You’re reading this, so I know you’re a wise parent or concerned caregiver.Mother_and_child_sculpture,_Queen_Square You’ve probably already installed security software on your family computers, password protected your smart phone, and done the same to all of your internet-enabled video games like xbox. But your kids can still be exposed to pornography.

Within my own circle of friends, I know of examples of each of the following.

At school. Many kids who discover pornography want to share it with their peers. And they have ample opportunities on a bus or playground. They may share it with your child via an ipod-touch, cell phone or even a slip of paper with a seemingly innocent website address and the invitation: “Hey, check this out!”

Computer ClassroomAmazingly, some schools have not completely secured their own computers from porn. One boy I know accidentally brought up a porn site when he was working with two others doing research at school. Many portals to porn have innocent-sounding web addresses. This sad fact is one reason to teach your kids never to put in a url that they don’t already know is safe. Teach them to always use a search engine that has a safety setting.

Note: On your home computers, you might want to find a search engine you can LOCK, like Windows Live Family Safety. Others are Google for Kids. Bing also has a safe search feature which can be set but not locked  though it’s very good at blocking images and videos (find out how to set it here). For more information on protecting kids online, check out this guide, Protecting Children’s Online Privacy by Comparitech.

school libraryAt the school library: You might be surprised by the books and videos available and promoted at your son or daughter’s elementary or middle school library. A lot of Young Adult (YA) fiction includes graphic depictions of sexual encounters.  And according to Carrie Feron, an editor at HarperCollins as quoted in TODAY.com, “Kids always read up. Seventeen magazine is clearly read by 13 year olds.” And a recent New York Times article, Childhood, Uncensored, reported on parents upset by the explicit sexual content in author Lauren Myracle’s YA books (many of them e-books). Take a tour of your child’s school library and educate yourself on what’s available there.

sleepoverAt a friend’s home: As much as you would like, you can’t impose your own values or enforce your own rules when your child is in someone else’s home. What they watch and their access to media of all kinds are all out of your direct control. And who hasn’t read about the dangers of sleepovers? Not only for exposure to pornography, but molestation as well. We banned sleepovers for our kids, allowing them to stay only until 10 pm or 11 pm and even bringing them back for breakfast. Recently, an 11-year old boy went to a sleepover and was exposed to a “bombardment of hardcore porn on mobile devices.” Sadly, I also know of a case where an innocent boy scout began his pornography addiction at a scouting overnight where he was paired with another boy and the two shared a tent together with no adult supervision.

house-2As a relative’s home. Again, you think you can trust your family, but it’s just not always the case. Sexual predators are often very good at hiding their creepy intentions. They use pornography to groom their victims and threats to keep them silent. Note: Grandma and grandpa may be perfectly innocent, but also perfectly naïve. Make sure their computers and internet portals are secure as well.

In your own home via a live-in non-family member. I hate to give foster parenting a bad rap when it is such a needed service, but some (not all) foster kids are victims of sexual molestation and go on to become predators. Sadly, I personally know of two instances where families, out of the goodness of their hearts, took in a foster child, only to have one of their own kids molested and subsequently enter a life of porn and or drug addiction. Foster parenting is a valuable service to our society, but if you take it on, make sure it’s the right season in your family’s life and that you understand the background of the kids you’re taking in.

Conversation togetherAll of these situations underscore the importance of educating your kids early against pornography. That way, when they come home from school or a stay with a cousin, you can ask them if they saw anything inappropriate. If you’ve educated and empowered them with information about pornography, it’s more likely they’ll be able to tell you when they’ve been exposed to it.

Kids need to go out into the world, but lets give them a fighting chance to reject porn when someone shows it to them or they find it inadvertently.

Do you know someone who was introduced to porn at a young age? How did it affect them? Would early porn-proofing have made a difference? Please leave a comment and together we can make a difference in the lives of children.

Kristen Jenson
Kristen A. Jenson is the founder of Protect Young Minds and author of Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids. Kristen enjoys speaking, writing and anything else that will help empower kids to reject pornography. Kristen earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, and a master’s degree in Organizational Communication. Kristen currently lives with her husband in Washington State, where she enjoys growing a vegetable garden, watching Masterpiece Theater, and taking long walks with friends who tolerate her incessant talking about you know what. Above all else, her husband and three children are her greatest treasures.