What do I do when my child is exposed to sexually graphic or explicit material at the public library?
Do you know what you'd do if your son came home from studying at the local public library and he mentioned that another student studying with him accessed pornography on the library computer? Or if he had conducted a seemingly innocent Internet search on a library computer that brought up pornographic images?
Your home computer is in a common room of the house and likely equipped with safeguards to protect your children when they are on the Internet at home. But what can you do about sexually graphic or explicit material they might access at the public library?
First, you should know you're not alone. Other parents and even children are concerned about online exposure to sexual material. In fact, a 2005 survey of youth found that more than one-third of teen Internet users (34 percent) were exposed to online sexual material they did not want to see. This is up from one-quarter of teens reporting unwanted exposure in a 1999 survey.
And those concerns are well-founded. Besides sexual material, there are other online dangers. Twenty percent of students in middle school, as well as high school, admit that they have met face to face with someone they first met on the Internet. In addition, 65 percent of high school students admit to seeing unsafe, inappropriate, or illegal activities online.
The good news is that there is federal law to help protect children from dangerous online material. The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires public schools and libraries that receive federal funds to install filtering software to prevent library users from accessing obscene, pornographic or visually graphic material on the Internet. Additional information about CIPA and a list of state laws protecting children from accessing sexually explicit material on public computers are available.
If your child encounters sexually explicit material on a computer at school or at the public library, here are some things you can do:
The strongest defense against the messages in pornography and inappropriate sexuality is to give children a compelling biblical worldview regarding God's design for sexuality and relationships--focusing on the good, the true, and the beautiful. Talk with your child about God’s design for sexuality.
There is no fool-proof formula to follow when it comes to protecting children from sexually graphic material, pornography or online predators. Even if you make your own home secure, at some point your children will walk out your door and have to make their own decisions.
You can prepare your child for possible exposure to sexually graphic material through regular and intentional interaction with him or her on the topic. Teach them about healthy sexuality and help prepare them with a plan for what to do if they are exposed to pornography or an online predator. By addressing the issue up front, you will create an awareness that may protect them if they are exposed to these materials or influences.
Keep your home computer safe by installing family protection software.
Focus on the Family: Sexuality
Focus on the Family: Safety Resources
My Rock Today: How do I protect my family?
Heritage Foundation: Protecting your Children from Pornography
Enough is Enough: Protecting Children from the Dangers of the Virtual World
Web Wise Kids: Resources for Protecting Children