In the past month, I can list three separate experiences where I have had, what I consider, unexpected encounters with pornographic media. Let me tell you about one of them. I was sitting on the couch watching a Baby Einstein episode on YouTube with my toddler. Youtube runs ads every 5-10 minutes and you are obligated to watch or allow it to play for at least 5 seconds before you can push “skip-ad”. One of the ads took me by complete surprise. It contained sensual images of women in extremely immodest clothing. I was shocked that not only at such a young age my son had been exposed to such inappropriate images but in his own home with a parent sitting next to him.
In a major report that was given by the BBFC, 75% of parents interviewed said they did not think their child had ever had an encounter with pornography. Of the children of the same parents interviewed 53% reported that they had seen pornography.
These numbers can feel daunting! But remember, something children do have is you! They have their parents and responsible adults to help guide them. You are reading this article which means you are actively engaged in the well-being of your children. No matter how dire the statistics you can make a difference as you fight to raise media-conscious children!
What Can We Do?
Here are three research-proven ways we can raise media conscious children
Throw away the idea of “the talk”
How often have you seen in T.V. sitcoms, movies, etc. that moment when a child asks where babies come from and the parents begin uncomfortably shift in their seats and then either tell the child some ridiculous tale about the stork or cabbage patch field or B., they say they will talk about it when they are older. I know I have!
Imagine having a home where a child can ask out of the blue where babies come from and have a parent who can confidently begin an age-appropriate conversation with them to further their knowledge about the miracle of birth.
Although those television moments seem funny and relatable, they are a sad reality of how parents often go about teaching their children about their bodies and sex.
Having these crucial conversations with our children will help them to feel confident about sex, create healthy relationships later on in life, and help them to become stewards of their own bodies. It will also open the doors for frequent and open communication between parent and child. If they do have a problem, they will feel more confident coming to you for guidance.
So next time that “funny” parent-child scene pops up on a show, use it as an example of what NOT to do!
2. Be intentional of the media we allow in our homes
It may seem daunting realizing that we are competing with the messages our children are hearing, however, do not forget you can choose what your children see and hear inside your home!
Things to ask yourself when choosing media
What message is being sent?
When sex is being implied or talked about on television often it is normalizing risky sexual behavior such as having multiple partners and cohabitation (living together before marriage) as risk-free and normal.
When measured, it is shown that sex with unmarried partners is portrayed 24 times for frequently than sex between married couples. Sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy is often not mentioned.
What message will my children pick up?
Try to look through the eyes and mind of your children, what will they see that you don’t? Some messages may be fine for you or an older child while a younger child will have a hard time distinguishing reality from fiction. For example, a thrilling part in a Disney movie may not frighten your eight-year-old but may cause fear in your 3-year-old.
Am I using my resources?
One last thing to consider is using safety controls available to you. You can use features such as
-Password-protections to restrict unwanted access
-Turn off autocomplete in search systems which can bring up undesired terms
-Have a Wi-Fi curfew that will disable curfew at the same time each night.
3. Hold off on the smartphones
Smartphones are just another example of the incredible technology available to us. I love my smartphone and use it every day and it makes my life easier. I can navigate, keep track of my daily appointments and tasks and search for an answer to a question in a matter of seconds.
Phones are a great way to keep track of our children and the good news is that there are multiple ways to avoid the smartphone route.
There are a few companies that offer phones that look like leading smartphones however, they are internet-free, have limited apps, and can be 100% monitored by parents through an app.
The technology made available to us and our families is an incredible tool! Let’s just try to remember that we are in charge of our technology and not the other way around.