Teaching Your Kids to Self-Monitor–Online
By Caron C. Andrews
There are many great ways you can monitor your kids’ online exposure to inappropriate and harmful content externally. Equally important is helping them build strong internal monitors for themselves. Let’s discuss some of the basic tools of instilling good self-monitoring skills in your children.
- Teach Them to Recognize Their Feelings
Many people don’t help their children pinpoint what they’re feeling, which can lead to the child being confused and misinterpreting powerful emotions and how to handle them. When another student at school is mean to your child, is he hurt? Angry? Sad? If your child trips and falls in public, is she embarrassed? Ashamed? Frustrated at herself? When your child aces a difficult test, is he exuberant? Relieved? Thankful? What about when your child has conflicting emotions? Take time to sort through emotions with your child, identify them, and validate them so that your child understands that having a full range of feelings is normal and healthy, and how to express them appropriately.
- Teach Them the Harmful Effects of Pornography
Your child needs to know the specific harmful effects of porn, not just that “it’s bad.” Discuss with him the effects on the brain, on relationships, on self-respect, and on sexual functioning. Talk about the porn actors and how they are used, degraded, objectified, and treated as less than human. Teach your child how watching porn regularly can affect her everyday mood, feelings about herself, and how it can make her begin to see other people as sexual objects.
- Understanding Healthy Sexuality
It’s important that your child understand the elements found in healthy relationships so that she can distinguish between healthy and unhealthy behaviors. Talk about how love, respect, boundaries, and listening factor into healthy sexuality. Discuss the effects of coercion, intimidation, apathy, and lack of emotional connection on a sexual relationship. Your child needs to know why healthy sexuality is so important. Make this an ongoing topic of conversation, sharing your thoughts and hearing his.
- Respecting Other People
A genuine interest in and caring for other people is the foundation of respecting them. It will be difficult for your child to tolerate objectification and sexualization when he is able to see each individual as a person worthy of esteem and courtesy. You can be a powerful model to your child of respecting others by not generalizing people (not saying, “All of this kind of people are this way,”) and by praising people’s good qualities (“Isn’t it great how that woman comforted her little boy and encouraged him to try again when he fell off his bike?”).
- Ongoing Conversations
Keep in touch with your child regularly with conversations about what she’s seeing online, hearing at school, worried about, and especially what pornographic images she might have seen. Encourage open communication by setting a tone in your home that nothing your child wants to talk about is off limits. Talk about the interactions between people each of you has observed and how they were either harmful or fortifying for those involved.
The key to teaching your kids to self-monitor is creating a healthy environment where they don’t want to look at people being objectified and degraded.
Tolley, A. (2012, October). How can I protect my children and teens from pornography exposure? Familyshare.com. Retrieved from http://familyshare.com/how-can-i-protect-my-children-and-teens-from-pornography-exposure