Through the Internet, kids have free and easy access to pornography and pornographic content.  If you’ve been following our parent’s blog, you’ve probably realized that kids can encounter pornography through innocent word searches, misspelled words, stealth sites, social networking sites and online gaming platforms.  Pornography is also promoted throughout popular culture, in shows specifically targeted to teen audiences and in much of the music teens listen to.

Most parents think their kids are immune to the dangers online… that they are too innocent, too smart or too “good” to get involved with pornography, but ultimately, any child can be exposed and start down the path of pornography addiction.  I know of boys and girls that struggle with addiction to pornography, so if you are a parent, realize that you need to protect your sons and daughters from pornography’s influence.  The content that kids are accessing today is far more graphic, violent, deviant and destructive than the pornography that you or I may have encountered when we were young, and no child is emotionally or mentally prepared to deal with this content, and it’s our responsibility to protect our kids and watch out for any warning signs that your child is struggling.

Watch out for signs of premature sexual activity or an unusual curiosity about sexuality.  If you notice your child using suggestive terms or suddenly dressing more provocatively, they may have had some exposure.  If there are increased pop-ups, spam messages, viruses, or other inappropriate content on any of your computers, then your child may have visited a pornographic site.  If you notice that your child has erased the computer’s history, if they change the computer screen quickly or become increasingly defensive or secretive, it’s time to have a conversation.  If you ever notice any unexplained charges on your credit card, mobile, TV or Internet service bill, talk with your child about their activity.

Be aware of all of the access points that pornography exploits—check the ratings on the online games your kids play and don’t let your kids to have Internet access in the bedrooms (whether through handheld games, smart phones or laptops).  I recommend that parents also talk to other parents.  Are you considering letting your son or daughter spend the night at a friend’s house?  If so, have a conversation with the parents to see if they are using filters on their computers and let them know the rules you have for your kids.  I’ve talked with far too many teens that started struggling with pornography addiction after being exposed to pornography online at a friend’s home.

Bottom line: pornography addiction is far and away the largest sexual addiction we see in our culture, and most individuals experienced exposure in their youth.  Kids have easy access to pornography, and the addictive nature of online pornography means that any youth could be a victim.  If you do discover that your son or daughter is accessing pornography, remember not to blame or shame them; share how much you love them and let them know you want to help protect them.

If your son or daughter has not been exposed, don’t wait until it’s too late.  Prevent exposure by using porn blocking software and filters, such as SafeEyes or X3WatchPro.

And if you have comments or other warning signs that parents should be aware of, I hope you will share them below.