Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Secondhand Pornography: Protect Our Children

Written by Rachelle J. Christensen
Psychologist, author, mother of five

We don't allow smoking in schools because secondhand smoke is dangerous to the health of our children. It not only affects their growth, but can affect their thinking. Secondhand pornography is just as dangerous and our teens--our children--are being exposed to it on a regular basis in school thanks to a new WiFi policy.

I need your help to protect our children from the dangers of pornography. My children are currently enrolled in a school district that has open WiFi in its schools. This means that the students are encouraged to bring their electronic devices and have free, unsupervised access to the internet the ENTIRE day of school. Those who instigated this rule believe that students would be more involved in class if they were able to use their electronics to participate.
The problem?
The kids use their devices to engage in inappropriate classroom behavior including playing online games, messaging one another, cyber bullying, and viewing pornographic material while they are supposed to be looking up definitions of words, play learning quizzes, or look up  pictures of cell nuclei.
Many administrators are touting how advanced the school has become with the use of technology in classrooms, but it's a double-edged sword.On one side is the opportunity to improve the learning experience and on the other is the opportunity to hinder or harm a child through exposure to inappropriate material. Pornography has been shown to alter brain chemicals and make it difficult for an adult to discern right from wrong. If it has that effect on adults, imagine what it can do to a child who is still developing. Studies have shown that it can take up to three years to return the brain chemicals to normal levels. That's a whole high school experience stolen from your son or daughter by pornography. And, with it coming second-hand, you and your child may not have an opportunity to stop the addiction before it becomes too strong for them to fight.

Pornography use is not a new problem, but secondhand pornography is. It used to be that people using pornography did so in private, but now with the availability of media devices, unsuspecting children are being exposed to pornography on a more frequent basis. Secondhand pornography happens for example, when a child walks past another classmate and glances at their phone or media device while they are looking at something inappropriate. The eye takes in great detail in a tenth of a second and images can imprint on the brain just as quickly. This child is now left with an image they can't get rid of. One that follows them from class to class and from school to home. This unwanted burden gives children an entire range of feelings and emotions that they aren't certain how to deal with. They may feel guilt, shame, anger, hurt, embarrassment, and any host of uncomfortable emotions. And if you don't know that they've been exposed to pornography, then how can you help them deal with these emotions?

How can I protect my child in this environment?

Talk to your children right now about pornography. Define it. It's okay to say the word pornography. They don't have to be afraid to tell you if they think they've seen something inappropriate.
Do not be angry with your child, even if they clicked on something they know they shouldn't have. Instead, explain to them why pornography is dangerous, addictive, and something to avoid at all costs. Explain to your child that because of the world we live in, they will see pornography but they don't have to embrace it. Teach children how to close a browser button. That little red X can protect them if they come upon something that they aren't sure of, anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Install a filter, like Open DNS, or K9 Browser on your computer. They might not be perfect (meaning that people can find a way around them) but it will at least protect your children from inadvertently clicking on something that leads to pornography.

However, this doesn't solve the problem at school. My children have been exposed to pornography while doing an internet search and link assignment for computers at school. School should be a place where kids feel safe to learn, to ask questions, to explore, but with an open WiFi, they aren't cast into the sea with a life vest, they're thrown to the sharks. This is where, we as parents need to have an open dialogue with our children to teach them what to do when they view something inappropriate.

Here's a few tips for your child.
What do I do if I see something bad on the computer?
1. Close the browser window
2. Tell a teacher or adult that you've seen something that makes you feel uncomfortable and you'd like help to finish the assignment, game, etc.
3. Talk to your parents about the incident and discuss how you might avoid repeating this problem. What can you do next time to have a safe internet experience?

These are a few basic tips and ideas. You could also hold a White Ribbon Week at your school. The programs are free here http://whiteribbonweek.org/ and you can choose the program and tailor it to your school's needs.

I still need your help. I want to help administrators in my school understand that pornography is a REAL problem with REAL consequences. It isn't just something you see and then feel yucky about. It's something that eventually can rewire the brain, affecting the frontal lobe or decision maker of the brain. The limbic brain or addictive center of the brain actually will hijack the frontal lobe to get what it wants. It distorts the ability to discern between right and wrong. Pornography conditions people to see others as objects. Pornography is dangerous in any form. It is especially dangerous for children because their brains are still developing and not yet mature enough to handle the addictive horsepower of their limbic brain.
Secondhand pornography is something that your children are facing right now. Please share this post and picture so that we can educate others on the reality of pornography and PROTECT OUR CHILDREN!
I welcome all comments that are respectful and helpful in this quest. If you cannot follow these guidelines, then your comment will be blocked and deleted. This is a post about children--the most innocent inhabitants of the human race.


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