Google, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Siri, Tik Tok, the list of popular apps is endless and yet our children are probably familiar with many of these terms and then some.
I have seen babies who don’t yet know how to walk, but are able to activate a smart phone.
Let’s face it, our children are part of an internet generation and have never known life in analogue. These iGens, as they are now called, are inundated on a daily basis with messages that subtly influence their social, moral, and political values. They are also exposed to an enormous amount of sexualised content.
When I was in primary school, I had access to free-to-air television, local radio, my mother’s fashion magazines, a couple of encyclopedias, comics and books. Now, my children who are in primary school can access an entire universe of information, right at the touch of their fingertips.
If we aren’t careful, our children who already spend more time consuming digital information than we’d care to admit, will have their world-view and values shaped by the internet, instead of us, their parents. Exposure to age-inappropriate information without proper guidance or understanding will likely rear its ugly head in later years.
If we aren’t careful, our children who already spend more time consuming digital information than we’d care to admit, will have their world-view and values shaped by the internet, instead of us, their parents.
Short of locking our children up in a cave with no wifi, it will be an impossible task to prevent them from accessing the internet where a plethora of sexually explicit movies, songs, TV shows, advertisements, and even pornographic images await to be discovered.
Here are some do’s and don’ts you can use to guide your children through the muddied waters of sexually-charged digital content.
1. DO set boundaries
If we want to help our children navigate this hyper-sexualised world that they are growing up in, then we need to set limits on the amount of time they spend online, and the type of content they are consuming. Left to their own devices, children may chance upon explicit images and struggle to make sense of them.
2. DO avail yourself
We should also avail ourselves to our children so that we can guide them in wisdom. For me, this often means that I need to put down my own devices to spend time with my children and give them my full attention as I continue to nurture my relationship with each child. It will take time and effort but developing a close and healthy bond will go far in helping your child feel safe enough to open up about sexual content that he or she may have encountered.
Taking the time and effort to develop a close and healthy bond will go far in helping your child feel safe enough to open up about sexual content that he or she may have encountered.
3. DO teach them about the dangers
Some of the questions that children may ask are, “What’s wrong with seeing sexual images?” “Are they bad?” Or, “Do they make me a bad person?"
According to this article, porn is similar to other addictive substances and behaviour; it activates the reward centre of your brain, in turn releasing "feel good” chemicals in your body. This is the reason why people actually form addictions to porn.
So watching porn can result in young minds being entranced and leave them craving for more. It also portrays sex in an unrealistic way, and long-term exposure to it may make it harder for young people to develop healthy, loving, and respectful relationships.
4. DON’T shy away
Don’t shy away from difficult topics. Instead, be open, honest and approachable. You can even use this as a teaching point to demonstrate the prevalence of sexualised images and information online and importance of talking through it together.
Your voice as a parent is critical because it will be better for your children to receive wise, realistic perspectives on sex from their parents than their peers who are as lost as they are.
Your voice as a parent is critical because it will be better for your children to receive wise, realistic perspectives on sex from their parents than their peers.
Because of the pervasiveness of the internet, we may not be able to shelter our children and avoid exposure to sexual images completely.
However, as parents, we can do our utmost best to connect with our children daily not only to have conversations about sex and healthy relationships, but more importantly to deepen the family bond so that we are more empowered to tackle the complexities of life together.
© 2019 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Which do or don’t will you apply in your parenting in the coming week?
Sue-Ann Lee is a mother of three spirited and hilarious children who have nicknamed themselves, Rainbow Skye, Chubbs Salami and Fatti Spaghetti. Writing about her parenting experiences brings her great joy as it allows her to relive the many precious lessons learnt along the way.