No matter hard you try, you can’t protect your youngsters from every bad thing in this world. The one thing that makes me madder than an “old wet hen,” is the ease of accessing internet pornography. It is absolutely horrific what you can find. It is wicked and it not only destroys the adults in families but it can change the path that mental health takes in a young person who gets caught up in it.

You say that your youngster would never look at porn. It can happen by accident. And it can happen to anyone who turns on a computer. And, youngsters are curious.

Numbers don’t lie. 

Boys have a 90 percent chance of being exposed to porn before the age of 18, while girls will have around a 60 percent chance. To rephrase that, nine out of l0 boys and six out of 10 girls will be exposed to porn before they turn 18; before they fully mature. Not to mention that one out of every seven teenagers will be subject to an online sexual advance.

In a study that polled children about pornography exposure before the age of 13, half of the male children and one-third of the female children will have been exposed to pornography in some way.

For the male children, almost a third will be exposed to pornography before they are 10 years old. Perhaps the most troubling part is that the majority of exposure (about two thirds of the group) is unwanted and unwarranted.

Studies have proven that parents are the best and often the real first line of defense for keeping kids, teens and young adults safe and secure online. Parents have got to be nosy and know what their child or teen is doing on the web.

Talking about the internet can be challenging because the concept of “forever” is lost on many of today’s young folks. They don’t think about what would happen if today’s post turned up during a search when they apply for college admissions or job applications, or when they are the subject of a background check.

Kids are online, which means that parenting today involves knowing where they are going and what they are doing there. The best line of defense against any dangers lurking is you the parent.

Which means you need to be where your kids are. You would never throw them the keys to the car before showing them how to drive. You would never let them go on a vacation with another family you have not met or run a background check on. 

Do not spy on your kids. It is spying if you don’t tell them that you will be periodically checking their accounts. 

Let your kids know that you want to share their experience of learning about the internet just as you help them with homework and not invade their privacy.

It’s not so much spying as trust-but-verify monitoring, especially if you have continued dialogue with your children and teens on internet safety. It’s crucial for parents to know what their children are doing online.

Gues what? Our kids know more about the digital world than we do. Given that, how do we protect them?

As a parent, make it a priority to understand how your posts and theirs expose personal information and how that information builds up over the course of their childhood and into their teenage years.

Digital footprints, unlike footprints in the dirt or sand that are washed away by the tide and time, are forever. 

A picture or status update your child posts on social media may get deleted, but somewhere out in cyberland, it still exists.

It may reappear when your child least expects it, and have disastrous results.

Disastrous results?

Sexting and revenge porn are real and ruining kids’ lives. 

A study in the Journal of Pediatrics said that sexting is a new norm among young adults. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen And Unplanned Pregnancy shows that nearly 40 percent of all teens have posted or sent sexually suggestive messages. Cyberbullying and cybershaming aren’t slowing down. We need to continue to talk about appropriate behavior.

DALE LILLY  is Lifestyles Editor and may be contacted at lifestyles@desototimes.com or 662-429-6397, ext. 248.

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