Last month, I was sitting down with a mom and dad who were angry and heartbroken to learn that their son had been exposed to pornography while at a sleepover at his best friend’s home. They had noticed a change in their son’s behavior over the course of the week following the sleepover and they received a notice via their parental control software that their nine-year-old son was entering explicit sexual terms into their web browser (fortunately, he was blocked from viewing the search results and viewing any sites because of the filter they were using). When they asked their son why he was searching for those terms, he broke down crying and was very ashamed to reveal that his friend had taught him those words and showed him sites with explicit content.
Unfortunately, the sad reality of our world today is that it’s incredibly easy for any young boy or girl to access hardcore, explicit content. While this mom and dad had done an incredibly good job of protecting their son at their own house, they hadn’t taken the extra, often uncomfortable step, of talking to the parents of the homes their son regularly visited. As with all issues relating to protecting children from exposure to pornography, it’s critical that parents get ahead of the issue and due everything in their capacity to prevent early exposure. As part of a thorough approach, I strongly recommend that parents have a conversation with the parents of any house they allow their children to play at, and as a policy, if they are truly serious about protecting their kids from explicit content, only allow their children to play and spend the night at homes that are also using parental controls on all Internet-enabled devices.
So often, parents today hardly even know or talk with the parents of the kids their own children spend time with, and I think our kids end up bearing the repercussions of our laziness. Yesterday, I was speaking with a parent who has taken m recommended approach to protect her son from pornography. She tries to always invite parents over before allowing her son to spend time with their kids; if she can’t have a face-to-face, then she doesn’t let her son spend time at that family’s house (although their kids are always allowed over to her home). When she speaks to the other parents, she explains, among other things, that protecting her son from early exposure to pornography is a priority in their home. She asks the parents if they are using parental controls (and what kind), and more often that not, the parents she talks with want to learn more and ask for help in setting up parental controls and protecting their own kids. In many ways, this mom has become a community advocate and Internet safety expert for her son’s community, and as a result, more children in her son’s network are being protected from early exposure.
So, when should you talk to the parents of your child’s friend? Today is looking pretty good.