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Protecting your kids from porn: What every parent should do

Protecting your kids from porn: What every parent should do

I was recently at a conference and attended an excellent session on educating and protecting our kids from pornography taught by Ashley Smart, MSC NCC CDWF CSAT.  As a therapist at the Colorado Sexual Recovery Center (CSRC), her passion for this work is fueled by her personal experiences with sex addiction and her goal is to give individuals hope and freedom from the chains of addiction.

I was so impressed with her message that I asked her to share some insights with Mile High Mamas.

 Many people have the attitude that “kids will be kids” as it pertains to looking at pornography. You counsel people all day long about their addictions. What kind of harm can this do when kids are exposed at a young age?

 The idea that children looking at porn is part of “kids being kids” is a dangerous and harmful stance.  There is plenty of research to support that porn is harmful and does have an effect on the brain.  Science tells us that the brain cannot differentiate between using cocaine or meth and watching porn.  What we know is that when an individual is watching porn or looking at erotic images, chemicals of dopamine, oxytocin, and norepinephrine are released; the same chemicals that are released when someone is snorting that line of cocaine.  Because of the chemical release, it “feels good” and it is human condition that we like to feel good.  As a result, a person addicted to porn begins to associate love and connection with an image as opposed to equating those emotions through human connection.  This is where the term “objectification” comes into play.  When individuals see other human beings as objects as opposed to individuals with spirits and souls, healthy connection is nearly impossible.

There is a popular website out there right now (www.fighthenewdrug) that totes the tagline “Porn kills love.”  For the reasons mentioned above, this is true.  When individuals attach those feelings of pleasure, connection, and love with the cyber world, this impairs their ability to foster healthy human connections.  The brain has latched on to distorted ideas as it relates to associations with other human beings.

 What kind of filters and parental controls should every parent have on their smartphones and computers? Do you have any additional software you’d recommend?

 In order to promote healthy use of technology and set appropriate boundaries for children, it is imperative that technological devices have filters on them.  This includes computers, laptops, tablets, and smart phones.  Latest research tells us that average age for a child to be exposed to porn or a pornographic image is 11 years old.  However, the latest research literature on this subject was published in 2005.  What didn’t we have in 2005?  We didn’t have smart phones.  Within the professional community, we are seeing that the average age for exposure is more like 8 years old. 

 I recommend accountability software such as Net Nanny or Covenant Eyes.  Both of these companies offer services that will provide filtering capabilities for all of your devices.  There are other options out there and I encourage parents to do the research and decide which makes most sense for them.

 Tell us about cell phone contracts and why you think they’re important?

 Children need boundaries; this is how children feel safe and know they are loved.  Smart phones allow children to access EVERYTHING; age appropriate or inappropriate.  Therefore, it is incredibly easy for a child to find themselves looking at or accessing content that is potentially damaging to their brain development and emotional health.  It is also important that there be accountability; this is another component of healthy human development.  Providing your child with clear guidelines around their gadgets teaches them responsibility and how to have a “healthy” relationship with technology.

What other resources/websites would you recommend?

www.fightthenewdrug.com;  www.sexhelp.comwww.covenanteyes.com

What are some great books on the subject?

When it comes to talking to kids about sex, I recommend:

‘Good Pictures Bad Pictures:  Porn Proofing Today’s Young Kids’ by Kristen A. Jenson, MA and Gail Poyner, PhD

 ‘How To Talk To Your Kids About Sex’ by Linda and Richard Eyre

 What else should parents be doing?

  I would like to highlight the importance of TALK.  The number one line of defense as it relates to fortifying an protecting children is open and honest communication.  This includes the parental responsibility to speak to their children about sex and healthy sexual boundaries.  Kids will be horrified, bugged, disgusted, annoyed, etc. – DO IT ANYWAY!  One common theme I see amongst nearly all of the sex addicts I treat is that the topic of sex was not discussed in their home.  As a result, these addicts grew up believing that sex was a secret, was shameful, and in some cases even wrong.  Sex is a basic human need.  Teaching children about normal, healthy body function is essential to a healthy relationship with the behavior.

             Signs that your loved one may have a problem:

  • Isolation
  • Increased irritability
  • Obsession with technological device
  • Outbursts of anger, hostility
  • Disrespect

 It is also important to seek appropriate professional help if you believe you or someone you love has a problem with porn.  Any addict seeking freedom from destructive behaviors needs the help of a therapist specially trained to help him or her.  When seeking a specialist for you or your loved one, be sure to seek a therapist with CSAT (Certified Sex Addiction Therapist) designation.  You can look for one by accessing www.sexhelp.com or you can reach out to Colorado Sexual Recovery Center (CSRC) by calling 303.775.7529. 

Amber Johnson
Author: Amber Johnson

Amber is the founder and editor of Mile High Mamas, travel writer and former columnist for The Denver Post. She is a passionate community builder and loves the outdoors. She has two awesome teens and is happily married to a man obsessed with growing The Great Pumpkin.

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Amber is the founder and editor of Mile High Mamas, travel writer and former columnist for The Denver Post. She is a passionate community builder and loves the outdoors. She has two awesome teens and is happily married to a man obsessed with growing The Great Pumpkin.

2 Comments

  1. Much needed discussion. I was recently reading an article about Internet filters. I’m looking into it soon but here are some of their suggestions.

    Free Solutions
    You don’t have to pay to keep your Internet smut-free. If you already make use of Microsoft’s Windows Live services, adding Windows Live Family Safety 2011 is a snap, and costs nothing. Rather than block specific categories, this product lets you set a general filtering level. The highest level blocks nothing but warns before allowing “adult content.” The next level below actively blocks adult sites but allows everything else; that’s the one you want.

    Norton Online Family Premier costs $49.99 per year, but all of its content-filtering goodness is also available in the free edition. It can filter out content matching almost four dozen categories, but all you need to do is check off Porn and Mature Content.

    The free edition of Qustodio v1.9 filters out sites matching almost 30 categories. Here again, all you need to do is check off Pornography and Mature Content.

    You configure all three of these free solutions using an online portal. A small, local client on each PC enforces the rules you’ve set. That’s very convenient for a modern, multi-PC family.
    Special Features

    The venerable Net Nanny 6.5 bolsters list-based filtering with real-time analysis of page content. This lets it do things like block only erotic stories on a short-story website. It also has the unusual ability to filter secure (HTTPS) content. Remote management is possible, but your settings don’t span multiple computers.

    AVG Family Safety also supplements list-based filtering with real-time analysis, and it can block secure sites by category. It has the unusual ability to “push” settings upstream into a supported router, so filtering affects all connected devices. That’s an extremely important feature, given the vast number of non-PC options for Web browsing.

    AVG’s whole-network filtering is one of the many standout features that make it our Editors’ Choice for parental control overall. However, if you’re just specifically looking to filter out pornography, you may do just as well with one of the free options.

  2. Another great resources for protecting kids online: http://www.enough.org/

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