CBS19 Special Report: The Dangers of Porn on Young Minds

CBS19 Special Report: The Dangers of Porn on Young Minds

TYLER (KYTX) - It's something no parent wants to imagine, but with the internet just a click away pornography is more accessible to kids than ever before. And it's a bigger problem than you may realize. 

Some experts say porn can be just as addicting as alcohol or cocaine, and can have life-changing affects on children's minds.

The porn business is the largest and most profitable industry in the world -- bringing in more money than the NFL, NBA and MLB combined.

And with more and more tech-savvy kids toting around their very own tablets and smartphones, it's becoming much easier for your children to get their hands on it.

"It makes it very available. It's another instance in which technology has exceeded our ability to responsibly use it in some aspects of our lives," licensed professional counselor Dr. Wade French said.

Some studies show that seven out of 10 teens have been accidentally exposed to pornography online. That doesn't count the ones who -- out of curiosity -- go looking for it.

But if you think it's just a problem among teen boys, think again. The average age kids first check out online porn is 11, and French says he's counseled both boys and girls as young as 8 who are struggling with porn addiction.

"I've seen kids in here that have defeated the site-blocking programs on computers at school, and they figure out a way around it," he said.

Angela Walsh is an elementary school teacher and mother of two young girls.

"What scares me the most is that someone else can have access to my children and influence them in a way that I know is not right for them," she said.

She says she was shocked to find out some students were using their cell phones for more than playing Candy Crush.

"A lot of kids were actually sending pictures of themselves or showing pornography to students while on the bus or at school," she said.

"It's not like just looking at Playboy magazine or something like that with stylized photographs," French said. "There's anything and everything you could imagine that's portrayed on the Internet."

Experts say exposure to pornography can have serious long-term affects on young minds, warping their views of how they should function in relationships with members of the opposite sex.

"So much of what's on the Internet is exploitative, it's degrading of other people, and they can pick that up and see that as an appropriate way to express their sexuality," French said.

He suggests having an open dialogue with your kids about pornography -- the same way you might talk to them about the dangers of having sex.

"It begins with your relationship with your child and being able to develop a conversational style with them, and a relationship style that you can talk to them, they can talk to you," French said.

For Walsh, that conversation happened when each of her daughters were around the age of 8.

"If they can't come to you about anything whatsoever, they're going to go to somebody else," she said. "And if they're online, that somebody else can be right there, just waiting for them."

Another step parents can take is to keep an eye on what their kids are doing online. Monitor their browsing history regularly, and check their text messages and social media accounts for possible red flags.

Experts say access to pornography becomes more of a problem during these summer months, when parents are at work and kids have more alone time at home.

Spending more time online, late night computer use, and hiding out in their bedroom could all be signs your child is secretly watching pornography.

But there are some things you can do to limit your children's access to porn.

Turn off the web-browsing ability on their cell phone, or turn off the the phone's data access through your cell phone carrier. There are also apps you can download to block certain websites completely, and check your computer's settings to see if it has parental controls -- that way you control which websites your child can visit.

Because being proactive about pornography could make all the difference when it comes to protecting your child.



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