If you’ve ever handed a smartphone or tablet to a toddler who just wouldn’t quiet down or found yourself trying to regulate the amount of time your children spend online, you know that the digital lives of children are in equal measure a profound source of promise and peril.
While questions about screen time are a perennial favorite topic when it comes to children, and in no way trivial, there are some much darker issues that merit discussion, but seldom make it through the din that makes the digital world such a treacherous place for young people.
#4 Exposure to Inappropriate Content
For many Gen X-ers and Millennials, their earliest experience of inappropriate or lewd content came in the form of a magazine–or a page ripped from a magazine–shared in a schoolyard, an R-rated movie, or something someone found hidden in a parent’s sock drawer.
Today’s children are bombarded with inappropriate images from a very young age. Whether we’re talking about the ready availability of inappropriate content or the insane variety of content out there for children to discover, today’s world presents parents with an impossible problem set: How can you keep a child’s media clean in a messy world?
Early access to the anything-goes carnival of violence and sexuality available on the internet has caused worry for parents, guardians and child psychologists alike. When it comes to sex, such exposure is linked to riskier sexual activity, sexual aggression, porn addiction and other psychological disorders. It also puts children at greater risk of being contacted by sexual predators or solicited for sex online.
Consenting adults can and should be able to engage in any activity they like. Childhood exposure to sexual activity without context or a deeper understanding of how it fits into one’s overall emotional life can have a lasting effect on children and adolescents who are still figuring out their own sensibilities and boundaries.
Violent content is underrated when it comes to the psychological damage it can inflict on a young mind. And don’t assume that you know the sites to block or the ratings that cannot be viewed on the services to which you subscribe. Assume your child will wander into a corner of the internet they’re not quite ready for.
What you can do about it: Arguably the best advice here is to incorporate the problems of online content into the rest of what you say to your children under the aegis of parenting. A non-judgmental approach and a frank and honest conversation about why some content is taboo may succeed where content adult-blocking software will fail.