Protecting Your Child Against Porn

We're about to talk about a very sensitive topic. Most parents dread ever giving the sex talk. But the truth is that statistics are shocking. Did you know that the Philippines ranks 14th in top porn watchers? Sadly, the largest consumers of pornography are 12 to 17-year old boys. Because of unguided and unprotected use of technology, the average age of exposure to porn is 9 years old. More than ever, we have to be extra vigilant in protecting our children. We listened to a talk by Marriage & Family Counselor Cristina A. Co who gives valuable advice on how we can guard our children against exposure to pornography.

Starting Them Young

The porn industry is trying to target our kids while they are young. Why? “Because at this young age, the brain is soft and delicate. Repeated experiences lead to habitual watching of porn. And this becomes dominant pathways in their brain”, says Co. This is hard to hear—but the earlier kids start, they more addicted they will be when they grow up.

Sex talks are usual taboos in our country. But Co says that as sexual exposure is aggressive in targeting our kids, so should our efforts be in protecting our kids against porn. Co adds, “Experts forecast that in two years, the average age of sexual exposure will be 6 years old”.

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Protect your child

Against Porn

What porn does to the brain

Watching porn exposes the brain to unnatural levels of dopamine and endorphins— a certain “high”, like a wave of pleasure all over the body. But it short-circuits the brain. According to Co, consistent exposure to porn desensitizes our children’s minds. After surges of dopamine, the brain eventually stops producing dopamine, leaving the viewer craving to feel the level of satisfaction he or she has felt before. And as a result, the person seeks more intense pornography to achieve the same high as before.

This is so damaging to our children. When children are exposed to that endorphin high, Co explains that during situations of stress, distress, and fatigue, they will turn to the activity that gave them an experience like no other. They will watch porn. And this pattern will continue on and on unless there is intervention.

What we can do

The first step, Co teaches, is to understand our children. “Teens take more risks not because they don’t understand the dangers, but because they weigh risk versus reward differently. In situations where risk can get them something they want, they value the reward more heavily that adults do”. Since our children’s minds are still developing, they have the tendency to be impulsive in their actions. They’re not thinking about the consequence of their actions, they’re looking at the rewards they can get out of a situation.

How does this apply to us? Co stresses the need for open communication with our children. Instead of saying, “Don’t do that, that’s wrong!”, parents should take the time to probe on what is motivating the child to do something despite the negative consequences ahead. Together, you can talk it out and understand your child better.

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As mentioned earlier, the endorphin rush is what hooks a child or a teenager on porn. He or she is turning to it as a source of comfort during times of emotional distress. We need to ensure that the family becomes the source of comfort. Providing a loving and secure environment will help the child turn to the parents when things go out of hand.

Co also introduced the idea of inoculation. Much like vaccination, the term inoculation refers to a deliberate introduction of a disease to protect you from future infection. Co believes in giving the sex talk as early as possible. She says that the earlier we start, the less awkward it’s going to be. Of course, there is a proper way of talking to our children about this.

You can engage your child by showing happy family photos. Then explain that there are other pictures, videos, and even cartoons that show people without clothes and doing inappropriate things. They need to understand that they may feel many emotions when watching it. But it can become an addiction, so they should not watch it.

I “CAN DO” it

Speaking of open communication, Co suggests that parents create an action plan with their kids if they are ever exposed to porn. The “My CAN DO Plan” is easy to discuss and gives you a platform to inform your kids of what they should do in case they ever encounter porn in any form or way:

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  • C – Close my eyes.

We need to explain well enough that there is no good that can arise from watching these kinds of videos. They need to get as far away from it as possible.

  • A – Always tell a trusted adult.

Co shared that parents need to “set the stage” before talking about sensitive matters like sex. Kids need to feel safe, relaxed, and assured that you won’t be angry no matter what they say. From there you establish a strong foundation of trust.

  • N – Name it when I see it

That’s a bad video!”. Teach your kids to call it out if they are ever exposed to videos with sexual innuendos.

  • D – Distract myself!

They should get away from the source of the video or image as soon as possible. Leave the room and do something else.

  • O – Order my thinking brain to be the boss!

Unfortunately, the decision-making part of the brain will not fully develop until the ages of 18 to 25. We have to teach our kids that there is a feeling brain and a thinking brain. The thinking brain is the rational brain that will make good decisions.

Protect Your Home

Co mentioned that the porn industry is so savvy that small mistakes in spelling on search engines will cause links to bad videos pop-up. As parents we can do our part in protecting our home against bad websites.

“How much do you spend on dinner with your family? P1,000 or P2,000? Well, for P1,000 a month, you can subscribe to these sites that are family safety tools”, she says. Much like a virtual nanny, these websites provide social network protection and parental control solutions from profanity, promiscuity, and violence. Most of the also alert parents by text and email during suspicious activity. Here is a list of websites she shared:

  • BESECURE.COM – Comprehensive online media filter for social networks, movie and video ratings, as well as iTunes filter for explicit music.
  • COVENANTEYES.COM – This scores websites visited for mature content and sends a report when they are visited.
  • FAMILYSAFE.COM – Helps parents filter out bad words and videos.
  • INTERNETSAFETY.COM—Has 35 categories of blocking, as well as keyword blocking and blacklists.
  • MYMOBILEWATCHDOG.COM – Safeguards your child while using mobile phones and immediately alerts parents if he or she receives unapproved email, text, or phone calls.
  • SPECTORSOFT.COM – Monitors the online activity of kids ad identifies pornographic content they can be exposed to. It records every detail your child does on a computer.

What’s Next?

The easiest solution would be removing any form of screen time—ever. But that’s impossible. “If a child is used to a gadget ever since he was little, you can’t just remove that away from him”, says Co. Doing so would only set the stage for argument. She advises to take it slow so that you can cut back on screen time without a fight.

“Spend time with your kids. Did you know that the first 10 minutes after they arrive home from school will set the tone for the whole evening?”, says Co. Parents need to be intentional in dropping everything to talk to their child and probe into the many things that happened throughout the day. Co also explained how dinner time should be sacred. Keep gadgets and TV out of the picture and keep on talking to each other.

Indeed, moms and dads have huge tasks ahead of them when it comes to protecting children against pornography. Co reminds us to take things one at a time. It’s never too late to change, correct bad habits, and improve our relationships with our children.