As a kid it was a naughty mag my brother hid and tittered at like a girl with his mates (I think!) and other generally back room, top shelf, dodgy, dirty stuff chaps in trench coats went around hoarding. I assure you today it is much worse than that, and with so many kids online the conversation needs to be had by all of us.
I worked for the past 3ish years for a psychotherapy practice which specialises in sex and porn addiction. It is not something I have ever really spoken on much because let’s face it, it is a bit awkward to talk about in the local soft play with the ‘Mum’s What Lunch’. There are not enough brown paper bags in existence for that scenario!
I did not work with any of the clients, only the marketing and training side of the business, but believe me it was an eye opener! As a mother myself I was horrified at pretty much most of what I learnt pertaining to the porn industry and the ease of which anyone can access it. Including our very own little darlings! Yes, you would be quite amazed at some of the known loopholes used by the porn industry and other unscrupulous cretin to expose as many people as possible to pornography.
It hardly takes any research at all to find figures of how many searches for porn there are each week. And we are talking into the millions of unique searches specifically for pornography. So much so that it made the news last year when Pokemon Go overtook porn in the Google Search stakes. That in itself is ‘chin on the floor’ worthy.
How safe are our kiddos from these dark seedy people? Those lovely little apps you download to the electronic babysitter, you know the ones that are free but spew up the odd advert, whilst you go to finish jobs is perfectly safe because you only download ‘U’ rated games, right? Well yes the game itself has a ‘U’ rating and is absolutely safe for your little people to play, but the loophole in the plan is this – the game is rated safe for children, but the adverts are not subject to the same rating requirements! In fact apps and in-app adverts are not regulated in any way shape or form. The filters on your wifi will not catch them either because they are apps and not websites.
Our children could inadvertently access unsuitable content via any of their smart devices regardless of filters, restrictions or otherwise. Think about how often yours are left unsupervised with free access to wifi.
The NSPCC have an entire section dedicated to ‘Online Porn’ with links to research papers and helpful tips on how to help your young people cope with exposure to porn. For many porn is for pleasure and is nothing more than harmless fun, but for children in particular it can have devastating effects that will last well into their adult life.
The best thing we can do is let go of our neurosis enough to start the conversation with our kids. No we dont have to go into gritty details, but we do need to talk about it. We need to create that space for our children to feel safe about talking to us. We need to educate ourselves about a new kind of ‘stranger danger’ that happens online with friendly messages and catfish profiles. We need to help our children learn a new vocabulary that helps them navigate an ever evolving digital world.
Then, maybe, we will start to weaken the hold of the sinister over our kids.