Written by: Kristen Jenson (CEO, Defend Young Minds)
April 26, 2023
It’s a no-brainer that concerned parents will want to limit their children’s exposure to pornography. Research (and common sense!) show that pornography is harmful to a child’s mental health, physical safety, and sexual development.
That’s why we recommend setting up internet filters and parental controls as the first line of defense. Although this can feel like an overwhelming task, Gryphon makes it easy to protect all of the devices on your network from one easy-to-use command center.
The problem. Once the tech solutions are set up, many parents think they can check off internet safety on their Good Parent To Do List. Unfortunately, the biggest mistake parents make after setting up filters and controls is they think they’ve done enough. They are lulled into a false sense of security.
Even with the best tools in place, kids are still exposed to pornography and other inappropriate content through loopholes or devices accessible outside the home.
If filters aren’t enough, what else can parents do to protect their kids?
The answer: Teach them to install their own internal filter. Kids who have an internal filter are able to reject pornography when they are exposed, instead of being caught off guard or pressured by peers to view it.
Proactive parents can do a lot to help their kids develop an internal filter and raise their kids to be resistant to pornography. The first 3 steps are simple:
Get the facts
Start out by educating yourself. It will help you feel better prepared for any questions that may come up and open your eyes to places kids are seeing porn that you may not have thought of.
Here are 5 facts every parent should know:
- Parents underestimate exposure to porn by at least 50%.
- 97% of 4th-6th graders reported exposure to porn.
- Video games and many other apps lead to porn sites.
- MRI studies show porn addiction shrinks the brain.
- 79% of teens who want to quit have no one helping them.
Resources to learn more:
These free ebooks will help you get started!
- How to Talk to Kids About Pornography: Quick Start Guide
- 5 Things Teens Wish Their Parents Knew About Porn
Arm the kids
It’s no longer a matter of if your kid will be exposed to porn, but when. Trust us when we say you want your kids to hear about this from you. It’s crucial to equip kids with the tools they’ll need when they are exposed to pornography so they can confidently reject it instead of being caught off guard.
Arming your kids means giving them a definition, a warning and a plan.
It might seem intuitive that parents should begin the sex talks before starting conversations about pornography. But that can be too late when it comes to digital safety, because most children today are on internet devices by the age of 3 or 4. The good news is that there are comfortable ways to give kids an age-appropriate definition of pornography before talking to them about sex. Here are some examples:
Simple definition: “Bad pictures show the private parts of the body we keep covered with a swimsuit. These parts are meant to be kept private.” Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr.: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds, Kristen A. Jenson, MA
Expanded definition: “Pornography means pictures, videos, shows or even cartoons of people with little or no clothes on.” Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids, Kristen A. Jenson, MA
Advanced definition: “Pornography is material specifically designed to arouse sexual feelings in people by depicting nudity, sexual behavior, or any type of sexual information in any media.” What’s the Big Deal About Pornography: A Guide for the Internet Generation, Jill Manning PhD.
It’s not enough to simply tell a child that pornography is bad and they should stay away from it. Part of arming our children to reject pornography is helping them understand why it’s harmful. This conversation can start while they’re young by helping them understand how their brains work and that pornography can be harmful to the brain. As they get older, you can expand that warning to include how pornography negatively impacts relationships and society.
A vital part of arming kids to reject pornography is to equip them with a plan for what to do when they are exposed to it. Talk about this plan often. Role play. Post the plan in places around the house where your kids use the internet.
It can be daunting and awkward to talk to your kids about pornography. The resources below give parents a comfortable way to get the conversation started and provide a solid plan for kids to follow when they are exposed to pornography.
Resources to arm your kids:
Continue the conversation
Talking to kids about pornography cannot be a one-and-done conversation. So keep talking and expand on the conversation as your kids grow.
5 Tips for Talks
- Focus on the WHY: Why do you want to warn your child about pornography?
- Practice makes it easier: Remind yourself that the more you do something the easier it gets.
- Ask your friends: They may have some great ideas! Or you can give each other courage to get started.
- Ask your child, “When was the last time you saw pornography?”
- Name it when you see it: When you see or hear something that is overly sexualized, point it out and ask your kids what they think or how they feel.
Our best advice to parents is to adopt a two-pronged plan:
- Technical solutions like filters and parental controls.
- Digital defense skills that begin with early conversations.
You can begin by setting up physical filters and taking all the precautions necessary to limit exposure. Then arm your kids as soon as possible with an internal filter made up of the digital defense skills they need to keep themselves safe in all situations.
Our mission is to educate, encourage and equip parents, professionals and community leaders to defend young minds from the harms of pornography. We are devoted to developing excellent tools, including books, curriculum, articles, guides, courses and communities, to help raise empowered, resilient, screen-smart kids.