Because the internet is so open and public, it is also a place where kids can stumble upon content intended for adults, content which they may find upsetting, confusing or distressing. “Inappropriate content” can mean many things to many different people, from swearing to violence to sexual nature.
It’s not easy, but eventually, you will need to have a conversation with your children about what they might see online. Many children don’t go to their parents when they see something they perhaps shouldn’t have seen, for fear that their parents will be angry at them, and take away their devices or internet access.
If your child comes to you with this type of issue, the best thing to do is to respond calmly and be open to discussion. If the content under discussion is sexual, your child will likely be embarrassed already, particularly when talking to their parents about these kinds of issues. Let them know you are there for them and are ready to answer any questions without judgment.
Young people may see sexual content online for all kinds of reasons. They may have seen it by mistake, a friend might have sent it to them, or they may have sought it out themselves out of natural curiosity.
It helps a great deal to talk to your kids honestly and frankly about sex, and a discussion about online pornography is a crucial part. A lot of research has shown that pornography can have a detrimental effect on young people, giving them distorted and unhealthy notions about sex. Pornography can also lead people to think of others as objects, rather than people with thoughts and feelings. At the same time, it’s totally normal to be curious about sex and relationships. This conversation is a great opportunity to direct your kids to positive resources about sexuality.
There are also a number of steps you can take to try to prevent your kids from being exposed to content they’re not ready for, like setting up parental controls on your internet connection. Remember, though, that technical fixes can’t replace open communication with your child.
Communicate with your child:
- Let your kids know that they can always come to you if something is bothering them, or if they have questions about anything they have seen online.
- Let them know that it’s totally normal to be curious about sex. Direct them to positive online resources like Brook and Thinkuknow. Thinkuknow is particularly good for younger children, and it includes different, age-appropriate sites for different age groups. You may find it helpful to look through the site together and discuss some of the issues.
Steps you can take to block inappropriate content:
- Set filters to block inappropriate content like pornography. Your ISP (internet service provider) should provide free parental controls, as should most gaming consoles. These are usually pretty easy to set up.
- Set Google to “safe” mode so that your children won’t inadvertently see inappropriate content in search results.
- Install an ad blocker to prevent viruses that might have inappropriate content.