The Internet has empowered children beyond means. Today, they have every bit of information about every topic possible on their finger tips.
While that is good news when it comes to online education, this overexposure also brings with it, its fair share of challenges.
One of these challenges is to ensure they don’t encounter any inappropriate content for their age, especially pornographic. While talking to our kids about such mature topics can be awkward, it is still important to know when and how to talk to kids about sex.
To tackle the difficulty and awkwardness of discussing sex and pornography with our kids, theAsianparent reached out to the Senior Director of TOUCH Integrated Family Group and Member of the Media Literacy Council, Mrs Anita Low-Lim.
When To Talk To Kids About Sex: The Importance Of Discussing Mature Topics With Kids
According to Mrs Anita, there has been a sharp increase in children encountering inappropriate online content ever since the circuit breaker period.
With this, it has become even more important for parents to take action to protect their children’s online safety.
“Early exposure to pornography at impressionable ages may adversely shape the sexual practices and attitudes of young teens that may stay with them throughout adolescence,” Mrs Anita tells theAsianparent.
She continues to explain, “For example, early exposure for males can lead to the tendency to objectify women, less progressive gender role attitudes such as thinking that men are superior and that women should serve men, or even sexual harassment. It may also potentially strengthen attitudes supportive of sexual violence or violence against women.”
Mrs Anita adds how an excessive indulgence in porn can also “be highly detrimental to one’s mental health.”
“Research reveals that teenagers exposed to sexually explicit websites are more likely to be promiscuous and more likely to have used alcohol or other intoxicating substances during their last sexual encounter. This puts them at a higher risk of developing a substance abuse disorder or mental health disorder,” she says.
When To Talk To Kids About Sex And How To Approach Them About Adult Topics
Being a parent with two daughters and a son herself, Mrs Anita understands just how awkward it is talking about controversial topics such as sex and pornography.
“When my kids were much younger, one useful tip I received from a fellow parent was to be as factual as possible when explaining the important changes taking place in the kids,” she shares.
In her case, Mrs Anita used the scientific terms for the sensitive body parts and biological processes to help her kids fully understand what they are experiencing.
Acknowledging how it is not easy for parents to approach kids about such mature topics, Mrs Anita shares the following suggestions on ways you can start the conversation with your little one:
Connect and Correct
Give your child room to express their feelings and reasons for their actions or behaviour
Question and Answer
Ask your child questions or encourage them to ask questions about it.
Disengage and Reflect
Refrain from immediate action when emotions are heated, whether it is yours or your child’s. Instead, focus on giving yourself some time to calm down, reflect on your emotions and motivations, and then respond at a better time.
“In having a conversation on sex and porn with our kids, parents must bear in mind that our kids’ replies must always be more important than our reactions, meaning we must always keep calm, and not show that we are in disbelief, disgusted or distressed by what our kids are telling us. Our reactions will determine if our kids ever talked to us again about such intimate matter,” Mrs Anita advises parents.
She also makes sure to add, “I therefore encourage parents to start exploring conversations with their children about what they do online, earlier and at a younger age where possible. Parents should try to have open conversation[s] with their children as it will ensure that they are well-equipped to deal with these issues in future. It also encourages your children to approach you when they encounter inappropriate content.”
Nurturing A Healthy And Positive Digital Culture At Home
As parents, Mrs Anita advises that we all need to find the right balance when parenting our children on digital use. We can do this by taking the following steps:
1. Talk openly about the Internet with your child
Have open communications with your child about everything involving the Internet. This includes the risks and different types of dangers lurking online.
“Structure the digital experience by putting in place safeguards and monitoring software. This should be done with your child’s knowledge,” says Mrs Anita.
2. Respect and value your child’s opinions
When you layout ground rules such as screen time management, you should also consider what your child is thinking and feeling.
“In addition, be attentive and interested in their online activities. Create social media accounts, join your children in their online gaming adventures or just be there to listen when they recount their digital experience,” she adds.
When asked up to what age parents should continue monitoring their children’s screen time, Mrs Anita tells us how there is no definite age limit.
“It all boils down to trusting our children and having that open line of communication between parent and child,” she notes.
Mrs Anita adds, “Parents need to talk to your children and be able to negotiate with them on their internet use. Remain attentive when your children talk to you and trust that they are able to discern the content encountered online. This way, both parents and children can nurture healthy relationships when using the internet.”
5 Tips To Ensuring Cyber Safety For Your Kids
Mrs Anita also shared with theAsianparent a few tips on ways we can protect our children online. To ensure that your child stays safe while surfing the web, here are five ways to incorporate cyber safety in your home:
1. Set up parental controls
You can install and set up parental controls on the devices your child uses.
2. Turn on safe search on search engines
Activate safe search settings on major search engines, or use child-friendly search engines. Don’t forget to also opt for the safety mode on other sites like YouTube, iTunes and Google Play.
3. Set up privacy filters
You can help your child control who has access to their content and what they see via privacy settings on social networking sites like Facebook.
4. Have early and frequent discussions
Take time to have discussions with your child about what they do online and take the opportunity to talk about the risks they may face online such as online predators, scams and fake news.
5. Set boundaries
Agree on boundaries to using the internet such as duration of use, location of use. For example, having a set time and duration, or not using the devices when in bed and surrendering it at a common area.
If you want to learn more about you can engage your children in such conversations, TOUCH Community Services is launching a new programme, e-Conversations for the Family (Pornography) as part of its inaugural TOUCH Cyber Wellness Symposium on 25 September.
You can sign up here for free and find out more on how you can approach kids about such mature topics.