Our kids have a lot of access to the internet, so having the sex talk early on is very important.
Whether it’s using a tablet or expertly commandeering the on-demand cable selections, modern kids have plenty of access to entertainment and the internet. That unfortunately means access to pornography and sexual images they’re too young to understand, no matter how hard you try to shield them. That’s why it’s crucial that in this digital world, parents have the sex talk with their kids. Before the internet can.
According to author and parenting expert Tara Kennedy-Kline, your child is going to see pornography on the internet sooner than you might think. It probably won’t be intentional either as kids can see inappropriate images and videos in a variety of ways thanks to pop-up ads, spam and inadvertently pervy Google searches. Kline notes the example of “whitehouse.com”, which is a website having nothing to do with our nation’s government. And everything to do with what Kline refers to as “a virtual black hole of sex pop-ups that are next to impossible to escape.”
That would be fun to attempt to explain to your fifth grader innocently researching a school history project.
To prove her point, Kline cites a study claiming that 40% of porn is downloaded as the result of an innocent keyword search. Besides accidental Googles leading to things kids shouldn’t be seeing, they’re also at risk of intercepting sexy texts between you and your partner, seeing things on TV, and having inappropriate images appear on the internet browser of their phone.
Kline tells of her 12-year-old son having trouble with a pornographic video he couldn’t get to close on his phone. He came to his parents for help, but some kids might not and will end up watching things they’re not prepared to put into context.
Sadly, there’s no way to totally prevent our kids from seeing certain things by accident (or looking them up on purpose) so our best action is to give them information about sex. As Kline states, “Lying to our children or making them feel shamed for seeing something sexual is a dangerous road to go down.” The smart way to handle it is to teach them and not make them feel shame so when they stumble across something they shouldn’t, they’ll tell you.
Recently, our 6-year-old son found some soft-core porn while using the on-demand search function on our digital cable box. We found out afterward that an older child on the bus taught him to spell a few choice words and while I did laundry, he was able to access a few Cinemax clips that didn’t require extra payment. We thought we had adequate parental controls and found out the hard way that we absolutely didn’t. After a long conversation with him explaining what he saw and talking about how it wasn’t his fault, we both beat ourselves up pretty good. But now, we know. And hopefully, it won’t happen to us again any time soon.
We have to be vigilant with the media our children have access to but above all, we have to arm them with the right kind of knowledge so when they accidentally see something they shouldn’t, it won’t scar them for life. And hopefully, if you keep a good dialogue going, they’ll come to you before seeing something worse.