Children and Pornography – An Ever-Increasing Concern

The primary focus of is to highlight the many benefits of the Internet. The Internet is a powerful teaching and learning tool. However, there are also some dangers associated with Internet use. Some parents many not be aware of the Internet risks and so are unknowingly putting their children in harm’s way.   A constant concern with using the Internet is that our children will be exposed to pornography.

Repeated studies have shown that frequent exposure to pornography will lead to a distorted view of sex and of the opposite gender. (Edward Donnerstein, “Ordinances to Add Pornography to Discrimination against Women,” statement at Public Hearing of Minneapolis City Council Session (12 December 1983). See also Luis T. Garcia, “Exposure to Pornography and Attitudes about Women and Rape: A Correlative Study,” AG 22 (1986), 382-83. See also Zillman, “Effects of Prolonged Consumption,” 129; and N. Malamuth and J. Ceniti, 129-37.   See also Cline, Pornography’s Effects, 8.) Early exposure, especially before puberty, to sexually explicit images can have a very significant effect on an individual because the brain is still developing at that time.  In worst-case scenarios, youngsters have, with younger siblings or other children with whom they had contact, tried out what they viewed.  Sexual behaviours before puberty have only two possible sources – abuse or exposure to pornography.  (Stephen J. Kavanagh, Protecting Children in Cyberspace (Springfield, VA: Behavioral Psychotherapy Center, 1997), 58-59.) Viewing pornography as a child can have effects that continue into adult life and require counseling.

Aggressive Porn Distributors

As anyone with experience using the Internet knows, accessing pornography online is very easy.  In fact, pornography or links to pornography often appear when one is searching other topics. Distributors of pornography on the Internet have become very aggressive.  They use deception to steer individuals to their sites, and many of these pornographers do not care whether or not the individuals are children.

One deception that porn sites implement is the use of neutral or even kid-friendly keywords that will be picked up by search engines. When someone searches for kittens, for example, they may find pornography instead. Porn sites will also label the images on their sites with neutral terms so that the images will be displayed by a Google image search.  Another tactic pornography sites employ is to buy expired domain names. What was once a helpful site may be replaced by pornography if the organization forgets to renew its domain name. Pornographers may also create sites that are a deliberate misspelling of a popular mainstream site. Not long ago (misspelling of pointed to a porn site.

Why Do They Do It?

Why do pornographers try to direct people, even children, who aren’t looking for porn to their sites?

1. Some individuals think it’s exciting or funny to expose themselves or present nude/sexual photos to those who aren’t expecting it.

2.  Some individuals feel powerful when they gain control of an aspect of someone’s life or computer. Many computer viruses and malware lurk on porn sites.  The operators of such sites could gain access to your computer if a person in your home visits their porn sites.

3.  Individuals can make money from advertising clicks on their site as well as by actually selling access to their pornography.

What to Do About the Problem of Pornography

1.  Place all devices connected to the Internet in a public room, facing out.

2.  Use ad-blocking software.

3. Use website filtering software.

4.  Model appropriate Internet use.

5.  Directly teach appropriate use of the Internet.

The Internet is a power tool. You wouldn’t leave a nine-year-old alone with a power saw even though, by the time he was man, it would be beneficial to him in life if he had been trained to use one.  Nor would a father say, “I won’t own any power tools because they may harm the children”.  Instead, he would allow the children to experience the devices in appropriate ways, such as by watching him build something and by beginning to try the tools out, under direct supervision and when mature enough to handle the equipment.  In the same way, although it is unwise to leave a child or young teen alone with the Internet, when they are grown, they need to be able to handle the Internet. They will be moving out on their own where there will be no one to supervise Internet use. To prevent children from interacting with technology is to disadvantage them in life and to leave them unprepared for what they will face in the adult world.  Simply monitoring computer use is not enough.  Teaching and modeling appropriate Internet use are essential steps in the process of helping your child develop into a responsible adult.

© Celesta Thiessen

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