Why and how to talk to children about pornography, by Anne McCormack


The internet and social media are now a normal part of established culture for young people growing up. For parents, this can bring a whole new level of concern as even with safety filters on devices, having access to the internet and the social media world makes it more likely that young people may come across and gain access to content that is sexually explicit.

Internet access and social media has changed the landscape for parents in many ways. When it comes to teaching young people about what is healthy and safe in relationships, as well as the issue of supporting young people’s individual sexual development, these aspects of parenting now point to the need for discussion around the issue of pornography.

Young people can accidently encounter sexually explicit material online or they can actively seek it out. And while secondary schools have an obligation to teach on the topic of relationships and sexuality, according to Mairead McNally of Loreto Secondary School, Balbriggan, there is no part of the curriculum that addresses pornography. It is useful for parents to think ahead about how to talk with young people about pornography.

Here are some reasons why young people could benefit from such talk:

 1. Social media as a sexualised environment

The social media world and the internet in general can become a sexualised environment quite quickly for some young people. For example, the young person may follow a celebrity online who posts sexually explicit selfies or content of themselves. This selfie culture can contribute to normalising the uploading of material that is sexually provocative or explicit, and it can inadvertently give young people the message that they must present themselves in a certain “sexual” way in order to be deemed of worth. The trend towards the sexualisation of the self can tend to glamorise the area of pornography.

2. Interest in sex

Wanting information about sex is normal and if young people are not getting the message at home that they can ask questions and talk openly about sex, they may feel more inclined to access such information and pornography in order to find out for themselves what sex is about. Pornography is not real and yet young people viewing it can often think it is.

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Tech Savvy – Danger Ignorant: Kids and the Internet, by John Somerfield, Senior Constable and School Community Officer, New Zealand Police


Girls on net Collage FY1

For  young  people,  the  internet  has  become  an  important  source  of entertainment  and  leisure,  a  means  to  communicate  and  form meaningful relationships with others, and a platform for creativity and self expression (www.netsafe.org.nz).

This being said, the internet is like a big city. It makes sense that mums and dads would never leave a child or young person to wander about on their own.  It would be easy to imagine them turning a corner and finding themselves in a street where they are not safe.

We can be tempted to throw up our hands and say, “They know everything there is to know about this stuff. It’s a waste of time even trying to learn.”

The thing to remember is that young people may be tech savvy, but they tend to be danger ignorant. They will jump into things and sometimes the results can be less than ideal.  It is helpful to think about internet education the same as you would when teaching a child to ride a bike. You start out in the backyard, moving to the driveway and then to the footpath. Then out onto the road, with you riding behind them. You get them a good helmet and some reflectorised things to go on their bike; you tell them about the rules and about your expectations.   You know that road safety is a serious business.  Hazards on the road become clearer when we jump on our own bike and ride with our kids.

There are many internet offences that young people can get caught up in. These  include  threats,  harassment,  blackmail,  fraud,  objectionable  content and grooming, all the way down to things like miscommunications that lead to anger, and then on to physical violence in our community.  If your child gets caught up, it is important that we keep our heads. We need to count to ten before we react. We want to be the adults they trust when they go looking for advice.

# Go to www.netsafe.org.nz.   If you are not confident with computers, you can print off a copy of the Staying Safe Online booklet. Netsafe is a one-stop shop for anything internet. You can find advice on a huge range of issues including the latest scams and what to do about them.

# Have a chat to your teen about what they are doing online and who they are talking to.

# Set your family rules early. In our family we do not allow computers, Ipods or other internet capable devices in the bedroom. We use them in a place where an adult can see and help if required.

# If you don’t understand it, try it. Take the time to improve your knowledge by actually using the services, tools and apps that your kids use.

# Each device needs its own content filter. Content filters are available for sites  such  as  YouTube,  available  as  apps  on  Ipods;  and  you  can  even purchase a modem that filters everything that comes into the home.

# Remember that a red label on your movie or game means it is restricted.There are penalties for letting underage kids or teens see or play. R13  R16 R18. In New Zealand the fine is up to $3,000 even when you are unaware of the rating.Have a look at the new booklet on the NetSafe site for ways to stay safe on Facebook, YouTube, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Trade Me and Twitter. http://www.netsafe.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/Staying-Safe-Online-NZ.pdf 

Originally published in the Star newspaper, Dunedin NZ, 2014.  “The Forever Years” would like to thank John Somerfield for agreeing to republish here.

The Internet NEVER Forgets, by Ginger Kadlec

Internet FYWhile a picture is worth a thousand words, a digital picture is like words spoken — once it’s ‘out there’, you can’t take it back.

Far too many tweens and teens learn this lesson the hard way. Sexting or sharing compromising (including naked) photos with boyfriends or girlfriends is a frequent practice, one that can backfire in a dangerous way.

Here’s a common scenario…

Before girl knows it, her topless picture is spread all around her school, passed to other schools and lands on a mysterious site on the Internet.

Girl likes boy. Girl and boy flirt via texts. Boy asks girl for picture in her bra. Girl is embarrassed, but really likes boy, so snaps a quick selfie and hits “send”. Boy compliments girl and flirts some more. Boy asks girl to remove her bra and send another shot, while “promising” to keep it to himself. Girl is convinced boy really likes her, trusts him, and obliges. Boy is so excited about the photo, he shares it with his closest friend. The good friend thinks it’s cool and passes the photo on to another couple of guys. And so the telephone game begins. Before girl knows it, her topless picture is spread all around her school, passed to other schools and lands on a mysterious site on the Internet.

The Internet is relentless… it never forgets.

Think this doesn’t happen? Think again. In my own community here in Indiana, a similar story sadly played itself out. According to the Indy Star, the photos of between 20 and 30 former high school girls were anonymously posted to an online image board allowing the girls to be identified by entering a state and area code.

Read more at the following link…


Pornography has changed the landscape of adolescence beyond all recognition, by Allison Pearson

computer boy

Originally published in “The Telegraph”.

As a study reveals a sharp rise in the number of schoolgirls at risk of emotional problems, Allison Pearson says we need to embolden our daughters to fight back against pornography – however embarrassing it may be.

Sometimes you hear a story that is so awful that it refuses to leave your mind, no matter how fervently you beg it to go away.

I was told one such story recently by a family doctor. Readers of a squeamish disposition may want to look away now.

I was having dinner with a group of women when the conversation moved onto how we could raise happy, well-balanced sons and daughters who are capable of forming meaningful relationships in an age when internet pornography is as freely available as a glass of water. Porn has changed the landscape of adolescence beyond all recognition. Like other parents of our generation, we were on a journey without maps or lights, although the instinct to protect our children from the darkness was overwhelming.

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