Parents: Keep reading for information relevant for
parenting kids up to the age of 8.
The growing ubiquity of mobile devices means those targeted or indirectly implicated are getting younger and younger—with children as young as 5 or 6 years of age now exposed to cyberbullying and online pornography—sometimes of the most extreme kind.
Parents often ask, “When should we talk to our kids about sex?” But a one-off awkward conversation about the birds and the bees is no longer sufficient. Why? Because our hypersexualized culture forces us to change our approach. We can either be one step ahead, or let the culture frame the way our kids think about sex. Perhaps a better question to ask is, “Which sexualized messages do I need to counteract?” so that my child will have a positive attitude toward their body, sense of self, relationships, and sexuality.
Sexual content bombards our kids. Whether we are comfortable with it or not, children learn about sex on a nearly daily basis — whether accidentally or out of curiosity. Advertising, music, TV, movies, and the Internet all offer a version of sex education. Much of this content is misleading, degrading, and objectifying (portraying people, particularly women, as nothing more than sex objects).
Keeping children safe and letting them know where to go if they feel unsafe have become an essential components of life with the Internet. As soon as kids begin using smart devices, we need to have conversations with them about ‘private’ images, bodily boundaries, online safety, and healthy choices.
Parents and educators are perfectly positioned to offer children positive alternative messages that instill in them self-respect and respect for others.
Before children become tweens (ages 9-12), important foundational learning related to wellness, safety, and autonomy include:
- Gaining an understanding of private body parts and public/private behavior
- Awareness of good and bad experiences (listening to their body as a way to stay safe)
- Knowing that some people are not good and may do unkind or violent things to others
- Knowledge of what to do, who to speak with, and where to go in order to feel safe
- Awareness of healthy boundaries
- Developing relationships in a positive, sustainable way
- Exercising responsibility for self and showing respect toward others
There’s nothing scary about this kind of learning, and it is supported by international standards on sexuality education. This kind of information counteracts sexualized messages, and lays a foundation for life and relationships.
Images in porn are often violent and extreme. Such exposure can have a range of troubling impacts. Kids who see pornography — whether accidentally or out of curiosity — need to find a way to manage what they encounter. If they have had a gentle and safe conversation BEFORE they see explicit content, they have a framework with which to process that information. Most importantly, they need to know they won’t be in trouble when they approach a safe adult to talk about it.
The alternative is a child who is unprepared, who sees porn and quickly feels overwhelmed. Responses can range from disgust, confusion, and guilt to curiosity and arousal. “I hated this but I liked it.” “I don’t want to look at more but I really want to look at more.” “I get a sense that it’s bad for me but I don’t really know why.” Internal conflict without the knowledge of why porn is not healthy for them may lead to shame, secrecy, and an unhealthy foundation for future relationships.
We also need to be aware of the growing number of children who have not had a healthy home or social environment and have been abused and/or seen pornography. Some of these children act out those behaviors on other children. There has been a four-fold increase of children presenting to clinics with problem sexualized behaviors and sexually abusive behaviors over the past several years, with almost all cases attributed to online pornography. This means that there is a greater need than ever for parents to learn how to guide their kids before they see porn on their own.
The Culture Reframed Parents Program Provides a complete best-practice toolkit, which gives parents the skills and knowledge to raise porn-resilient kids.
Learning Resources A comprehensive Culture Reframed compilation of books, videos, websites, podcasts, journal articles, factsheets, and reports.
Porn Resilient Kids Equipping families for Tricky Conversations
Online Porn Advice on how to talk to your child about the risks of online porn and sexually explicit material.
Healthy sexual behavior in children and young people Your guide to keeping children safe, spotting warning signs, and what to do if you’re concerned.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Children who are accessing pornography may not display any warning signs. However, if they do, things to look out for include:
- Withdrawing from activities
- Shutting down devices suddenly
- Displaying noticeable changes in language, demeanor, or behaviors
- Having nightmares, wetting the bed, or experiencing similar ‘trauma’-induced symptoms
- Spending long periods of time behind a closed bathroom or bedroom door
- Talking about sexual things too advanced for their age
- Exhibiting signs of depression and/or anxiety
Warning signs may look different for your child, depending on their age and stage of development. Learning that your child may be negatively impacted by pornography can be upsetting. Access the COMPOSE Yourself! model and learn key strategies to navigate this journey.
Online pornography has become the dominant form of sex education of our time. Installing home filters is, by itself, inadequate. Culture Reframed advises that filtering and monitoring apps must be accompanied by regular conversations and a proactive attempt to keep up with the never-ending stream of apps and other tech your kids are using. It’s not a case of if kids will see porn, but when.
Popular prevention tools include:
- Safe Surfer
- Net Nanny
- Qustodio Parental Control
- Content Barrier and Family Protector
- McAfee Safe Family
- Norton Family Premiere
- OpenDNS Home VIP
- PureSight Multi
- Witigo Parental Filter
These are just a few of the many platforms available. Listing them here does not constitute an endorsement by Culture Reframed. Take the time to investigate which filters and monitoring apps are right for your family.
The video clips below provide great information for parents, along with helpful conversation starters. We recommend watching them on your own first to identify those best suited to your child’s development and needs.
TAKE OUR FREE PROGRAMS
Where are your kids getting their sex education? Their smartphones? In this digital age, it’s critical for young people to have trusted adults to help them build resilience and resistance to hypersexualized media and porn. Culture Reframed’s Program for Parents of Tweens and Program for Parents of Teens help adults build the skills and knowledge to begin these life-changing conversations with kids (complete with scripted conversations). Enroll today!
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