Pornography: Counterfeit Love
Coming off of Valentine’s Day, a day filled with so much talk about love, relationships and sex, we thought it would be appropriate to mention one of the primary dangers children encounter online: pornography. Studies have indicated that as many as seven out of ten kids accidentally encounter pornography online, and almost 80 percent of this exposure occurs in the home.
As parents and educators, we want to instill our own personal values about relationships, sex, intimacy, love and marriage in our children. Unfortunately, powerful, misleading messages portrayed in Internet pornography may take the lead in educating children about sex. Just as a 30-second commercial can influence whether we choose one popular soft drink over another, exposure to pornography shapes our attitudes, values and even our behavior.
Exposure to pornography has a negative impact on the emotional and mental development of children. As they grow, children are especially susceptible to influences affecting their development. Information about sex in most homes and schools comes, presumably, in age-appropriate incremental stages based on what parents, educators, physicians and social scientists have learned about child development. Research has shown that pornography short-circuits and distorts the normal development process and supplied mis-information about a child’s sexuality, sense of self, and body that leaves children confused.
After speaking to a group of 4th-6th graders last year, twenty children came up to me individually to share their story about encountering pornography (most of which was accidental). Each child was confused and scared by what they saw. They were also afraid to tell their parents; they thought their parents would unplug the computer, make them feel embarrassed or become angry at them.
It is so important to talk to your children about healthy sexuality—both off- and online. Make sure they know that if they see anything scary of confusing, they can come to you. Do not overreact if your child has accidentally or intentionally encountered pornography—understand that kids are curious about sex, and they need and want adult guidance.
Read more about the harmful impact of pornography and watch our Internet Safety 101 Video about the harms of pornography HERE.