Cyber security expert Greg Oliver had a sobering message for those attending a recent forum at Muscle Shoals High School: Over 90 percent of teens have seen online pornography with 70 percent doing so unintentionally.
“The internet is targeting your kids, plain and simple,” Oliver said.
The Awaken Recovery executive director then made his case with some startling statistics:
1) By their 18th birthday, 93 percent of boys had seen unsimulated hardcore porn, and 62 percent of girls had viewed it.
2) Some of the most popular apps being used by children today, including Pinterest and Snapchat, are riddled with pornography.
3) The average age of first exposure to porn ranges from 8 to 11 years old.
Those statistics should be a clarion call to parents to pay more attention to what their children are doing on the internet.
“You have to know what kids are being exposed to, how the exposure affects them, and how to protect them,” Oliver said.
Unfortunately, not enough parents are monitoring their children’s web access habits. Oliver said many parents tell him they’ve never had a real discussion with their children about the dangers of the internet. And some adults feel monitoring their child’s internet habits is akin to spying on their children.
“Denying the fact that your kid could be involved in such activity hurts your kid,” Oliver said. And failing to monitor their internet activity can actually result in problems later for the children.
Studies have found that spending more than four hours a day on the internet can result in mental health problems for some children — social problems such as loneliness, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and heightened aggression.
Early intervention is best, but Oliver stressed it’s never too late for parents to get involved. Perhaps the easiest way for them to monitor internet activity is to install internet filtering software on their children’s computers, smartphones and tablets.
And talk to your children about the dangers of the internet. Urge them to set their social networking website profiles to private. And stress to them that while they are online, they should never give out their home addresses or other important personal information.
You can’t eliminate your child’s exposure to the dangers lurking on the internet. But taking some basic parental control steps and having open discussions with your children about internet use guidelines can help prepare them to make better decisions once they are logged on.