Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How Pornography Exposure Happens

In my last post, I mentioned that 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to pornography before age 18. You may think that this can't possibly happen in your houseyour filters are too good, your children aren't on websites that could link them to pornography, you know their friends aren't showing it to them, etc. Technology and predators have become more sophisticated, however. The following are some ways children accidentally access pornography online.

Innocent Word Searches

Sometimes a child will image search on Google a word or phrase that they may believe is perfectly innocent. "Miley Cyrus", once a popular, appropriate Disney role model, may be searched by a preteen in hopes of finding a picture of the girl who played in Flicka. The results she finds, with or without "Safesearch" filters on, will certainly include shirtless pictures. Also, "p***y", for a child, often means "kitty-cat", but placed in the context of a Google search, it will yield scarring results.

Misspelled Word Searches

Children, especially young children, aren't always the best spellers. They can be given an assignment to research Virginia for school and end up searching for female genitals. If they want to see pictures of cute clothes, they may accidentally search for "t*ts" instead of "tights". Mistakes like this, also, will not be prevented by a "safe search" filter.

Stealth Sites

A more targeted way pornography is exposed to kids is when they are attempting to access a legitimate websites. Some pornography producers will buy a URL that is only a letter or two away from a perfectly appropriate, child-safe website, and use the alternative URL for pornographic images or videos. Some filters may prevent some of these filters, but no filter is a guarantee.

Shock sites
Shock sites or images, are websites or images intended to shock the viewer, usually with sexually explicit content. They are frequently presented as a legitimate links. For example, Lemon Party, a shock site which depicts a series of homosexual acts involving three elderly men, is often publicized as a political platform.  Other examples of shock sites are blue waffle, 2 Girls 1 Cup, and Goatse(All the previous two links connect to informational articles on the website Know Your Meme, not to the shock sites themselves.) It should also be noted, as I was attempting to locate a list of these shock sites, I was directed to a website with pornographic ads. I had safe search on and was researching from the church, which has Internet filters.

The term clickbait refers to links that are designed with the intention of drawing in viewers or readers. They are often phrased along the lines of "Y
ou won't believe you missed this joke in Frozen!" Young children are particularly susceptible to this, as many of these "clickbait" links reference popular children's shows or icons. Here is an example of clickbait links (that may or may not link to pornographic websites).

Occasionally, pornographic websites will buy a URL that originally belonged to a legitimate or "safe" company but has since expired. They will then use the previously safe link to connect to a pornographic website.

Looping or Mousetrapping
Once a person has clicked on certain pornographic websites, they can be caught in a cycle that prolongs the exposure. One such method of prolonging is called "looping". Looping is when a stream of pop-ups begin to appear on the screen and will not stop until the computer has been entirely shut down. Another method is "mousetrapping", which is when the website will not let you log out, exit, or close the tab.

Children can also be exposed to pornography through pop-up ads, junk or spam email, and free online games.

What can we do?
Obviously filters are not nearly as effective in preventing this exposure as we might hope. However, it is not impossible to protect your children from unintentional pornography access. A few simple techniques can drastically reduce their chances of being exposed.
  1. Be aware of what devices can access the internet in your home. Today, almost every electronic device in the household can access the internet. Even some refrigerators are WiFi-equipped! Knowing which devices can access the internet is the first step in monitoring them.
  2. Make all internet use visible. Depending on your child's age, consider setting a ban on internet use in the bedroom. Periodically peek at the screen while they are using electronics. If they know they are being monitored, they are less likely to intentionally access something. Monitoring also allows you to be aware of what websites they are on (or if they are online when they shouldn't be).
  3. And encourage discussion. Your child should know he or she can always come to you without judgment if they see something they shouldn't. While it's not always possible to shelter them entirely, having an open, honest relationship can reduce the impact of exposure to negative influences.
As always, feel free to comment if you disagree, want clarification, want to give feedback, or have additional information to share!

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