We know these things can happen when kids go online. But not our kids.
So let's just say "We heard about a child who ..."
“We heard about a child who” found an old phone his mum and dad had forgotten about. The 11-year-old took it to his room, charged it up and proceeded - unsurprisingly - to Google the most interesting bits of human anatomy he could think of.
Innocent enough, and completely age-appropriate. But the internet is not the dictionary, or the encyclopedia. Within moments, he was viewing hard-core pornography.
Shortly afterwards, the child spammed a schoolmate with messages demanding a topless picture. He thought he was just being flirty. (Remember, he was 11.) The little girl was traumatised.
At that point, the boy’s parents - who’d been alerted to the situation by the little girl’s parents - took the phone away. Clearly, he wasn’t ready for unfiltered internet access.
The 11-year-old took it to his room, charged it up and proceeded - unsurprisingly - to Google the most interesting bits of human anatomy he could think of.
The boy argued that, in his peer group, a phone was no longer a privilege. It was a necessity. Without it, he’d be left sitting on the sidelines, a social outcast.
The parents knew there was more than a grain of truth to this, and they agreed to give the phone back - this time with parental controls to manage screen-time and filter adult content. They told their son they would also be doing spot-checks of the device.
Maybe he didn’t believe them …
Because when they checked his photos some time later, they found a photo of his mum in the shower, naked. He’d taken it as a joke, he said - and only shared it with a few of his mates. (The boy had deleted the photo, but his parents found it in a remote part of the phone’s hard drive.)
When they checked his photos some time later, they found a photo of his mum in the shower, naked.
Eventually, the parents were able to get the photo back … but needless to say the entire sequence of events was a huge wake-up call, writes Eleanor Bradford, a former BBC Scotland health reporter, in The Press and Journal.
“I know several parents who have had similar experiences,” says Bradford. “Many families are too embarrassed to talk about it.”
And no wonder, since parents are often blamed for “allowing” this sort of behaviour to happen. Yet, as Bradford points out, experts have found that the average age of a child’s first exposure to pornography is 11.
“We have strict controls at home, but we know our 13-year-old son has been sent porn by an older pupil during the school day.” What's more, she adds, “You will be amazed what 18-rated games your angelic little darling has downloaded without your knowledge.”
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We know these things can happen when kids go online. But not our kids. So let's just say "We heard about a child who ..."
It's not just how much screen-time we use. It's the way we use it.