Define the word “pornography” and help children understand the difference between appropriate and inappropriate materials according to your family standards. (Tip: See “Good Pictures Bad Pictures” and the free “Quick Start Guide for Proactive Parents” at ProtectYoungMinds.org.)
Discuss the potential harms of viewing pornography or other explicit material, how it can impact the brain, and how anyone can become addicted. (Tip: Parents can watch an informational documentary at PornPandemic.org to learn more about porn addiction.)
Explain that computer and internet use is a privilege that children earn by showing they can use technology respectfully and responsibly; it is not an entitlement.
Explain to children that because of the nature of the internet, they will inevitably encounter inappropriate materials and that part of a parent’s job is to help their children manage their computer/internet usage responsibly. For this reason, internet usage cannot be a private activity for children.
Encourage children to let a parent know immediately if they have accidentally been exposed to inappropriate material. Reassure them they will not be punished if this happens and that everyone has to learn how to deal appropriately with accidental exposure.
Create a plan for how children will handle accidental exposure. (Tip: Help children practice shutting their eyes and immediately turning off the monitor so it becomes automatic and instinctive. You can even hold surprise “drills” so they can practice.)
Ensure that all devices with internet access have filtering services to block harmful content to the extent possible. But make sure children understand that such filters are not foolproof and that they need to create internal filters and safeguards. (Tip: K9 Web Protection has a very good free filter that can be downloaded at http://www1.k9webprotection.com.)
Establish guidelines for acceptable computer usage. Decide together the appropriate times during the day for internet use and the amount of time that is acceptable.
Discuss how to handle situations where peers share pornography or when porn comes up in a film or on TV. (Tip: Role play with your children how to say no to a friend who tries to show them pornography.)
Reassure your child that if they feel drawn to pornography or if they have a hard time not looking at it, this does not mean they are a bad person and that you can get them help.