Preparing your kids before they see naked pictures
by Dr. Dave Currie
I am concerned about our little ones getting online exposure to explicit sexual images they were never designed to see. Covenant Eyes, the Christian leader in Internet protection software, shows in its research the average age of a little boy coming in contact with pornography is 9.5 years old. If that’s the average, then many kids are seeing nudity earlier. And that’s scaring me. But the truth is, I can understand how it’s happening.
In our work helping parents prepare their kids for online battle, Doing Family Right has already had two parents tell us they had found their boys, both age seven and a half, watching pornography. One little guy was getting up in the middle of the night to watch it when his parents were asleep.
Parents often defend their child’s high use of digital technology, saying “Oh, they are just playing a game” or “They are just entertaining themselves for a minute.” Fair enough but I think the likelihood of children running into naked pictures will be increasingly common in the future.
I want to help parents. As a family educator, it’s a personal hobby to watch parents and their kids interact about mobile devices. Little ones, as young as age three to five, are playing on their parents’ iPhones, smart phones, notebooks or iPads, fully absorbed. I watch kids with their parents’ devices in malls, church, restaurants, grocery stores and more. I have witnessed fights, coaxing, ultimatums, tantrums, crying, arguments, bribing, threats, hitting and other parent-child interchanges all in the name of keeping the kids busy.
Increased childhood exposure to online porn
I don’t want to be seen as a fatalist – if you know me, I’m the opposite. But I don’t hesitate to get in people’s faces when needed. Straight talk is essential. I have seen enough online device battle to offer this analysis of what’s currently happening and where it will likely lead us with our families:
• More frequent use of electronic devices at younger ages (two to four years) means children often master digital navigation of the device often better than parents.
• Under stress, parents cave in more to a child’s demand for increased device time which often leads to inimal supervision by parents who want free time for other tasks.
• Increased use by the child creates a growing entitlement for greater access.
• Daily use by the child creates deepening roots toward technological addiction.
• When alone, kids explore going beyond what they are “allowed” to see, parents are often unaware that porn producers seek access to kids in devious ways and children can make accidental discovery of naked pictures – with an innocent click.
• The child may be shown ‘nudity’ by an older sibling, neighbour kid or schoolmate.
• Their innate curiosity to sexual content kicks in and they are provocatively mesmerized.
• They don’t talk about it because they sense parental disapproval.
• Premature sexual exposure robs them of innocence.
• Children remember how they found the naked pictures and search again and Parents don’t even know it’s going on.
Within my work as a therapist I have counselled 45 to 50 sexual addicts in the last two years. Nearly 100 per cent had their initial exposure to porn before 13, usually ages 10 to 12. Most of them I am working with got addicted in the pre-teen years without access to the Internet. You hear that? No Internet available and they were regular users by ages 10 to 12. What are the implications now with complete access to the Internet everywhere? With the global push of sexually explicit material online and off, unlimited access to hundreds of thousands of porn websites and the absence of Internet boundaries or content control, the age of exposure and possible addiction to porn will inevitably get younger.
Before I step into a good solution for addressing the problem of children running into naked pictures online, I need to declare two critical assumptions:
I assume that as a caring parent or grandparent you have installed protection software on all digital devices in your home already preventing your little ones from getting to sexually explicit material accidentally.
I assume that as a caring parent or grandparent you have a consistent way of monitoring what your children see online, tracking and limiting their internet time and device access when they are not under your supervision.
Try this ‘naked picture’ strategy
It is my desire to guide you, as you help your little ones (ages four to seven) better face the inevitable and premature exposure to sexual nudity online. The goal is to prepare them for the eventual first experience with naked pictures before it occurs. In so doing, it is hoped that you, as parents, will be the first to hear about this incident, instead of the child holding a secret.
Explain values in your words. “Our values and rules as a family may be different than other families. This it is quite normal and okay. God wants us as your parents to guide you through life to what He says is right and good.”
Review previous coaching about sexual topics. Like where babies come from or the important talk about ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’ of private parts (only mom and dad should touch you or wash you).
Point out modesty. “As people get older, we keep our private parts covered. We cover ourselves with clothes. You are doing that already. That’s the way God wants us to respect the special beauty of the differences between boys and girls.”
Always put a positive spin on sexuality. Nakedness isn’t wrong but is a special gift from God for mommies and daddies only. Don’t shroud your discussion around shame or dirtiness but that “the privateness of our bodies is a beautiful gift from God to be protected.” Never imply nakedness is bad or wrong
Explain the Family Game Plan. In age appropriate language. “We need your help. I want you to start paying attention when you are on the computer or one of our phones or notebooks – any device. You see, bad people out there are sometimes trying to trick us into seeing people with no clothes on – sneaking naked pictures on our devices. We are going to fool them and not let them do this to our family.”
Make it serious and like a battle. “All of us as a family are against these bad guys who are determined to put naked pictures on our computer, phone, ipad, notebook, xbox, etc … We are going to catch them together. If you ever see any naked pictures – tell mom or dad right away. Don’t look at them, and don’t turn it off or try to get off that site. Come and tell us right away. It will help us find how they sneaked these pictures on our devices.”
Stress they won’t be in trouble. Sometimes the bad stuff seems to come looking for you. We know that. What’s most important is that we stop theses guys! We’ll be proud of you – like a hero – when you come and tell us. (Note: It can happen through fun images they can ‘click’ from kids games, pop-ups, You Tube suggestions and so many more ways). For younger kids (ages four to six), you can reward them for reporting naked pictures with a treat or a surprise later. One caution: as the child gets older (six to eight), you may want to use positive affirmation versus an actual reward. You don’t actually want to have them go looking for porn to get the reward. Celebrate together as a family than giving individual rewards. (Note: Change the wording from “naked pictures” to “pornography” as part of the sex talk the same-sex parent will give when the child gets to age nine. See full details of how to do the sex talk on our website).
It is my prayer that God will guide you as parents into a solid family defense against the unwanted sexual influence in your home. Share with me what’s been working for you by sending me your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to use your ideas to help others.