Tuesday, March 1, 2016

My Son, The Statistic

Not too long ago I heard about a study that found 100% of 14-year-old boys who had internet access in their bedrooms used it to search for porn.

Yep. 100%. I hadn't even heard of a study with such strong results before, but...really...not SO surprising when you think about it. Well, our son was 11 when I heard that. Time was short, so I took a deep breath, sat James and his best friend, Pugly, down, and explained (as age-appropriately as I could) that - while it might SEEM appealing - internet porn is a bad idea in the long run. They listened. I think James even HEARD some of my impassioned pleas. But, yeah...I don't even think the pug bought what I was selling.

Proactive measures were called for. James didn't have a computer in his room, but he had his Kindle with internet access. I shut the internet capability off. There. Done and done. ...Then I remembered that he has an iPod Touch...also with internet capability. So we instituted a "no-iPod-in-your-bedroom rule". Whew...dodged that one! Then last year (when he was 12) James and a friend from school got busted doing an online search for "boobs" at his friend's house. Annnndddd...that was the moment when the totality of the challenge before me really started to sink in.

My concerns were compounded by a seemingly unrelated development in my life. It was about that time I started to put effort into marketing my book. Facebook posts just weren't cutting it for spreading the word, so I decided to dip my toe into the Twittersphere. I had no idea what Twitter was, but I assumed it was essentially a 140-character Facebook. Oh, silly, naive me! Twitter is more like a flashy, Las Vegas-style, mega-ADHD Facebook with all filters shut off and some sort of shock-factor injector turned on. I was exposed to more porn in the first month on Twitter than I had seen in all the rest of my life. That's with me just reaching out to folks in the literary world, to promote my book (my memoir...about special needs kids). There was no need to "search" for porn on Twitter; it found me. And we're talking...like...EVERYTHING. I saw stuff you can imagine, stuff you can't imagine, stuff you look at twice, like, "Whaaaaat????" and a whole lotta stuff I really wanted to un-see. Then I began to think about a bunch of 14-year-old boys gathered around someone's smart phone at school, doing a Twitter search...

So here's what I've learned so far. You can put search blocks and safeguards on your home computer, but that doesn't block out sites like Twitter. You can pull all internet access out of the bedrooms and even password lock your home computer...but that doesn't limit internet access on the X Box, PlayStation, Wii, or the child's school-issued netbook. Even for the meanest parents on Earth like me, who haven't allowed cell phones yet, it doesn't limit access to friends' phones (or iPods, tablets, laptops, gaming systems, home computers...). Reality is, there's no protecting these kids from internet porn. Nope. We're forced to just TRUST the decision-making ability of our 12-14 year-old boys. Trust them.

So now my son is a statistic. What is a mom to do? Gone are the days when all a mother had to worry about was her son finding his father's stash of Playboy's. I miss those days. I'd much rather have a discussion about the objectification and air brushing he'd find in magazines than the bondage and bestiality he's likely to stumble upon on the net. This isn't the motherhood I signed up for; I deserve a raise...or I need to take up drinking, one or the other...