Teens and Pornography: What parents can do to take back control
CINCINNATI (WKRC) - It’s something no parent wants to deal with – their child being exposed to online pornography.
But experts say the largest viewers of online porn are children.
As Anchor Stacy Case found in her investigation, “it’s not a matter of ‘if,’ but a matter of ‘when’” your child will be exposed to online pornography.
A girl shared her story of addiction, which began after she was first exposed to porn at age 12.
“It started off as an educational tool, but quickly I became very impressionable to it and it became a self soothing technique for me," she said.
Fox 17 News concealed her identity out of sensitivity to her recovery process. She said getting hooked for years was an accident.
She said she thought it was only going to be something she looked at once or twice.
“It's not like I tried a hard core drug," she said. "I knew the whole 'Say No To Drugs.' I didn't know 'Say No To Porn.' I didn't. I didn't. What I would like parents to know is even if they don't think their good child could possibly be involved with this, They can. I was raised in a good Christian home, had a 4.14. I was a good kid with a hidden addiction.”
Judd Granzow is hitting the porn and kids issue hard on his Nashville radio show.
“It's changing the brain," Granzow said to his audience. "It's heroin through the eyes, and we're doing nothing about it. Seventy percent of porn-viewing is on the Iphone. That porn box is unbelievably destructive. It is so destructive."
Tiffany Leeper with Girls Against Porn & Human Trafficking said people don't realize there's a whole neuroscience behind porn addiction.
“We give them the porn box and say you're spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally mature enough to handle it; you'll figure it out," Granzow said.
The organization Fight The New Drug has done extensive work educating parents and children about what happens when a child watches porn.
The group said a rush of chemicals floods the child's young brain including dopamine, seratonin, epinephrin and oxytocin. The more they watch, the more they have to as Fight The New Drug’s video explains.
“Your brain becomes dependent on that rush of chemicals and literally rewires itself to think that's normal and so you can not function without it. That is addiction. The same process happens with cocaine and heroin. They can't stop!"
“It takes over your life," said the girl sharing her recovery story. "It takes over your thoughts. At probably 16, I was to the point where I couldn't fall asleep without seeing it. My brain didn't find excitement from anything else because it was experiencing that extreme level that porn gave me."
The Siegands of Franklin are running interference for parents to empower them after their children heard school kids describing porn.
“I just started to cry because hearing those things come out of my son's mouth was surreal," Sarah Siegand said. "It was pretty detailed, and I knew it wasn't something a kid had imagined.”
The Siegands run 'Parents Who Fight'. That's literally what they do. School by school and home by home, they teach parents how to regain complete control 24-7. The first thing they recommend is Circle. It plugs right into your router and acts like a remote control for everyone's device.
Sarah Siegand said she can shut the device off remotely and immediately.
“I called them to dinner and if they haven't come. I’m going to pause it,” Siegand said.
You can also filter adult content and customize each child's device. The Siegands filter out Amazon, Disney, Netflix. Each child has customized settings for each of their devices whether it’s on Wifi or data.
The Circle device for your home is about $100. A subscription to Circle Go to control your child's screen outside the home runs $10 month.
Controlling exposure to porn on social media is a bit trickier for parents.
“You're going to come across things under innocent hashtags that are completely inappropriate pictures or words," said the girl in recovery.
That's where Bark comes in.
“It's the only type of thing that's able to help with social media because you can't filter social media," said Jesse Siegand with Parents Who Fight. "You can't turn off the search options, and you can't turn off the direct messaging.”
Bark will send you a text or e-mail if your child is seeing something inappropriate in a text, e-mail or on social media.
Right now, parents can turn on 'safe search' in Google and Bing on all phones, tablets and computers.
“Go to google.com/preferences," Sarah Siegand said. "That's a simple check box on or off and you can lock it using your google sign on.”
Parental vigilance NOW also keeps porn from seeping in and setting up a stronghold that's hard for a child to break.
“I wish my parents would have been aware of what was going on and would have approached me with grace and love because I was just a hurting child and I didn't know what I was getting myself into," said the woman in recovery.
It used to be you'd have to find an adult's hidden Playboy magazine or be 18 to rent a porn video, but a recovering pornography addict explains how she stumbled upon it accidentally and got hooked.
“I was exposed to it, I was probably about 12 years old," a girl who Fox 17 is not identifying said. "Parents need to be involved and be aware that this is such a prevalent issue.”
Now, kids any age, from 5 to 10 10 15, have to work hard not to see porn and parents do too.
The Siegands run 'Parents Who Fight' teaching parents tangible ways to stop kids from seeing porn in the first place.
“The problem's only growing and we want to make sure our kids are safe," Jesse Siegand said.
Sarah Siegand said a lot of parents are asking themselves the same question. 'what can I do what can I do?'
The Siegands say repeated exposure to porn causes kids to eventually act and is leading to child on child sex abuse. One of the latest cases in the news is Brentwood Academy where middle school kids are being sued for rape.
“We had this situation blow up at one of our private schools and my take on this is I would be shocked if any 8th grader who commits a sexual crime is not looking at pornography," Sarah Siegand said.
Grundy County football players are also accused of sexually assaulting another player with a mop handle. Basketball players near Chattanooga accused of using a pool cue on a teammate. In short, repeated exposure to online porn normalizes behavior in a child's mind.
“They're getting information that is violent and they're not ready to know how to navigate that information and it's going into their minds and it's feeding something that shouldn't be awakened," Sarah Siegand said. "They're not mature enough to know how to process that graphic sexuality.”
"Fight The New Drug" finds 90 percent of boys and 60 percent of girls are exposed to porn before they turn 18. Most see it by age 11.
That's why one of many things 'Parents Who Fight' recommends is Covenant Eyes. It’s an online service that sends accountability reports of anything questionable your child clicks on.
"If you know Covenant Eyes or something like that. A monitoring app is on and they're going to get a report of anything you search for or you look at. It’s a deterrent," Jesse Siegand explained.
Also, you want to make sure restricted mode is set to ON for YouTube because people put links to porn in the YouTube comments section. If you see comments underneath a YouTube video, that means restricted mode is not on. You need to turn it on for all of your children’s devices. It's one more way the porn industry is preying on the next generation.
“There's a whole genre of YouTube videos that have beloved Disney characters and Super Heroes that are simulating sex acts and those things aren't marked as adult content," Sarah Siegand said.