
Of course, we wanted to find out how we could best protect our kids. Were there filters, apps, or downloadable software to keep them safe? We wanted to know how to approach this topic with our kids. Is there an age to have ‘the talk’? Were schools engaging in discussions of online pornography and predators? What was the government doing? Were there any organizations helping parents navigate this important issue? We wondered what other parents were doing, because no one seemed to be talking about it.
We also wanted to know why. Why has this happened? How bad is it really? While we could protect and educate our own kids, there were so many parents out there who, like us before we started researching, had no idea that there was a problem. So, what about them — the parents who love and care for their children like we do, and who want the best for them? What about their kids? And the kids who our kids would end up dating?
We were overwhelmed, and although neither of us is particularly tech-savvy, we decided to take matters into our own hands. We did more research, sought out the leading experts in this field, and documented the journey.
Fast forward 18 months and here we are at the launch of the film — a film we have tried to make as comprehensive as possible. A film that tells the story of why online porn and online predators are a very real threat to the well-being of every child who has unfiltered access to a device — or friends who do. We also aimed to make a film that offers some very accessible solutions that parents can put into place.
“Our Kids Online” provides resources, ranging from books to free online parenting courses — such as the Parents Programs by Culture Reframed — that empower parents to begin conversations with younger children, and open up communication with older kids.
It has not been an easy road. But things that truly matter in life are seldom easy. The two of us worked on every aspect of this film with no budget or funding other than our own savings. Our journey involved extensive time, planning, travel, and immersing ourselves in—and exposing ourselves to—information that we cannot un-hear or un-see. We lived and breathed this topic for a year and a half.
So many times, we wanted to walk away from this project. We were emotionally exhausted from carrying the burden of this knowledge. Picking up my daughter from school and seeing all the children run from their classrooms with their smartphones in hand was almost too much to endure some days. “Do their parents know the potential harms?” “Do their phones have filters?” “Has anyone talked to these kids about staying safe online?” “Are any of these kids being groomed by a predator with everyone around them blissfully unaware?” Rob and I felt like we knew this massive secret that we were keeping to ourselves.
Since we finished the film, we no longer feel as though we’re keeping a secret.
“Our Kids Online: Porn, Predators and How to Keep Them Safe” is a comprehensive look at how children’s natural curiosity, combined with unfiltered, unsupervised access to the internet and accidental exposure to degrading, violent porn and online predators is leading to substantial harm to our children. The film breaks down the potential threats to children and young people, and how this affects them not only individually, but also how it is shaping our entire culture. The last 30 minutes is solution-focused, guiding parents to the resources we have found during our journey, and spending time with some of the world’s leading experts.
We hope this film will help you understand the reality of the online world for kids and the dangers it presents, ease some of the overwhelm you may be feeling, and help you find empowering resources.
Culture Reframed and Dr. Gail Dines are featured in the film. Watch the trailer: Our Kids Online: Porn, Predators and How to Keep Them Safe.