Experts are 100% in agreement on this one. The most effective “parental control tool” is open communication. But how, exactly? We've hunted down the top tips for getting it right - and school holidays is the perfect time to start.
It wasn’t until her 10-year-old started pelvic thrusting at the dinner table that Darlena Cunha realised it was time to talk.
Turned out the fifth-grader had learned her new trick from an online puppet show called "Jeffy." At first glance it looked like a perfectly innocent show about healthy eating and car safety. Cunha took a second glance and then a third, as she clicked on an episode her delighted daughter described as “a good one.”
In it, in Cunha’s telling, “Jeffy screams at his adoptive father Mario that he’s ‘high as f–––.’ He slaps a diaper he wears outside of his pants, and he hits his dad. The show’s bio online says Jeffy was born in a port-a-potty to a prostitute who was addicted to drugs and who abused him severely.
Needless to say, it was not a show for kids - and Cunha and her husband were aghast. Their daughter had felt uncomfortable about the show initially, she told them. But all the kids at school were watching and, well, after awhile she just got used to it.
Let’s be real. It’s easy to pay lip service to “good communication,” but it’s often diabolically difficult to do, let alone to do well. Getting your kids to open up about inappropriate online experiences can be challenging. And if you’re coming a bit late to the party, and your kids are already tweens or heaven forbid teens - it can also feel incredibly awkward.
“So - tell Mum about the porn pop-ups you’ve been seeing!” - no matter how brightly you say it - is a sentence nobody wants to hear. Or say.Awwwkward
A third of Australian parents, and just on 50% of their Kiwi counterparts, say online pornography is their “most important concern” for their kids’ online safety, according to a recent comprehensive review by Netsafe (NZ) and the Australian Office of the eSafety Commissioner. Parents from both countries agreed that talking together was the best way of approaching the topic - but a quarter admitted they were embarrassed to bring it up.
“Tell Mum all about the porn pop-ups you’ve been seeing!” - no matter how brightly you say it - is a sentence nobody wants to hear. Or say.
No wonder backing away from the subject - or, worse, being in denial about it - is so common. The Netsafe study, for example, found that 39% of parents with children aged 13 to 17 believed their kids had been exposed to online porn. Yet other research has shown that the real figure for children in this age group is virtually 100%.Dr. Kristy's top tips
So how can mums and dads establish good communication - that most elusive of parenting goals? We asked Family Zone cyber expert Dr. Kristy Goodwin, a leading specialist in digital health, wellbeing and productivity, for her top tips.