Imagine this… your Grandparents have just been asked to define pornography and the adult media industry. “Oh my”, your Grandmother says, “That is hardly a polite subject”. She blushes. “However, if I must define it…well… pornography is something that only a handful of… umm…shady-type people might seek in a dark store, or a theater, with XXX all over it, usually late at night… and mostly on the weekends, of course. Children would never be allowed near such a place”. Wow, things have changed.
You see, while the major film studios, television networks, and record labels are all mandated by Federal legislation to restrict or ban minors’ access to adult material. No legislation has passed restricting the internet. Therefore, adult content is everywhere; and it is infiltrating our marriages and our families at an astounding rate….24 hours a day…7 days a week. And much to the dismay of the “Greatest Generation”, pornography is more accessible than ever to children, especially when parents are not involved with their kid’s online activities…or simply, when they do not understand the controls necessary to protect their families from pornography and predators.
Now, I understand that this is not the easiest subject matter to talk about with your kids, or anyone for that matter. However, the thought of my daughter seeing even one millisecond of the trash that we are talking about makes my stomach turn, so let no parent be in denial about the prevalence of internet pornography. Though Al Gore, and other politicians, often omit the likely origins of web technologies from their speeches, pornography is a multi-billion dollar mega-industry that has been on the leading edge of at-home media, internet proliferation, and e-commerce for two decades. The technology behind VCRs? Driven by demand for adult movies in the home. Early internet adoption? Required a hookup, a computer, and someone who was willing to tinker with new technology. It’s no wonder that young men were the vast majority of early internet users and pornography sites were at the top of the world wide web “hit lists”. E-commerce? Adult content sites were among the first to initiate credit card transactions online, to integrate live video streaming into browser windows, and to establish fee-based membership clubs.
And if there is any doubt remaining about the magnitude and reach of the pornography industry today (in addition to the prevalence of online predators), here are some additional, alarming statistics:
- 9 out of 10 children between the ages of 8 and 16 have viewed pornography on the Internet, in many cases unintentionally (London School of Economics January 2002).
- The average age of the first Internet exposure to pornography: 11 years old.
- The adult industry says their web traffic is 20-30% children under 18 (NRC Report 2002, 3.3).
- 1 in 5 children (10 to 17 years old) receives unwanted sexual solicitations online (Youth Internet Safety Survey, U.S. Department of Justice, 2001).
- 76% of victims in Net-initiated sexual exploitation cases were 13-15, 75% were girls. “Most cases progressed to sexual encounters” – 93% of the face-to-face meetings involved illegal sex (Journal of Adolescent Health, November 2004).
- The total porn industry revenue for 2006: $13.3 billion in the United States; $97 billion worldwide (CNBC, 2009).
- 28,000 Internet users are watching porn every second.
- $3,075 is spent every second on adult material (CNBC, 2009).
So what are parents to do? How can you protect your children?
Internet Safety Tips for Parents:
- Become computer literate and be actively and regularly involved in your children’s online experiences.
- Place computers in high-traffic areas, not a child’s room.
- Use screening software (Net Nanny Parental Controls, PureSight PC, and CYBERsitter are a few popular brands).
- Don’t allow children to spend long periods of time on the computer, especially at night.
- FACEBOOK: If you allow your child to have a Facebook profile, regularly check their postings, photos, and friends list. Read unfamiliar messages. Set guidelines that you must be a full access friend, or else you may resort to online reputation monitoring services such as SafetyWeb or SocialShield, which can help you find out what your teen is posting online without your having to friend them in Facebook (of course, this can be used as leverage, if nothing else). If you are unfamiliar with the security controls of Facebook, click HERE for a Parent’s Guide to Facebook.
- Help children understand that online users may not be who they claim to be, or who they seem to be. Get to know your children’s internet friends. Talk openly about inappropriate web sites, and the temptation for other kids to seek attention by showing others how to access inappropriate sites.
- Tell children to report anything they come across online that seems strange or makes them uncomfortable, especially if they are ever asked personal questions or invited to personal meetings.
- Tell children to report to you suggestive, obscene, or threatening e-mail or bulletin board messages. Forward copies to your ISP (Internet Service Provider) and insist they help deal with the problem.
- Be concerned if children mention adults you don’t know, become sensitive, or appear to have inappropriate sexual knowledge.
- Do not shy away from discussing this topic with your children, even if pornography is a sensitive, or hurtful, issue within your own marriage. Separate the two and protect your children. They need your guiding hand.
Internet Safety Rules to Set With Your Kids:
- Never give out personal information online, such as your name, address, school name or address, or parents’ or teachers’ names or addresses.
- Never create online profiles, without parental knowledge.
- Never visit chat rooms or join an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) without permission.
- Never go to private chat rooms or meet online friends in a private online setting.
- For younger children, never go to new Web sites without permission.
- Never respond to rude or offensive e-mail, instant messages or postings.
- Agree to establish security controls for Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and other social media outlets, with a parent present.
- Talk to your teens about the reputation implications of inappropriate photos and comments on social media sites. Future college admissions, job applications, and other opportunities can be adversely affected by one “silly” adolescent submission.
- Post your household’s “Internet Safety Rules” by your computer.
- Expect real consequences when the Safety Rules are broken.