And as p*rn becomes more affordable and anonymous, it is gaining in acceptability ? and is becoming a significant part of the lives of many men and women.
Many a wife agonises over the late-night hours her husband spends on porn websites. Many a parent is stunned to learn their 12-year-old son has seen a hard core porn film.
What?s more, pornography is but just one aspect of a huge, money-spinning sex industry. In a broader context pornography includes mass-media sex, phone sex, strip clubs, massage parlours, escort services, street prostitution, and sex tourism. And sexuality ? especially women?s sexuality ? is used in increasingly more explicit ways to sell products of all kinds in advertising and marketing.
Interestingly, researchers at the University of Montreal report that they were unable to carry out a study comparing the views of men who had never watched porn with those of regular users because they were unable to find a single man who hadn?t watched it!
Like it or not, porn is here to stay ? very much like the cellphone.
Parents need to accept that they would not be able to keep out (for too long) the porn litter from getting to their children. Parents also need to accept that they are not the only teachers their children encounter in life. Peers also pass on a good deal of information (some accurate, some not so accurate) to growing children ? and so do TV programmes and magazine.features containing sexual themes.
Our ?net-generation? children, moreover, have access to iPods, cellphones, text messaging, websites, podcasts and blogs. They live in a culture where hard core pornography abounds.
Not surprisingly, therefore, parents are finding it increasingly difficult to shield their children from pornography. Parents? anxiety is fuelled further when they hear about online activities of sexual predators, social networking and cyber stalkers. Even if they don?t go looking for it, children can stumble on pornography while doing their homework. Pop-up links and websites may be retrieved by search engines in response to well-intentioned and innocent word searches.
Clearly, simply trying to block the pornographic world from our children and teenagers is not likely to be successful because the opportunities they have of accessing it online have become increasingly difficult to monitor. Nor is banning all access to the internet a
realistic solution. Such a draconian approach carries with it a huge educational disadvantage since the internet today is the greatest single educational reference resource available. It is the biggest library in the world.
Some other way of protecting children against the ravages of pornography has to be found ? a way that is more practical and less intrusive.
Where do we begin?
For starters, parents need to let their children know how they feel about pornographic material and how they expect them to behave.
Our emphasis should be on educating our youngsters about the dangers of viewing porn rather than protecting them through placing too many restrictions on them from the outside. We cannot police them 24/7. Hopefully, as they mature, they will develop ?internal monitors? and see the point of the lessons we have been striving to instil in them since their earliest years.
Uncomfortable though it may seem, we need to talk about pornography with our children from around the age of 12. Our aim must be to get them to think critically about the pornography they will encounter. We need to strengthen their resistance to social and.sexual messages that threaten to sexualise them in unacceptable ways. We need to equip them with life-long coping skills to fend off the damaging influence of pornography.
Fortunately, every child who views pornography will not necessarily be affected or traumatised in the same way. The effects of pornography are progressive and addictive for many individuals. Just as every person who takes a drink does not automatically become an alcoholic, every child who is exposed to pornography does not automatically become a sexual deviant or sex addict.
What can parents do?
Accept that interest in sex is normal. There?s nothing new about teens looking at such material. Porn has been around for centuries. Many children ? especially post-pubescent boys ? are interested in porn.
You might not like the idea, but that doesn?t change the fact that it?s a pretty common occurrence. It is part of their developing sexuality and should not be seen as something separate.
If you stumble upon your child viewing pornography, don?t jump to conclusions. Sometimes exposure to pornographic sites happen accidentally. Stop. Don?t overreact. Don?t embark on the knee-jerk response of ranting and raving. Don?t lecture, preach, or argue his answers. He?s not a pervert. He is a teenager and.porn is flooding his world. Think about the situation.before you do anything. A harsh, impulsive interrogation will probably shut down your child. Then everybody loses.
Remind yourself that how you respond can be even more damaging than the exposure itself. Aim to handle the situation with such.diplomacy and tact that it becomes a ?teachable moment? and encourages your.child to speak freely and not to keep any secrets.
Discuss with him how beautiful sex is meant to be. Where possible, let him figure out for himself how and why pornographers take something very.beautiful and twist it into something very ugly.
Take the mystique out of porn. Get him to see it as the sordid thing it really is. Just keep to the facts and sensitise him to the way in which porn actresses in particular.are abused and humiliated.
Calmly and sensitively find out how your child got to know about pornography. For example, did someone introduce him to it ? friends perhaps? Was it at homework time? Answers to these questions will provide you with clues about what needs to be done to prevent a recurrence.
Learn as much as possible about cyberspace so that you can guide your.youngsters to use the internet safely and.responsibly.
If you have a computer at home, make sure it?s located in a place your child can be monitored.
Also, install filters and other software to minimise the possibility of your child accessing porn sites inadvertently.
If viewing pornography has become a driving force in your youngster?s life ? if he wants and needs to see it frequently ? you could have a problem on your hands.
With the passage of time, he may have graduated to seeing more extreme stuff. He could be visiting websites where humiliation, torture, rape, sadomasochism, and bestiality are commonplace.
In such cases, viewing porn could seriously affect his sexual maturation.
Seek professional help.