Parents who think their children won’t be exposed to porn have their heads in the sand.

Two eleven-year-old girls are at the bus stop as they wait to go home in the hot sun sucking on icy poles. They pull their smartphones from the pockets of their school bags.

There with them is a younger girl, a grade four girl she doesn’t have an icy pole, nor a smart phone so she watches the older girls, she knows them from the playground as they are just one year ahead and she likes them, they laugh and make her feel important.

"Take a look at this" says an older girl. ( Image via IStock.)

"Take a look at this" one says to her as she thrusts her phone into the younger girls hand.

There on the screen is a naked woman. Her breasts shining with what looks like grease, her pubic hair shaven and her mouth wrapped around the penis of a dark haired man. Another man is naked too in the video she is being shown. His hands are touching the woman in places that confuse the 10-year-old watching.

Are you horrified I am recounting this? Well you should be because its an accurate depiction of an incident that took place in a school near where I live.

What the two older girls didn’t know was that another person could see the screen, was watching while they also waited for the bus, an adult who shocked by what he witnessed immediately called the school who sent a teacher and intervened.

But the damage had been done.

The damage had been done. Image via IStock.

Where the 11-year-old girls knew to find such videos was kept private when these details were recounted to me. How the 10-year-old was counselled after the event was kept private too. The fate of the two older girls -in fact, all three changed inexplicably by this one event.

The fact it occurred at all is a terrible, terrible indictment of the society we live in but an accurate reflection nonetheless.

Access of online pornography is increasing problem for families, with the Australian Childhood Foundation saying over 90 per cent of boys under the age of 16 have visited a pornography site online and around 60 per cent of girls doing the same. Many children from the age of just 11.

Watch: How our children are exposed to pornography before they hit puberty. 

Cybersafety expert Susan McLean has told a Sydney symposium that parents who think their children won’t be exposed to porn have their heads in the sand.

"They will find it, it will find them or someone will show it to them," Ms McLean told AAP.

Ms McLean, a former police officer said that while porn can be blocked, banned or ignored it will eventually find your child.

“The results of early exposure and engagement can vary from bed-wetting to triggers for child-on-child sexual assaults, which are on the rise, Ms McLean says.

"They don't have the capacity to say 'that's not how it works'".

The majority of young children come across porn by accident. Image via IStock.

She told the symposium of a 15-year-old who tied up his girlfriend and forced her to perform oral sex saying it was normal because he had seen it online.

Of course the majority of young children come across porn by accident, stumbling on it by typing the wrong thing or curiously googling terms like “naked people.”

In writing for The Newcastle Herald Susan McLean says:

Even if your child does not look for online porn, it will most certainly find them. An innocuous search for something like, "naughty girl", will lead kids to a variety of porn sites, images and videos as will a search for a picture of a cute cat for a school project simply by typing in the word "pussy".

She says that early exposure to sexual content can have a “profound impact” on children’s' attitudes and behaviours towards sex and relationships.

Early exposure to sexual content can have a “profound impact” on children’s' attitudes. Image via Istock.

“It has never been more important for parents, teachers, grandparents and carers to have conversations about sexuality and relationships with the children in your care. Above all else, do not let the internet be your child's sex educator.”

It’s a frightening prospect and one that is hard to control, many parents lack the technical know-how to control their children’s browsing themselves, and even if you don’t provide your own child with a mobile device they will no doubt, as in the case of the three girls above, have peers who do.

Many commentators say the key is to talk to your children early about pornography – with some calling for it to be included in the curriculum as early as primary school.

Others say there needs to be a return to a discussion of a mandatory internet filter policy where service providers automatically block pornography sites unless customers opt in, though Malcolm Turnbull famously back flipped on this in 2013.

Spend time online with children. Image via IStock.

 

What we know is that it is a problem that isn’t going away and that somehow, through combined efforts at home, via Internet providers, via parents increasing their own technical abilities and via education it is a problem we need to all work to combat.

Some tips from Susan McLean via Cybersafety Solutions

  • PC’s should be in a common area of the house not in the bedroom.
  • Parental monitoring is vital – walk past and see what your child is doing.
  • Spend time online with children, just as you would with many other activities such as sport, board games and walking the dog - learn and explore together.
  • Have a family internet contract and set house rules about what information your child can put onto websites or share with others.
  • Very close supervision for young children is recommended. Limit a contact or follower list to friends and family that have been approved.
  • Set up an Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat account….whatever your children use and engage with them online. This also allows you to know how these applications work.
  • If your child is playing online games it is YOUR responsibility to make sure that YOU know how to play the game too in case of problems. Play online games together.
  • Do not let young children ‘google’ aimlessly with no supervision. Children need to be taught about search engines and how they work.

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