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Is your teen porn-free? Uncover your child's secret obsession

Recently, when Shalini Gupte came back home from work early, she was stunned to catch her 13-year-old son surfing pornography sites. “In my wildest dreams, I never imagined that my son had any clue about pornography sites, let alone go online and view them,” she says. Gupte’s trust in her child is not unfounded; most parents cannot imagine that their children can be engaging in monkey business, online.

However, a recent survey titled the Secret Life of Teens conducted by research company TNS for Internet Security company McAfee, a subsidiary of chipmaker Intel, revealed startling results about the viewing habits of teens. The results not only threw up information about the content that children watch online but also that it was time for parents to throw away their blinkers and start monitoring the online habits of their teens.

One of the most alarming results on the survey which was conducted online on 1,500 teens spread across four metros and three mini-metros showed that not only do teens spend 3.6 hours on the Internet and use devices such as smart phones, desktops and laptops but as high as 35 per cent admitted to watching pornography willingly online. According to Seema Hingorrany, clinical psychologist and child therapist, new-age communication devices such as smart phones, tablets and computers have made wrong information easily accessible to teens.

Smells like teen spirit
“Teens live in a world where information is being thrown at them, every moment of the day. They receive information on topics that are not spoken about openly in our country; as a result they misconstrue the information they get,” she reasons. Hingorrany adds that she often gets teens who have Internet addictions of some sort and this could either be in the form of porn sites or networking and gaming sites.

Manju Nichani, principal KC College of Arts, Commerce and Science, feels that there is always a danger of misusing technology since it gives you easy access to all sorts of information. “Teens, by nature, are curious and inquisitive and most of their information network flows through their peers.

If the peer group discusses pornography and adult sites, no teen would like to be left out of the conversation and they try to access it via the easiest possible means, which is online,” she says. Seeking information on topics that are not openly discussed is not a new phenomenon, however, Nichani feels that the online forum has just made the information uniform.

Vijay Mukhi, one of the India’s pioneers in the online security sphere says that while parents know how to control what their children are doing in the physical world they seem to get flummoxed when they have to control what their children are doing online.

Behaviour, misbehaviour
Often, it has been seen that most teens tend to outgrow the curiosity about pornography or the need to seek information on sexual topics. Hingorrany says that accessing pornography might have an impact on behaviour patterns. Often, it could lead to intense sexual attractions and urges, which many teens are unable to control.

“We see many teens who are addicted to these sites resulting in academic decline, aggression,visiting prostitutes and filching money from parents. The worst is that they become easy prey to depression at an early age,” explains Hingorrany. Nichani, too, agrees that accessing pornography on a regular basis is sure to have an impact on academic performance when one cannot exercise self-control and becomes obsessed with it.

“Several teens may dwell on what they have seen online even when they are offline, and this can make them very distracted,” she says. Academics apart, in some instances, teens may also begin looking at the opposite sex in an inappropriate manner, adds Nichani.

Parent trap
Parents like Gupte, who have always trusted their children, are now at their wits’ end on how to contain and control what their children are watching online. Gupte says that she does not want to appear too harsh and take away complete access to the computer. “My fear is that if I do something drastic like stopping his access to technology, he will seek information from elsewhere. How do I stop him from going astray,” she asks.

Hingorrany suggests that one way to control what one’s teen is doing is to play a larger part in their life. She says these are difficult years and many teens spend time on their laptops or phones because they are very lonely and don’t have a healthy rapport with their family.

“Always monitor the teen’s activities, encourage more family activities and decrease the usage of these gadgets. Avoid buying them smartphones at an early age and don’t shy away from topics such as physical intimacy, masturbation and menstrual cycles. This is the age of confusion and many teens do seek answers at this age.”

Mukhi says that there are some things that parents can do to contain access to inappropriate sites: To begin with, the computer should ideally be placed in a position in the house where one can always keep an eye on the child’s activities. Secondly, it is always advisable to physically lock the computer when parents are not around or asleep. “Children go to these sites at night,” shares Mukhi. Of course, a thing maybe a little difficult if it’s a smartphone or tablet but in those instances one has to keep a stricter watch.

Nichani feels that the best solution is spending time with one’s children. “Teens have a lot of questions in their mind and what they need is a parent guiding them through their queries and also giving them appropriate value education. The problem is that even today, we consider any topic that is sexual in nature as too taboo to discuss.”

Parent tool kit for teenagers
>> Always monitor your teenager’s activities
>> Encourage more family activities
>> Decrease usage of gadgets
>> Avoid buying smartphones at any early age
>> Place the computer in a central place of the home where it’s possible to monitor the child’s activities
>> Lock the computer, physically, when parents are not around or asleep
>> Keep a stricter watch if your child owns a smartphone or tablet
>> Don’t shy away from discussing about masturbation, intimacy and menstrual cycles

 More about this survey
>> The finding based on 1,500 teens reaffirm that online behaviour of children should be monitored by parents.
>> The report also reveals that 39 per cent of the children clear their browsing history while 24 per cent use private browsing modes.
>> 17 per cent of the surveyed teens admitted having a fake social network profile while 16 per cent have disabled parental controls.
>> The study also highlights that 23.6 per cent boys posted revealing images as compared to 14.6 per cent girls.
>> 39.4 per cent boys and 33.2 per cent girls do access websites that parents wouldn’t approve.
>> 53 per cent have an accidental access to explicit content by clicking an advertisement. 

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