Preventing your child from accessing adult content on the home iPad or computers can be one of the more challenging issues that parents have to face in the age of the digital revolution. Many parents have no idea how to restrict adult content, and may also not be aware that their child maybe already accessing pornography online, until strange popups and advertising or adult content spam starts appearing all over the home computer. It is one of the most difficult problems that I have to help parents with, due to the complexity of adult content filtering settings and often due to the ability of children to be able to get around parental controls.
As more and more children get their own iPods and smart phones at a younger age, it is likely that more children will be exposed to adult content in their own homes. In Australia we do not have an national internet filter as the UK do. There are certainly restrictions on internet child abuse material and some violent sexual abuse, but it is shockingly easy to find explicit porn online perhaps when searching for something else, especially if an adult content filter has not been enabled on a browser or internet router/modem. Not having an adult filer on your child’s internet connected device is simply not optional, it is essential.
First Sight Is Usually By Accident, And Often Occurs At Home
Your child might be searching online for something for a school project that brings up adult content in the search results, this may be their first exposure to sexual imagery or worse, violent sexual imagery. I also know of many cases where children have been exposed to adult content when a link to an adult site has been sent to them via a message app or via email. With an adult content filter enabled on their computer or mobile device they would simply get a screen message to say that the site has been blocked. I know of two cases where a teacher has sent a link to students for homework, where the site they were directed to had adult images. In both cases the adult content was seen on school issued iPads which obviously had no internet content filters enabled, simple to do if you know how. Most schools only take responsibility for filters on school grounds, and won’t advise parents about what is needed at home. Not all school filters are fail safe either, I have heard of plenty of examples of pornography seen on school computers. So internet filters can only go so far, especially if adult content has been viewed or searched for before, on the same computer.
If your family doesn’t have any adult content filters set up on your home internet connected devices the chances of your child seeing pornography with or without you sitting right beside them is very high. Do a search yourself for some adult terms especially via Google images and see what it is that your child could be exposed too. (Be sure to delete your search history afterwards!)
How Do You Know If Your Child Is Viewing Pornography?
If you start to see raunchy pop up advertising or advertising for adult services appearing on websites often through Google advertising, it could be that someone has already been accessing sites with adult content on your home computer or mobile device. Search engines show suggestions and advertising based on past search terms. For many parents this can be the first warning that the family computer has been used for viewing pornography, (parents often start blaming each other, when it maybe their child who is hooked!)
Other Signs: Some children might get very protective of their personal devices – iPods – Laptops, or start deleting their search history, and it can be hard to tell if they are deleting history. Tips Here. Behavioural changes and secrecy can be normal for teens, but excessive secrecy or fear around you looking at their internet device might mean they are doing something they don’t want you to know about, or… simply wanting some personal privacy.
What Should You Do?
- Set up adult content filters for younger children and younger teens. At some stage most teens will have their own unsupervised devices as they grow into fully fledged adults, setting safe search filters on an 18year old’s smart phone, is probably not going to go down well.
- Be open and honest about setting up restrictions for older children. They will find out soon enough, if they try to search for pornography and either no results show up, or a message comes up saying the site is restricted.
- Have open conversations about adult content online and what your thoughts are about pornography and other adult content when your children start using the internet, independent of you.
- Set boundaries for older children around adult content, and make sure that they know that they should come and tell you if they see anything very adult or upsetting online.
- Keep computers and mobile device for use in family rooms, not in children’s bedrooms.
- Do spot checks on your younger children’s devices with your child, try never to “Spy” unless you are seriously concerned for their personal wellbeing. Being open about your supervision will lead to a much more trusting relationship.
- When (Note: I said when…you cannot block everything) you find out your child has seen pornography, keep calm. Understand that teens will have a natural curiosity about nudity and sex. Certainly let them know what your restrictions are around viewing such content, but be sensitive to the awkward and embarrassing nature of the subject matter.
- Make sure your children understand the laws around sharing nude photos of under 18year olds. Make sure they understand your boundaries around sending sensitive photos to each other. Children as young as 9 years old have been found to be sending nude photos of themselves to online predators due to the issue not being addressed soon enough, and due to them being online on adult social media sites underage.
Parental Controls And Filters
Note: Parental controls and adult content filters can be fairly complex, and are not always 100% effective. They are really only a deterrent and a safety net. A net savvy Teen who is determined to view pornography will find a way to do so, which means you may have a deeper problem than just accidental viewing. If you feel your child has an addiction to pornography it will take more than filters to work through it. See a specialist councillor to help you and your teen. Some family councillors have expertise in this area.
The simplest way to restrict adult content is to make one device child friendly and make sure all other devices are not accessible by your child, set a secret lock screen password on devices used by adults, or have them out of reach. Then set up safe search settings on all the browsers, i.e. Internet explorer, Safari, Google Chrome etc on the child friendly device…or through parental controls settings (restrictions). It’s best to either disable the browser on a mobile device or only have one. Set parental controls so that your child cannot download other browsers or change any settings without the parental control password. (See my manual for these settings and more)
There are more complex apps and “Net Nanny” type software you can also use, but the latest operating system for Mac and Windows all have the same basic features if you enable them. If you need further online supervision of your child you can of course set up parental controls on Windows and Mac to send you reports on activity. (See my cyber safety manual for parental controls instructions)
OpenDNS has a free adult content filter, where you can restrict adult sites. It can be set up on a computer though setting the D.N.S settings to OpenDNS, or you can set up your home internet modem so that it covers all devices connected to the Wi Fi. Instructions are all on the OpenDNS website. However OpenDNS does not filter adult content that can be found through Google images. OpenDNS will prevent your child from accessing some adult sites, but won’t hide some pornographic images. If you want to use OpenDNS you also MUST enable Safe search on all the browsers on all the devices that your child has access to. Including Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla, Firefox, Safari, Opera etc. And through all search engines on the same browsers, i.e. Yahoo, Google, Bing, Duck Duck Go. This can be tedious to set up if your child’s device has several browsers, but once done it’s free and simple to manage.
Google Safe Search
To set up Google safe search simply navigate to www.google.com/preferences and tick (enable) “Turn On Safe Search” It’s also best to Lock the Safe Search setting on also by clicking “Lock Safe Search” you will then be asked to log into your Google Account to enable locking. If locking it doesn’t work, make sure you have cookies enabled in your search engines preferences.
You can also set safe search preferences on Bing.com and Yahoo.com and if you use it, the latest search engine duckduckgo.com
You should also set safe search on YouTube, just scroll to the bottom of any YouTube page and set “Restricted Mode” to on. You can lock this on also with a password.
Adult Content Filers Will Not Filter Apps
Setting safe search on browsers is all well and good, but if you allow your younger child to have an Instagram or a Facebook account you cannot filter the adult content within. Instagram has very explicit pornography, drug culture, violence swearing and more. You just need to know the right search terms. Whilst Instagram do try hard to block the more obvious search terms for adult content, other variations come up as suggestions under the initial search term which may lead to pornography and other adult content. The only option to prevent your child seeing porn and other adult content in Instagram or any other adult app, is to delete the app, and set parental controls to prevent re-downloading. Any apps that contain adult content like Facebook, Tumblr, Vine and Instagram will not be protected by safe search set up on Browsers.
Blocking Adult Content Is A Community Issue
It is not a simple matter to block online adult content, but parents need to at least set the available filters on browsers, computers and mobile devices, which will certainly minimise exposure. Make sure your parent community knows the importance of setting adult content filters also, else your child may visit a friend in their home and see pornography through the friends internet connected device.
There are more parental controls for mobile devices and home P.C and detailed step by step instructions on setting adult content filters in my Manual. “Keeping Kids Safe Online”