Keeping your children safe on the internet


Children also pressure one another to take and exchange embarrassing photos. Sexting is rapidly becoming part of the way they flirt.

Photo credit: Samuel Muigai | Nation Media Group

We all know how our children love the internet. Given the chance, they would never be offline. And so whenever they want information they hit a screen. Including everything about the facts of life.

And there is good information online, but there’s also some really scary stuff. Including a lot of porn.

There’s nothing new about pornography, of course. But the internet has magnified its impact and availability, and that’s not good news.

Because boys who watch online porn are more likely to think sexual harassment is acceptable, and that ‘normal’ sex is boring. While girls develop hugely distorted ideas of what’s ‘sexy.’ So you’ll see even very young girls posting pictures of themselves striking provocative poses even though they have little idea of what that’s all about.

Both boys and girls can also develop very exaggerated ideas of how couples behave together. They say they know the difference between fact and fantasy, but actually, they don’t. And they soon become desensitised by it all and start wanting even more excitement.

Studies of online porn are completely inconclusive. Some suggest it increases sexual harassment, others show a decrease. There’s even evidence that access to the internet discourages teenagers from having early sex. So while there are those who dispute the dangers, others argue the exact opposite.

Children also pressure one another to take and exchange embarrassing photos. Sexting is rapidly becoming part of the way they flirt. The girls even say that they enjoy it, because it makes them feel desirable and adds to the fun of getting close to a boy.

In any case they’re not put off by parents or teachers. They say we don’t know what we’re talking about. And that we exaggerate the downsides. But downsides there certainly are.

Like sending photos to the wrong number, becoming a victim of revenge porn or having your photos shared around. And children have little idea of how online porn is affecting their sexual development.

So what can you do to protect your children? Well, you won’t keep them offline, that’s for sure, because they have friends! Assume they’ll lie about what they do online, and be closely involved in your children’s lives. Know who their friends are, make sure you know what they’re doing and try to keep them from spending too much time online by encouraging them to take part in offline activities such as sport and music.

Try to develop the sort of relationship with them where they can talk to you about anything. Then you’ll get to hear about any problems, long before they get serious.

Listen for signs that suggest they want to talk to you and make yourself available. Encourage them to bring up anything that disturbs them. And explain to them that making love is actually all about caring for your partner, and that although there are individuals who like watching other people having sex online, what’s on the internet is nothing like the real thing.