HOUSTON – It’s a topic that many parents may not want to talk about or even think their children may have been exposed to it.
But a new study shows more and more children as young as 8, 9, and 10 years old are seeing adult content on the internet, like pornography.
KPRC 2 spoke to a child psychologist and experts in children’s safety to help parents figure out when and how to talk to their children about this and what to do to protect them.
Common Sense Media says its research shows the majority of teens ages 13 to 17 have watched pornography and some have seen it by age 10 or younger.
“They are going, at some point, to stumble across something on the internet that they are not prepared to or don’t really understand,” says Certified Sex Therapist Emily Jamea, Ph.D., LMFT, LPC.
Psychologist Emily Jamea says kids are exposed either accidentally or on a regular basis because they have more access to the internet.
“Other kids will have a friend who says hey look at this, and what parents need to do is talk to their kids about what they might find on the internet and coach them on how to respond to their feelings about it,” adds Jamea.
So what age should we start talking to our children?
Jamea says it should be from diapers to dating and beyond.
“My kids know the accurate names for their genitalia, if they have a question where babies come from, I give them age-appropriate information, I really try not to shield them from too much you know from the research, that tends to have the opposite effect,” says Jamea.
“Kids who don’t know information not only will turn to the internet but they also have higher incidents of unwanted pregnancy, higher incidents of STD’s,” adds Jamea.
Rania Mankarious, C.E.O. of Crimestoppers Houston says the statistics are staggering.
About 40% of boys in fourth grade actively search for pornography online, many without their parents’ knowledge.
“Most families say that’s terrible, but that’s just not my house, we need every parent to say actually this very well could be my house,” says C.E.O. of Crimestoppers Houston, Rania Mankarious.
She too believes the conversation should start, the earlier, the better.
And it should be age appropriate.
For kids in first, second, and third grade tell them:
“You are going to see things when you are gaming or on an app or you’re online, that is not good material for you to see. You might see people being really aggressive, or being really violent you might see body parts of people you don’t know, what we want you to do is close your eyes real tight and shut it down and come tell us because you’re okay,” says Mankarious.
As kids get older, the conversation should evolve.
“You’re going to see content that’s sexual, you’ve heard the word pornography you might be curious to know what that is and that’s very normal. It’s violent, it’s hurting the people involved, sometimes the people involved don’t know they are involved, not only does it hurt them, but it hurts your mind and it hurts your heart,” says Mankarious.
Mankarious says parents should regularly check their children’s phones or iPads, especially apps with a connection to the outside.
“Anything you do online or on a gadget is not private, it’s just not,” says Mankarious.
Parents need to add safeguards to their children’s electronics.
Filtering software and third-party monitoring devices can easily be installed on your child’s device.
But parents beware.
“We can put the safeguards, we can put the filters, our children will most likely get around it. It’s going to find its way into our children’s lives, it’s our jobs to raise them and equip them with their buy-in to protect themselves and want to shield themselves from the content,” adds Mankarious.
Some of the top-rated parental control apps are Bark, Aura, Kaspersky, Qustodio, and M-Spy. You can search for them in your app store.