Have "The Talk" With Your Kids NOW (Or Let The Internet Teach Them)

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 Talk To Your Kids About Online Porn
Sex, Family

Don't kid yourself. Parental controls AREN'T enough ...

Ever since the advent of Playboy and Hustler, parents of teens have known to hide their stash of naughty mags and DVDs, vibrators and lube to keep their adult playtime safe from innocent, prying eyes. But more and more evidence indicates that parents of young kids should be worried, as well!

Children as young as 8-years old are exposed to online pornography every day!

(What?! Are you kidding me?!) So does that mean my second-grade kid is quite possibly more informed about the current sex trends than my husband and I? No way!

That's why I set out to do some research and asked some of my "parent peeps" to share their thoughts on the issue of kids and sex and the Internet and how and when to talk to kids about sex.

"Parental safety controls" aren't controlling much.

According to a national study, 7 out of 10 kids came across pornography accidentally online. In other words, kids who search for images on Google for school projects stumble upon uncensored, explicit sex pictures about 70 percent of the time.

In fact, 40 percent of porn was downloaded as a result of an innocent keyword search (the word "sex" ranks fourth out of the 10 most popular word searches).

There are even sites that deliberately set up precisely to trick folks into visiting them, which are easy traps for kids. For example, whitehouse.com is not really an informational site about the president. It launches into a virtual black hole of sex pop-ups that are next to impossible to escape (which was the case with my own 12-year-old son).

Even recently, my kids accidentally saw oral sex recently while watching a PG-rated TV program with their father and myself. It was terrifyingly embarrassing, especially when my 14-year-old yelled, "Whoa, not cool!" (at which point I secretly hoped he found the act repulsive, but that's not the point).

The "easy fix" (or so we're told) is blocking these adult sites by installing parental controls. Well, what I discovered after surveying approximately 3,000 parents is what the national study found — kids are exposed to pornography more often through accidental (and albeit, unfortunate) circumstances.

Many parents even confessed that their kids accidentally intercepted a sexy text, video or picture intended for a significant other.

Basically, the old "block it and monitor" tactics are not even close to being effective enough, nor does it address how to deal with the inevitable when it does (and it will) happen.

Your kids WILL see it. Here's how to respond when they do ...  

With the average 10-year-old having access to five different screens at home, chances are good that your child has seen some kind of sexually explicit message.

So with that being said, at what age do we start talking to our kids about what they are seeing? And more importantly, have we set the stage for our kids to even step up and tell us when they do see it?

Luckily for me, my son knows that I trust him and would never react unreasonably — even though I wanted to vomit when my 12-year-old came to us with a pornographic video that he could not get to close on his phone. My husband and I remained calm and only answered questions that came up. Then, we removed the search from his cell phone (a motion recommended by other experts).

What our kids need in conversations about porn is clarity and (if necessary) consequences.

The reason I mention "if necessary" regarding consequences is because if it was truly an accident, the humiliation of having to talk to you about what he/she saw is likely enough to keep your child clean for a while.

Lying to our children or making them feel shamed for seeing something sexual is a dangerous road to go down. It can lead to our kids having unsafe sex at a premature age. One peer-reviewed study found that boys, between 12 and 17 years old, who were exposed to pornography had sex earlier and initiated oral sex earlier in an imitation of what they had seen. 

If children are being exposed to sex as young as 6 ... (and let's face it, if you're sexually active, your kids have either caught you or overheard you talk about it already) ... then, we as parents need to start having conversations about anatomy around that same age.

I'm not saying to teach your first-grader about oral sex or orgasms, but do teach your child that boys have penises and girls have vaginas (and that babies come out of that vagina). Also that their bodies belong to them and no one should touch it without their consent.

I once counseled a family whose child was suspended after "threatening to cut a little girl open" while playing house at recess. Apparently, the kids were pretending she was having a baby after this child was told that babies are cut out of a mother's belly after "God puts it there." Get the idea? Honesty is always the best policy.

Kids are not filthy-minded little creatures who are born craving sex, porn and addiction.

They are curious beings whose entire survival depends on learning about the world they live in. Procreation is part of that world. Education about the human body and what is "to be kept private between two consenting adults who love each other very much" is a gift to our children. It lets them know that no one else should ever touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable or scared, and that curiosity about your body is perfectly natural.

They should learn that parents who love each other connect "in a special way" and it's not bad. They should learn that if they ever see something that shows people's private parts, they should come to you immediately! They won't be punished for what they saw, but they may have to talk about it so we know they're safe.

I'm pretty sure threesomes won't become a thing on children's networks anytime soon ... but then again, I've seen some cartoons lately that would make Hugh Hefner blush, so if we can't keep our kids locked in a closet, the next best thing is education — that, and getting them outside where there are no screens (but that's another blog post).

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