Parental Control Is Not An Option Anymore.
Your 6-year-old innocently types this word on Google hoping to get nice, cute images for her project. Yes, those cute, fuzzy canines with their heart-melting eyes pop up on the screen entertaining your child for several couple of minutes. Videos make her even happier. “But hey, what’s this video? Let me see” and the child is horrified to see a naked man and woman doing something that he or she can’t make any sense of!
There are hundreds, in fact thousands of such cases, where children are exposed to pornographic content accidentally. According to FamilySafeMedia, 90% of 8-16 year olds came across porn online while doing homework!
Porn is just one part of disturbing content filling up the internet for your children. There are far more dangerous types of content that your kid should never ever stumble upon, even when they’re teenagers.
Harmful Content You Must Protect Your Child From:
- Websites that show self-harm and drug use
- Websites that encourage eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia)
- Websites and blogs that show the efficacy of different methods of suicide
- Videos showing abuse, violence and cruelty to animals
- Violent video games
- Videos of beheading of people
- Material that encourages racial hatred, homophobia and misogyny
- Internet Pornography
- Foul Language Use
These 9 categories don’t cover all the disturbing content proliferating on the web. Children, especially older teens, are getting exposed to stuff we can’t even imagine. And to think why teens getting addicted to drugs, pornography, or suffering from mental and eating disorders!
We don’t mean to scare the parents reading this (but we probably will, because we’re scared too). But a blanket ban on kids going online is as good as not letting them go out on the street for who knows which predator is roaming the street at the same time. In an interesting article “The Loss of Childhood” published in the New York Times, the writer states, “The Age of Protection has ended. An Age of Preparation has set in.”
However, there is a need for protection like never before. Online predators, posing as young kids, are befriending gullible children, purposefully exposing them to pornography, or pressurizing them to share nude pictures of themselves so they can sexually exploit or blackmail them later (called sextortion). But how can you protect your kids from all this danger?
Protecting Your Kids From Adult Content:
It’s unlikely that a tween (kids between the ages of 5 and 12) would seek or come across such dangerous websites as illustrated above. But they do stumble upon sexually explicit content by typing innocent words in a search engine. A search on popular cartoon characters and pop singers often produce links that feature adult content.
According to a study by FamilySafeMedia, the average age of first internet exposure to pornography is just 11 years old. No, it’s not alright for such a young kid to be watching porn, whether accidentally or by intention. There’s nothing wrong with sex; there’s plenty wrong with porn. Here’s a list of reasons why:
How Early Exposure to Porn Affects Your Child:
Gone are the days when kids’ exposure to pornography was limited to Playboy and Penthouse magazines stashed under the mattresses. Now, it is all over the web, available 24/7 at the click of a button. The addictive nature of consuming pornography affects kids more than we can imagine.
- Anxiety & Shock- Kids exposed to sexually explicit content at a very young age experience anxiety and shock. Kids are not mature enough and the unfamiliar bodies engaging in those acts frighten them. Children also report feelings of disgust, shock, embarrassment, fear, and sadness after viewing the content (Manning, Jill, Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 2006).
- Early Sex- According to a research by Elysia Walker and Dr Emily Doe from the University of Buckingham, exposure to sexually explicit material at a young age increases the likelihood of sexual behavior at an earlier age. The research revealed that for respondents, the first exposure to explicit content began at 12 years old and they initiated sexual behavior around a year
- High-Risk Sex- Frequent exposure to pornography is associated with multiple sexual partners and use of alcohol and drugs during sexual activity (Braun-Courville, D. and Rojas, M., Journal of Adolescent Health, 2009).
- Sexual Violence- Children under 12 years old who have viewed pornography are statistically more likely to sexually assault their peers. A child advocacy group interviewed 70 child sex-abuse victims and found that most of the predators were other children who were acting out the violent pornographic material they saw online. An officer’s statement is unbelievable to our ears, “We had a case recently where the victim is only 3 years old and the perpetrator is only 10 or 11 years old.”
- Sexting- Pornography is also leading to the dangerous trend of “sexting” as young girls are increasingly feeling the pressure to share naked images of themselves online (Van Ouytsel, , Ponnett, K., and Walrave, M., 2014).
- Gender Stereotypes- Most pornographic content is degrading to women and shows woman as submissive and men as aggressive. This leads to unhealthy perceptions and attitudes towards women who are “shown to enjoy sexual ”
- Porn Addiction: Thanks to the easy accessibility of porn and the desensitization effect, kids are increasingly getting addicted to it. According to a survey by NSPCC ChildLine, 10% of 12-13- year-olds are worried that they are “addicted” to
Studies are unearthing many more disturbing findings and correlation between porn and psychopathology. Porn isn’t the only thing that is upsetting kids. According to a news report by Guardian, children are as upset by violent videos on YouTube that feature animal cruelty or beheadings. That brings us to…
Kids and Violent Video Games:
Do playing violent video games make children violent? This question has been asked by many concerned parents who saw their kids passionately gun down people and steal cars in the name of fun. Academia has rigorously tested this proposition with mixed results. The debate has been raging for years and refuses to die down.
Recently, President Trump called a meeting to find a connection between mass shootings in school and violent video games. This might seem far-fetched to many but incidents like 2016 shooting in Munich, Germany, where the 18-year-old shooter was found to be a fan of first-person shooter video games concerns. ABC reported an incident where two teenagers in Tennessee shot at passing cars and killed one driver. The teens had got the idea from playing Grand Theft Auto III.
These facts are eye-openers for all of us: 90% of children in the United States play video games (Source: American Psychological Association). The number rises to 97% for kids between the ages of 12 and 17. More than 90% of video games involve mature content including violence.
Impact of Violent Video Games on Kids:
- Fear- Children, especially tweens, who are not mature enough to distinguish reality from fantasy, can get disturbed by violent content and come to perceive the world as a violent, scary
- Increase in Aggression and Violent Behavior- Children imitate what they see, as the famous Observational Learning Theory points out. Studies prove this further. In a randomized experiment, researchers Irwin & Gross found that boys who played a violent video game showed more physical aggression towards peers (e.g., hitting, shoving, pinching, kicking) as compared to boys who played a non-violent video
- Desensitization to Violence- Amongst teens and young adults, repeated exposure to violent content can make them desensitized towards it. Researchers Carnagey, Anderson and Bushman found that young adults also show physiological desensitization to real-life violence, as measured by less of an increase in heart rate and skin
- Lower Empathy and Compassion- According to American Psychological Association, exposure to violent video games is associated with lack of empathy and kindness. Researchers Bushman and Anderson found evidence to support this. They found that individuals who had played violent games, compared with non-violent, were less likely to report hearing a fight staged outside the laboratory, judged the fight as less serious, and were slower to respond when asked for
- Impact on Brain- Neuroimaging research is now showing us how media violence is affecting kids’ brain development. For instance, one research has found that teens exposed to violent video games experience a decrease in activity in their prefrontal cortex, which is associated with problem-solving and controlling of emotions (Tom A. Hummer, 2015).
For reasons of brevity, we are not citing all studies related to kids and violent video games here. But this much is firmly established that playing violent video games is a powerful risk factor. Violent behavior in children is a combination of many factors, such as violence at home or in neighborhood, socio-economic factors, the child’s personality, and exposure to media violence.
The growing popularity of Mature-rated (M-rated) games and depiction of sexual violence towards women in some games should make the parents be cautious of what games their kids are playing online.
Parental controls can help you monitor their online playtime.
Kids and Self-Harm Websites:
According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, an estimated 14% to 24% youth and young adults engage in non-suicidal self-injury such as cutting. Focusing on YouTube, world’s most popular online video community, researchers searched for content on “self-harm” and “self-injury”. The team identified top 50 videos that showed a live person and top 50 videos that showed words and visual elements. All 100 were viewed more than 2 million times!
How can you forget the panic that the infamous game Blue Whale Challenge recently created as kids jumped from buildings to their death to complete the challenge! The suicide game targeted teens using social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram asking players to participate in 50-day challenge, ranging from dangerous tasks to self-harm and eventually suicide.
Another reason why parents should keep a track of what their kids are doing online, how long they’re spending on Internet, and what they’re downloading. It’s necessary we repeat this- get a Wi-Fi security software to ensure safe internet for your kids.
Kids & Pro-Anorexia Websites:
Young girls (or even boys) infatuated with thin bodies are at a great risk of visiting websites and joining forums that support eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. The creators of these sites and forums are themselves suffering from these eating disorders and encourage others to proudly embrace their condition “not as a disease but a lifestyle” and as “a quest for perfection”. And these websites are getting thousands of hits daily!
An estimated 11 million Americans suffer from anorexia or bulimia (Source: Time.com). A survey of adolescent anorexics and their parents conducted by Stanford University School of Medicine revealed that 39% of the kids were visiting pro-anorexia forums.
Terms like pro-ana, pro-mia, or just ana, and thinspiration constitute the lexicon of this community. Their “Thinspiration” galleries are full of stick-thin models and actresses. The encouragement by fellow anorexics to starve themselves, purge, eat less than 50 calories a day, etc. is making the problem even worse.
Parents should not only report such websites to help them get blocked but also get them blocked on their network using Parental Controls. After all, your child may stumble upon such a website while surfing fitness tips. Secondly, track the websites your kids are using and if you find them spending too much time reading stuff on losing weight, extreme diet control, and fitness tips, it’s time you have a talk with your kid about “ideal body” and “healthy diet.”
Avoid these potential dangers with SaferNet. Learn more about our features here.