Published on 11/22/2021
Are Kids Exposed to Pornography at Younger Ages?
This is the question many parents are asking themselves today. Parents didn’t grow up with handheld devices that allow for infinite access to the world and so they must ponder, what is my child being exposed to? On average, boys are 13 years old and girls are 14 years old when they are first exposed to porn, and as many as 93% of boys and 62% of girls have seen online pornography by age 18. The problem with these statistics isn’t just the exposure, but also the extreme nature and addicting qualities of the content. How will you prepare your child to respond, and how will you even know if they have seen it?
Where are kids exposed to pornography?
- Nude images or videos may appear randomly regardless of what your child is searching for. Did you know that 46% of minors who said they had watched porn were first exposed to it by accident? Luckily, with parental controls like Canopy, you can prevent porngraphic content from populating if your child mistypes a word or lands on a weird search query.
- Porn may be shared with them. Someone they know may show them an image or video. They may receive an anonymous message as a text or in a social media app with a link to pornography, as well.
- Porn may be encountered while searching for the answers to questions. Kids will naturally have questions about their bodies, sex, and terms they hear but don’t understand. As they seek information on those questions, they may encounter explicit websites in the search results.
How to prepare your child to respond.
Considering the three ways that your child may be exposed to porn, here are some ideas for how you can prepare them to respond.
- If they land on a porn website by accident, encourage them to close the webpage and tell you what happened. Remind them that they won’t get in trouble and that if they were to clear the browser history, it would be more suspicious.
- If someone tries to share porn with them, teach them that before looking at anything someone wants to show them, they should ask what it is or not click that link. If someone offered to share food in the cafeteria at school, they would first want to know what it is before they eat it. They also know not to “take candy from strangers.” The same can be true for what they see; it’s responsible and appropriate to know what you will be consuming with your eyes, too.
- If they go looking for answers to questions about their bodies, sex, or something they hear at school, to avoid landing on a porn site, encourage them to ask you first. The more you talk about these things in a calm, normal tone, the easier it will be for them to ask you. If your child asks you about something that is unfamiliar to you, such as an acronym they hear from a peer or see on social media, look it up first without them peering over your shoulder (just in case what you discover is not appropriate to share with a child) and then discuss it with them in an appropriate manner.
How will you know if your child has been exposed?
Your child might one day come to ask you a question or show you something they saw that made them uncomfortable, especially if they are still in elementary school. Teenagers sometimes lean toward being secretive and don’t always want to run to their parents with questions or what they find online, especially when it relates to anything sexual.
Protect Yong Minds, a nonprofit on a mission “to empower parents, professionals, and community leaders to protect young kids from pornography and promote healing from any sexual exploitation, has seven questions to consider to discover whether or not your child may have been exposed to or might be viewing pornography. These questions are not a fool-proof test, and just because your child may exhibit some of the behaviors, it does not mean they are looking at porn. However, thinking through them may help reveal that more conversations about this difficult topic are needed.
Ask the hard(est) question.
Asking your child directly if they have seen porn likely will never be comfortable or easy, but it can be a game-changer. If you suspect that your child has seen porn—or you simply want to have a conversation about it—it’s important to avoid coming across as accusatory.
Create the atmosphere where you and your child typically have the best and easiest conversations.
It could be out shopping with your daughter, on a long drive with your son, or wherever you have noticed them opening up and being most honest. Talk about how there are all kinds of things online, including explicit content, and that it’s easy to accidentally click on it. If you have found yourself unintentionally on a website that you prefer you hadn’t seen, consider sharing that with them, if you feel it is appropriate.
At that point, simply ask. It won’t be comfortable for anyone in the conversation, but it is easier once you have said the words. If the answer is no, then you can take the time to prepare them in case they are exposed to pornography in the future. There are books available to help, as well as online resources. If the answer is yes, it’s time for an important conversation.
Canopy can help.
Canopy alleviates some of the anxiety that you may feel about allowing your child to have access to the Internet on any device by removing pornographic images in real-time with artificial intelligence.
You won’t always be there to hold their hand. Parenting digitally means not only protecting them when you can be there with them but also preparing them to navigate the world—including the digital world—on their own one day.
Join the Canopy family!