A few months ago I purchased a beautiful red fish. It would glimmer as it slid around its bowl, constantly in motion. I loved to watch it. I would feed it every day, make sure that it was in clean water, and tried to give it the proper light. But I began to noticed that this fish would swim a little less vigorously, eat a little less, and look a little duller as time went by. I did everything I knew to do for it, but eventually it died. When I went to the pet store to ask why this had happened, they asked me how I was cleaning its tank, and how often. “The normal amount,” I said. How often can you clean them, anyways? The only thing they could tell me was that the way I was cleaning the tank was either too jarring to the fish or something was wrong with my water. They recommend that if I wanted the fish to live, next time I needed to buy a filter. Now, why would a filter do any better for me than cleaning it personally once a week? How could a filter improve the fishes quality of life better than hands on care from me? In essence, what does a filter do that I can’t?
Now, we aren’t here to chat about proper fish care–and you wouldn’t want advice from me about that! But we as parents have a unique opportunity to create in our children an internal filter. Just like with the fish, we can install filters in our computers and phone and monitor what our children are looking up. We want to be able to give them an internal filter that they control. This will enable them to reroute the content that they don’t want, and make healthier choices for themselves without having to constantly change and check where our children are looking.
How can we do this? How can we create a relationship with our children that will allow us to trust that this filter will work because they want it to work?
We have some basic advice to help you create a relationship with your children that will allow you to help them to create this filter.
- Approach with Love
- Educate Yourself
- Age Appropriate Education
So first things first–the way that we are talking to our children is incredibly important. When we approach the topic of pornography, or sexual education, or heck, how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you need to approach them with love. That is the most important part. “When children know that they are someone whom others love and respect, they are more resilient to negative influences (1).” In addition to being more resilient, if your child knows that you love them and they can come to you, they will. Fostering a healthy relationship fosters more open communication, which enables you to teach effectively what your child needs to hear. A study was done in Malaysia that looked at the consequences of a healthy parent-children relationship in relation to their internet use. It was found that parents who had “mutual attachment-trust” towards their children were more likely to engage in less risky behavior online. It was also found that when there were poor emotional ties children and adolescents were more often found to be involved in risky behavior (2). Don’t let your emotions overrun your logic; trust your child and come to them with love.
To teach effectively, we as parents have to be educated on the what, the why and the how of pornography. If your child asks, “What is pornography,” how are you going to define it? If they ask you, “Mom, why is this bad?” what will you tell them? Before you can teach, you have to know. “Some parents shy away from even saying the word pornography, but that just gives it more power.” (3) So what if you or they feel awkward. Define the words for them. Be the one that satisfies their curiosity. You have the power to filter what you say; but you don’t have the power to filter what their friends, the internet or a magazine tells them, which is why you must educate yourself first.
Next we want to mention that your child is just that; a child. That is why our next step is so important. Your child is learning things everywhere, all the time. Sooner or later they are going to stumble across something to do with sex or pornography and at that moment you want them to be educated enough so they can deal with the situation. It will be up to you as their parent to teach them in age appropriate ways while still being clear! “While we must continue to fight the good fight legally and societally, we are way beyond avoidance as our only defense. Pornography wants you, it wants your husband or wife, it wants your son and daughter, your grandchildren, and your in-laws. It doesn’t share well, and it doesn’t leave easily. It is a cruel master, and seeks more slaves.” (4)
Doesn’t it sound fun, being a slave? Of course it doesn’t. We want to empower our children, our spouses, whomever that we come into contact with to rise above the temptation of pornography. We want to make them a master of their own fate by creating a specific plan to help our children combat pornography when they come across it.
Developing ‘Internal Filters’ in Our Children. (n.d.). Retrieved May 26, 2017, from http://www.togethernessproject.org/blog/developing-internal-filters-in-our-children
Yusuf, S., Osman, M. N., Hassan, M. H., & Teimoury, M. (2014). Parents’ Influence on Children’s Online Usage. Procedia – Social And Behavioral Sciences, 155(The International Conference on Communication and Media 2014 (i-COME’14) – Communication, Empowerment and Governance: The 21st Century Enigma), 81-86. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.10.260
Internet Safety: The Biggest Mistake (Smart) Parents Make. (n.d.). Retrieved May 26, 2017, from https://www.netnanny.com/blog/internet-safety-the-biggest-mistake-smart-parents-make/
Prepare & Prevent. (n.d.). Retrieved May 26, 2017, from https://protectyoungminds.org/prepare/