5 Wise Tips For Keeping Kids Away From Internet Pornography

Posted on August 6, 2011


Editor’s Note: This interview was originally written for and published on www.milehighmamas.com.

As parents, we want to shield our children from the filth the world is constantly spewing a them. We want their little minds to remain free of dirty, violent, and sexual images or knowledge. If monitoring their tv and movie selections wasn’t enough, now we have to worry about the internet – it’s at school, on their phones, at their friends house and in our own homes. What steps can we take to help protect them from exposure to pornography? Focus on the Family’s own Bob Waliszewski was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to talk with us about this very subject.

First, a quick introduction of Bob and why he’s qualified to talk about the subject:

“Bob Waliszewski is director of Focus on the Family’s Plugged In department, which features the Plugged In Online Web site, PluggedIn.com. The site provides up-to-date reviews of new movie releases and information on the hottest music, television, DVDs and video games impacting popular youth culture. Bob reaches a large radio audience weekly with his syndicated “Plugged In Movie Reviews” feature (both audio and video versions), as well as serving as a weekly guest of Focus’ popular “Weekend Magazine” radio program…Bob has been interviewed extensively by media outlets such as CNN, CNBC, Daystar Television, MSNBC’s “Scarborough Country,” Fox News Radio Network’s “The Alan Colmes Show,” the Associated Press, Entertainment Weekly, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Sun-Times and The New York Times in which he most often tackles the controversial entertainment issues that confront families. Bob regularly speaks to teens and parents on popular culture, and was called to testify before a subcommittee of California legislators on the subject of violent lyrics.” – Focus on the Family

MHM: How common is it for young children to stumble on pornography online?

Bob: I’ve got the stats right in front of me, “42% of internet users ages 10-17 surveyed said they’d seen online pornography in a recent 12 month span. Of those 66% said they did not want to view the images and had not sought them out.” This comes from Janice Wolak in her article “Unwanted and Wanted Exposure to Pornography” (2007). Even if these statistics were 50% inflated, it’s still way way way too high. Another article by Janice Shaw Crouse, Ph.D jan 2011 “12% of all internet sites are pornographic. 260 new pornographic sites go up every day. 35% of all internet downloads are pornographic.” To answer your question in a nutshell, are statistics a problem? Absolutely.

MHM: When is it appropriate to start giving kids a bit of exposure to the web?

Bob: I think that every family should have internet filtering software. Focus on the Family has a partnership with Bsecure and there are others out there. It’s not fool proof – I have gone home and tried to beat the system to see how good it is in order to work with the staff to improve it. The few times I’ve tried to beat it, they found out and they’re getting better all the time. Once a family has internet filtering software on their computer, they can allow their child around the age of 9 to conduct some basic research on their home computer. At this age, they probably won’t be assigned any computer-related research for school but if they see something on the Discovery channel about an animal they want to research more, this is a good time to work with them about using the internet properly and give them some exposure. Around 11 or 12 it’s going to become more of a necessity for school.

Also, here’s a rule that was common in my house while my kids were growing up – I recommend it for every family. My kids knew they could go and visit any place that I had been on the web. They could look at history, they could read my emails. Nothing was confidential. Nor was there anywhere that they would read or look at that was confidential as well – it was all very open. And knowing that we could all check each other it was a very healthy situation.

MHM: Mobile internet – is there a way to protect our kids even though smart phones are becoming more and more of a necessity?

Bob: I actually like the idea that when our kids are in those elementary school years that it’s ok to send a cell phone in their backpack to be used in emergencies only. Parents can tell their child, “Should you miss the bus and you need a way home, you take this out of your backpack and you call me and I’ll be there as soon as I can. If something happens at school that makes you uncomfortable and you think mom or dad need to know about it, you use this to call us.” A lot of these phones you can buy at local stores and they are basic and don’t allow web access – they are just for the purpose of calling or texting.

Once kids hit jr high, I’m open to the idea of smart phones. Once again, I think mom and dad need to look at it and read the texts on a regular basis and kids need to know that they will because, if they know mom and dad are going to look, they will be more responsible.

MHM: Our culture has become increasingly more accepting of pornographic content in all forms of media – sometimes it feels impossible to shield them from everything. What do you suggest parents do when a situation has occurred where their child has been exposed to inappropriate images?

Bob: If our child comes to us it’s different than if we find it by checking the internet history or what have you. If a child comes to us, we celebrate their honesty and thank them for coming to us. We should ask them how it happened and if it was accidental. We want to talk about it and ask if they have a desire to go looking for more of that. If they answer yes, it might be a good time to get a counselor involved.

If we find out on history that our son or daughter went looking for the stuff, we can’t sweep it under the rug. We have to bring it up and confront it and ask our child what happened. If they make excuses and say, “Oh, that was when Bill was over.” chances are that’s just an excuse but we need to ask Bill about it to get to the bottom of it. When a child is intentionally seeking it out we need to take action as parents to keep it from spiraling out of control and, if necessary, bring in an experienced counselor.

Another point I would like to caution parents about is the fact that it’s not just the internet we need to be wary of. A while back I received an email from a young man who told me that he had struggled with a lust problem for years. He told me that he didn’t go to the sites such as playboy and others but instead fed his lust through the movies. Parents have to be aware of the porn – it’s like the cocaine that pushes kids over the edge to do a lot of stuff like watch internet pornography.

MHM: What are three big no-nos that you hear of most often as far as when/where/how parents are allowing their children to access the internet?

Bob: One of them is that for some reason a lot of families think that their kids having internet access from their bedroom is a good idea for homework. I just think it still needs to be in a public family place. The second big no-no is that parents treat the internet, texts, email, Facebook as if it was a confidential diary that kids from the 70s and 80s might be have had with a little key. They feel like to get in that realm is to violate some unwritten rule of teen privacy. While I say that may have worked for diaries in the 60′s and 70s and 80s -it doesn’t work on the internet. It’s not a good system. It’s not only ok to snoop – but I believe it’s a must to snoop. And our kids shouldn’t be surprised they should be brought up from an early age knowing this is a rule – I look and you look we all do. There’s no such thing as privacy when it comes to these things.

We want to thank Bob for taking time out of his schedule to talk with us. His insights are both frightening and helpful. What are some guidelines and rules you use in your household to help keep your kids away from the “dark side” of the web? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

Just a quick blurb about PluggedIn.com – we use it all the time to find out if movies, music, games, etc are appropriate and what offensive content they may contain. I highly recommend it for parents who hate wasting money on movie tickets or other media without knowing it’s offensive nature. Check it out!

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