It’s already 10.30pm and you’re about to go to bed. You decide to pop into your child’s room and get a shock to see him awake and watching an iPad. You ask, “Why are you playing with the iPad so late?” He’s so scared he almost drops the device. You snatch it from him and see some images of scantily clad women, and a thousand alarm bells go off in your head.
This is a scene that most of us would not wish to experience in real life.
But the harsh truth is that it is easy for children to come across sexually explicit images on the Internet, and also just as easy for them to get hooked on viewing them.
As parents, we have to play on an active role in protecting children from such harm as pornography. But what can we do if such a day really comes?
1. React in a controlled manner
In such a worrisome situation, it is normal for us to feel alarmed, protective and even angry. However, Theresa Pong, Principal Counsellor of Focus on the Family Singapore, advises that we should not let our emotions overtake us.
She said, “While we cannot help children “un-see” what they have seen, we can protect our children from further harm by putting an immediate stop on pornography.”
To do so, try to remain calm and engage in an age-appropriate conversation with them. Create an environment that is free from shame or blame, so that your child can feel safe enough to listen to what you have to say.
2. Educate about the dangers of porn
What is the real problem with pornography?
Not only could can pornography viewing escalate into addictive behaviours and lead adolescents to form inaccurate expectations about sex and relationships, it can also fuel instant gratification in some cases, Theresa warns.
She explains, “During the adolescence stage, the pre-frontal cortex (which is the decision-making part of the brain) is still developing. As such, youths rely on a part of the brain called the amygdala to make decisions. The amygdala is associated with emotions, impulses and aggression. From watching pornographic images and videos, youths could be tempted to act on their urges and impulses without considering the consequences.”
“In my work with parents and youths, I have come across cases where youths attempt to re-enact what they see with a relative or friend. Thus the presence of parents and close monitoring of what children, especially young teenagers, are watching on various media platforms is crucial.”
3. Set up healthy boundaries
It is not impossible to establish new habits on technology use in the home. For started, get devices out into the open. Encourage your youths to use the computer in the living area, where reliable adults can be around to provide guidance and supervision.
Also consider installing child-friendly filtering software. Here are some recommendations by the Media Literacy Council.
4. Keep the conversation going
If your child has not actually come across any questionable content yet, it is helpful to discuss what to do in the event a sexy or pornographic image pops up on the screen, or if a friend shows them something that makes them feel uncomfortable.
“Equipping our children with skills to overcome pornography is like teaching them swimming skills. It is best to teach them prior to any incident, rather than when something happens,” added Theresa.
Be available to talk to your children about sex and relationships, in a way that is age-appropriate. Here is an age-by-age guide on how to do that.
With us as their guides and confidantes, our children will be in a stronger position to navigate the tricky waters of the online world.
© 2019 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
If you feel your child could be battling an addiction, do approach one of our counsellors for help.
If you want to learn how to inculcate healthy screen habits in your home, register your interest for SCREENed, a parent-child workshop (for kids aged 11 - 14) designed to facilitate open conversations on technology consumption and screen time in the home.