Children, Teenagers, and Pornography: Does the Internet Fill the Void Parents Leave?

Children, Teenagers, and Pornography: Does the Internet Fill the Void Parents Leave?

On our site, we have often discussed the harmful effects of pornography.

We have also talked about the danger of child pornography and the not-so-far-fetched possibility that photos of our children we post on social networks are used and spread in “indecent” ways.

It’s time to address yet another issue: children being exposed to sexually explicit content on YouTube, t.v., and internet chatrooms.

How likely is it that our children risk running into pornographic images that they are incapable of processing? How real is this problem, and how likely is it that our own children may encounter it?

Recently, a woman told me about an issue that arose in her daughter's class. A child – around the 10-11 year old age group – began looking at pornographic images on his cell phone. He then started to behave inappropriately with his classmates. He would vulgarly name-call others, would invite them to go to the bathroom with him, and would even physically harass them.

The situation became so problematic that it became the subject of class council discussions.

The girls were upset and scared, and his male classmates were dragged into it.

And most surprising aspect of the whole thing is that the boy "came from a good family," hadn’t had any apparent issues with his parents, and the parents themselves were well-mannered. In fact, the boy’s mother was a well-respected high school teacher.

Another parent of a twelve-year-old girl in another class told me that an argument amongst the parents eventually broke out after a link had been shared in the private chat room of their children’s class, which would have allowed pedophiles to contact them.

Parents were blaming each other and others’ children for the incident. They all wanted to be able to place blame on the "guilty" one.

These are just two concrete examples which I have heard with my own ears that occurred just 10km from my home.

The truth is that in a hyper-technological era like ours, the risk of children encountering stimuli that are not appropriate for their age or naively falling into traps is highly likely. And, living in a hyper-sexualized society, they are much more likely to view this sort of material simply because they are intrigued.

A study about the internet that analyzes children's and teens' online behavior reveals that two of the terms they search the most are "sex" and "porn."

Cybersecurity company Symantec – by analyzing 3.5 million searches through its OnlineFamily.Norton family safety service, which monitors children and teens' use of the internet – identified the 100 most frequently conducted searches between February and July. Among the top ten, the words "sex" and "porn" popped up in fourth and eighth place respectively.

What do these figures tell us?

Two years ago, I went to a facility that offers treatment for various types of addictions to interview two therapists about sex addiction.

Among the things they mentioned was the hyper-sexualization of society and the lack of parental guidance while kids are learning about their bodies.

One of the doctors told me, "Kids have questions, and that's normal. They want to discover their bodies – their affectivity. The questioning isn’t the problem, nor is the fact that they seek answers. The problem is where they go to look for them. They can find anything on the internet, while most of the content doesn’t answer the “why” or “how.” These materials only cause overexcitement that they then can't handle. Why, though, do they go online to search for answers to their questions? Because they miss a calm, open dialogue at home on these topics. Sex is often seen as taboo, and parents are embarrassed by it. So, a child doesn't feel he can talk about it with them and goes to look for answers to his questions online or with his peers."

In short, the internet “replaces” us as guides or adults who children feel they can go to. This happens so often, even though we almost hardly ever realize it (research reveals that 95% of parents have no idea that their child is using sexually explicit content in some way).

We will try later to offer practical advice on how to prevent our children from ending up in virtual realms that are not age appropriate or right for their developmental level.

For now, let’s just reflect together on this: it’s important that we take responsibility for our children’s emotional development. If we leave them to their own devices, we aren’t “letting them off the hook” – rather, we are actually guilty of leaving a void.

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