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Ask an expert: I'm worried my child is viewing porn online. What do I do?

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Zoe E Breen Zoe E Breen | 14:17 UK time, Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Answered by our panel of experts:

Are you worried they are viewing it accidentally? If you are it's good to check your parental control settings on the home computer. They are now more widely available and can be used on mobiles and games consoles. Check with the providers and get them in place. More importantly talk to your child and explain why you are using these controls. 

We are starting to understand the impact of long term exposure to porn at an early age and it is not good. There is no real substitute for parental supervision but you can't control their online activity every minute of the day so it's important to help them develop the skills to be responsible and self monitoring.  This extends to many things that they may encounter online. For example, do they know why they shouldn't respond to just any mail or questionnaire they get sent? Or download unknown files?

For younger children get them to tell you when they've been on the net and which sites they've been on.  A non punitive approach can help here if they come across something disturbing they are more likely to tell you about it if they think you won't take their phone or computer away as a result. It is important to create a culture of trust and discussion, rather than one of blame, as this will help them talk to you more readily about their experiences.

If you are worried that it is something they have got into through curiosity or peer pressure, then you can contact your internet server provider (ISP) to explore what filtering options they provide. Similarly, there is filtering software that can block this sort of content. But if they are doing it, an open and frank discussion about porn and adult material is necessary.

This can then include talking about ways to avoid getting drawn into activities with their friends that they don't want to do. Reinforce the positive, and explain clearly where you stand on these matters based on your family values. Explore the ways in which they have successfully avoided peer pressure about other things and get them to apply it to this.

If you are a parent and are worried about your teen or child over-sharing online visit the Share Take Care: Ask an expert page to read the advice our panel of experts gave other parents.

Visit the Share Take Care website for more information on help and support for parents.

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