What do I need to know about online pornography?
As children explore the internet they can sometimes come across sexual content accidentally, and some of what they become exposed to may be unpleasant, hardcore pornography and extreme images. But there are steps you can take to limit their exposure to this kind of inappropriate content.
How can I tell if my child has been finding pornography online?
Some or all of the following signs may suggest your child could have been viewing pornography:
- signs of premature sexual activity, increased interest in sexuality and use of sexual language
- unexplained charges on your or their bank cards
- they switch screens as soon as you come near the computer
- inappropriate and explicit pop-ups start to appear on your computer
- changes in behaviour – perhaps becoming much more defensive, aggressive or secretive
- your child’s browser history may reveal search terms used or sites visited that you feel are inappropriate.
Talk about online pornography with your child
Pornography can be a difficult subject to talk about with children, especially younger ones. But it’s important to let your child know that pornography doesn’t show a realistic picture of sex and relationships. These tips may help the conversation:
Be natural and straightforward
If you seem embarrassed to talk about sex and pornography your child will also feel uncomfortable and will be unlikely to let you know if they have seen sexual images. Try techniques like getting them to write things down, or start conversations when they don’t have to look you in the eye, for example when in the car, or walking home from school.
Give them positive messages
Talk to them about loving sexual relationships and how to have respect for themselves and their boyfriends / girlfriends / partners.
Talk to them about their experiences
A deep discussion on pornography isn’t recommended for younger children. However, whatever the age of your children, it’s good for them to know that they can, and should, come to you if they come across something upsetting or that makes them feel uncomfortable online. Make sure that they know they can come and talk to you – and that you won’t overreact or be shocked by whatever they tell you.
Take a no-blame approach
Recognise that children are naturally curious about sex and like to explore. An interest in sex is a normal part of a child’s development. Let them know they can talk to you about anything that concerns them. If your child is young and has come across pornography by mistake, they are much more likely to need reassurance and support.
How can I protect my child from online pornography?
Blocking access to explicit content online is recommended, but it shouldn’t be used as a substitute for talking about the issue:
Set parental controls
You can find out how to do this at our Parental Controls page.
Set parental controls on your search engine
Set parental controls on the operating system
Make sure every device is protected
Parental controls should be installed on every device your child uses: mobile phone, tablet and games consoles (both home and handheld).
We’ve created a simple, interactive guide to protect your family from inappropriate content online. We’ll show you step by step information on how to set parental controls across your home broadband and a range of mobile devices, games consoles and entertainment sites that your children might use.
If you’re worried about your children accessing pornography by accidentally clicking on inappropriate adverts in pop-ups, BBC Webwise has advice on how to stop these.
Talk about it
No filter is 100% effective. Make sure you talk to your child about online pornography as well.
Check your child’s browser history
Look in theat the search terms your child has been using and the sites they’ve visited. Keep an eye on the apps they’ve downloaded on their phones too. If you find something that you feel is inappropriate, you can add it to your parental controls filter list.
- If you see any illegal sexual images of children report them to the Internet Watch Foundation
- Report any content you’re concerned about, including sexual content that appears in adverts, films, television programmes or video games, using ParentPort.
- If you want to report any other issues, take a look at the information on our Take Action page.
The following links offer advice for parents and children on avoiding explicit content and searching the internet safely:
If you’re child is upset about any inappropriate images that they have seen online, Childline offers a helpline (0800 1111) to talk through any issues they may be unsure about or if you need some guidance on what to do to help your child.
Protecting children from malware – resources and advice from the Industry Trust
- Pace of Change report. December 2015. P.g 20
- Ofcom Children and parents: media use and attitudes report (Nov 2015) p. 124
- EU Kids Online (Feb 2013)