How do you talk to a five-year-old about porn?
That and other hair-raising questions were examined in a presentation about the dangers of unrestricted youth access to the Internet made at Joseph, Enterprise, Wallowa and Alternative schools Thursday, Oct. 5.
Amy Stangel and Mandy Decker, both employees of the Wallowa County Juvenile Department, arranged the presentation, offered by Michigan-based Protect Young Eyes, after Stangel attended a presentation at a training and saw the value for area schools.
Children are beginning their mastery of iPads and other technology as early as kindergarten and are being exposed to material and situations they are not equipped to handle, said presenter Doug Crawford of Protect Young Eyes.
“Technology is creating changes in development and interaction. Concepts and themes are introduced at earlier and earlier ages,” Crawford said.
Some of those are especially damaging to young women, who quickly learn that posting pictures of themselves in summer attire, bathing suits and simply provocative poses gets more “likes” than an ordinary “day in the life” snap.
The posting may have started innocently, with young women showing off to their girl friends. However, young men have easy access to these pictures — and what constitutes “normality” in interaction, behavior and expectation changes for both sexes.
Young people are having their minds patterned in ways their parents would not approve, said Crawford. Even if parents believe that children approaching adulthood should be free to engage in sexual behavior with same-age peers, the type of material presented as “normal sexual behavior” can be shocking.
Porn, he said, has been legitimized. In a survey of church-going young women ages 13 to 24, respondents were asked to rate behaviors that were morally reprehensible and most rated failure to recycle as worse than watching porn, he reported.
Also, according to their own reports, one of the largest online purveyors of porn, Pornhub, claimed 92 billion porn videos were watched in 2016. That’s 12.5 video views for every person on earth.
“If you didn’t watch that porn, perhaps the person sitting next to you watched your share as well as their own,” he said.
But beyond the danger of children getting a hold of devices or computers owned by adults, or being allowed unrestricted Internet access, children can click their way to porn or other disturbing material through sites their parents may have thought were safe.
“The difference between awesome and awful is just one click,” Crawford warned.
Children can navigate to sites unapproved by their parents through online video games, music sites, Pintrest, Facebook, You Tube and others.
The problem is both computer literacy –– children know how to navigate within sites and out of one site to another better than many parents –– and poor controls in the applications children are using.
“Just because the software engineer says an app is safe for 13-year-olds, doesn’t mean it is,” Crawford warned.
Another danger is that “where the kids are is where the predators are.”
Aps that promise anonymity, such as After School, are particularly worrisome, he said. Anonymity means that anyone can post — including a predator, who can simply “verify” that he or she is a high school student by connecting to a fake Facebook account.
Commonly used apps such as Snapchat or Musical.ly can also be dangerous for children because they allow users to upload their own content.
“The nature of the content always eventually gives way to an abundance of pornographic material,” according to the Protect Young Eyes review of the app. Improperly managed, these apps also offer communication openings for skilled predators.
All sites and apps need to be monitored by parents who have also spoken to their children about dangers, Crawford said. Parents should maintain control of all electronic devices: installing software that prevents some usage or allows parents to monitor usage; requiring “shut off” times or shutting off the router at specific times to facilitate family interaction or signal bed time; and using other methods to protect their children from a variety of dangers, he advised.
Parental consistency with regard to maintaining rules for Internet and app usage is essential, Crawford said. Crawford shared his own philosophy of parenting as an example. His philosophy is that a father’s responsibility is to provide, prepare, and protect.
“Even if my teens do not like my decision (with regard to technology use), it is consistent with my parenting values, and they know that,” he said.
Protect Young Eyes offers advice, reading or study materials, reviews of apps, and recommendations of software to install to protect children — even advice on how to talk to a five year old about porn.
Chris McKenna founded the program after a career in business advising and six years in full-time middle school ministry. He has undertaken hundreds of hours of research in hopes of leveling the playing field for parents and to inform teens of the risks of using the Internet recklessly. Visit: protectyoungeyes.com