Following the finding of the Institute for Public Policy Research that people typically begin viewing pornography at the age of 13, it is imperative that parents become aware of the risks to their children. There’s nothing new about the corrupting influence of pornography. This is especially true for adolescent boys, who are discovering their own sexuality and forming their perceptions of and attitudes to sex. However, the Internet has made pornography more easily accessible.
The issue of easily accessible pornography should be seen within the overall context of society. It’s impossible, even without switching on a computer, to avoid being bombarded with stereotypical images of women – on magazine covers, on street billboards, etc. Technology can certainly help parents filter out pornographic (and other objectionable) content from computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones, but it’s essential that parents make the backdrop to these efforts an ongoing dialogue with their children about online safety and responsibility.
If you’re a parent, our check-list of top tips for keeping your children safe on the Internet might be useful, whether protecting them from pornography, cyberbullying or general inappropriate content:
1. Talk to them about the potential dangers.
2. Encourage them to talk to you about their online experience and, in particular, anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened. Protecting children from cyberbullies is especially challenging with smartphones, for they can be targeted in ways that are oftentimes out of your view. Deal with cyberbullying as you would in real life by encouraging your children to be open and to talk to you if they experience any threatening or inappropriate messages. Numbers and contacts on apps can both be blocked if they are sending your children content that makes them feel uncomfortable.
3. Set clear ground-rules about what they can and can’t do online and explain why you have put them in place. You should review these as your child gets older.
4. Use parental control software to establish the framework for what’s acceptable – how much time (and when) they can spend online, what content should be blocked, what types of activity should be blocked (chat rooms, forums, etc.). Parental control filters can be configured for different computer profiles, allowing you to customise the filters for different members of the family.
5. Don’t forget to make use of settings provided by your ISP, device manufacturer and mobile phone network provider. Most phones allow you to prevent in-app purchases, so you can avoid them running up hefty bills when they play games.
6. Protect you computer using Internet security software.
7. Don’t forget their smartphone. These are sophisticated computers, not just phones. Most smartphones come with parental controls, and security software providers may offer apps to filter out inappropriate content, senders of nuisance SMS messages, etc.