back to article Is your kid ADDICTED to web porn? Twitter? Hint: Don't blame the internet

Parents' biggest concern about life online is admen stalking kids across the web, according to new research. Unveiling the results of its study [PDF] at the Family Online Safety Institute's annual conference in Washington DC on Wednesday, Hart Research noted that 57 per cent of parents feel the harms outweigh the benefits when …

  1. Elmer Phud


    I know some parents who wouldn't let thier 16yr old take his laptop upstairs to play the usual on-line games that teenagers love and still ban their other two kids from any social media (apart from passive YouTube and the like).

    When he went off to Uni I quietly asked him what it felt like to be free - he just grinned.

    1. king of foo

      Call of Booty

      I suspect the sex, drugs and alcohol may have more to do with the grin than unbridled access to the tinterwebs. Although I'm sure he posts pictures on the twatbook afterwards...

    2. sisk Silver badge

      Re: Hmm

      My kids are significantly younger than that, but I've got to say I agree with the no-laptops-upstairs rule. Banning social media is too much, but I think monitoring what your kids are doing online is just a simple, sane precaution.

      I've seen way too many kids lured off into predators' hands because their parents didn't know what they were up to. It doesn't take too many times of having to talk to a classroom full of kids about why their classmate was killed by a pedo freak to get to that point. I've had or been very near to that unpleasant experience three times, plus another time that the daughter of a close friend got lucky and was rescued before the perv she'd hopped a train to see was finished with her.

      Needless to say when I see someone saying the world "isn't any scarier than when we were kids" it makes me either laugh or reach for a clue-by-four, depending on my mood.

      1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        Re: Hmm

        Hmmm. Seeing that there is about one child killed by a "pedo freak" every 3 years across the entire UK, there are vanishingly few people who have had to talk to a class of kids about such a thing even once in my country. YMMV in the "land of the free," but even so cars are still many thousands of times more of a risk, so prohibiting children from crossing the road by themselves would make more sense than banning them from accessing the Internet alone. Banning a child from doing things that they want to do usually means that they will do them secretly and so get no guidance at all. A child who feels able to discuss most details of their online activities with an interested parent is likely to be far more safe.

        1. sisk Silver badge

          Re: Hmm

          prohibiting children from crossing the road by themselves would make more sense than banning them from accessing the Internet alone

          Most parents DO prohibit children from crossing the road by themselves, at least until they're old enough to understand the danger. Unfortunately the age that most kids understand the danger of the internet is much higher than the age that they understand the danger of crossing the road.

          A child who feels able to discuss most details of their online activities with an interested parent is likely to be far more safe.

          Very true. And to be fair I don't plan of banning my kids outright from anything online except the obvious stuff like illegal sites and porn. In fact my daughter already has a FB account (in violation of FB's age policy - my wife's doing, but I didn't protest or ban her from it when I found out after the fact). I will insist on knowing who they're talking to when they get old enough for it to be an issue. Part of that will come from the computer being in the living room, and for fairness my computer is in the living room also.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Hmm

            Do you seriously think saying no to a child means they'll do it anyway and not talk about it so you never say no?

            Can't say that makes much sense to me. Having been involved with "problem" children and thus child psychologists they all say setting rules is important. Obviously talking to children is too, as well as making sure that they can talk to you about anything and that there's a way to resolve things if they break the rules.

            Personally I find getting kids to use computers is easy, as is getting them to use social media in the way of "chat" in games is also easy. What's harder is getting them to do their home work, tidy their rooms etc. Pretty much the same things as when I was a child in fact.

            I find it hard to see any advantages to getting children heavily involved in social media at a young age as it's not exactly a hard to learn "skill". On the other hand the time when they can play with abandon, pretend to be a dragon, collect lady birds in the garden is relatively short and won't come again.

  2. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    IT Angle

    Social engineering

    I believe a major issue is the way in which various games, apps and programs use social engineering to facilitate targeted advertising and data harvesting. "Home IT support" was always undertaken with a heavy heart knowing I would have to clean out "free fun games" that seemed to want to know a lot about you before they would let you play, "helpful add-ins to the browser" that facilitated pop-ups and God knows what else.

    All of these techniques are presumably the ones used by malware planters to get you to "click here" and receive an unwanted dose of silicon clap.

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: Social engineering

      " "Home IT support" was always undertaken with a heavy heart knowing I would have to clean out "free fun games" "

      My two girls were educated about the possible hazards of Habbo Hotel (bah, the youth of today don't know . . . etc.) We mananged to string along someone for hours who was posing as a boy wanting one of the girls to install a 'cool game'.

      First educate - then you don't need to spend ages cleaning in the corners of the hard drive.

  3. Anonymous Blowhard

    My kid?

    I'm more worried about me!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My kid?

      Pah, I gave up on me years ago.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: My kid?

        You too, huh?

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    It's the parents not the kids

    The problem is many homes in the US is the parents, not the kids. Families don't talk with each other, children are seen as a nuisance who need to be entertained all the time and bought off with toys to stop them bothering their parents. Americans almost never sit down with their children and talk about current affairs, a film, a book or in fact anything - and now that they have the Internet, why go to the public library?

    Instead the kids are given a speak-and-spell toy to learn to talk and read, a playstation to entertain them, and an iPad to do their homework. Anything so long as they don't bother their parents.

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: It's the parents not the kids

      " given a speak-and-spell toy to learn to talk and read"

      despite evidencce that they can hold back a child's development -- but it keeps the little shits out of your face while watching Eastenders so . .

    2. JDX Gold badge

      Re: It's the parents not the kids

      While it's an important issue "it's all the parents' fault" is a bit of a glib, automatic generalisation.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's the parents not the kids

        Like the trendy ones yabbering with their phones stuck between their hat and ear in the post office que whilst the kids wreck the place

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's the parents not the kids

        I think you'll find that, unfortunately, its usually true.

  5. Dave Bell

    Anyone remember the BBC Micro?

    There was a time when computers were something the kids were taught about, but the teaching seemed to shift away from computers to using standard office software. That's still useful, but even ten years ago school leavers were taking "computer driving licence" courses because the schools seemed to have failed them.

    And today's parents are a part of that generation, which seems to have been sacrificed at the altar of Microsoft.

    Frankly, while there's some weird stuff out there on the internet, and there are some nasty people, currently declaring that they are only arguing about ethics in game journalism, I also don't see any involvement of the internet in such dramatic and frightening cases as the child sex abuse in Rotherham.

    My own feeling is that a lot of the scare stories, the political fantasies of predators on the internet, might be better dealt with as part of teaching sex and relationships. Things such as good passwords, and avoiding click-bait, are as significant as condoms. It's a different sort of relationship, but the internet is not different from Eastenders: people are telling the unusual and dramatic stories.

    And we probably have our own myths.

    1. Elmer Phud

      " but even ten years ago school leavers were taking "computer driving licence" courses because the schools seemed to have failed them."

      Schools were struck by the usual disease of Governement Ministers thinking IT was a 'good idea' - never knowing what the hell 'IT' was. Schools were given dosh for kit (not people) and told to get on with it. School staff not only don't usually have extra time for applying yet another 'brilliant idea' but also not the expertise.

      It has never been the schools that failed them but Education wonks in Westminster ( and the hovering bluebottles of 'educational software developers' ) insistingn that throwing kit at kids will provide the next generation of whizzkids -- and now it's happening again .'Apps' is the new watchword the 'big thing' to turn 16yr olds into millionaires.

      They conveniently miss out that number of successful apps v;s the number of total failures (or, for that matter, apps that are only there to pick your pocket.

    2. Tim Jenkins

      "I also don't see any involvement of the internet"

      Mobile communication, particularly via cellphone, but extending into other devices, IS heavily implicated in Rotherham and other recent cases, though. The ability of the groomers to reach into the childrens lives at any time of day or night using the handset they have given them has become a significant controlling influence which wouldn't have been possible in previous generations, limited as they were to a single (and probably monitored) landline in a care home or other institution.

      1. FlatSpot
        Thumb Down

        Re: "I also don't see any involvement of the internet"

        In the case of Rotherham I think it would be more helpful if the doors were locked at night.

        I was watching one of those Police programs the other day and the Police were picking up young girls who had walked out of their care home, they take them back (but cant actually force them to return) and the girls just walk back out the door again anyway, the girls were 15-16.

        Its this stupidity that kids know best and its evil to actually enforce anything on them that is the main problem. They should be "locked in" until 18, end of..... rather than Service Stations for Peds.

        1. Graham Marsden

          @FlatSpot -Re: "I also don't see any involvement of the internet"

          > They should be "locked in" until 18, end of..

          Yes, that will solve the problem of child abuse because when they hit 18 they're no longer children, so it's not child abuse any more!

          Brilliant idea!!

          Abused adults? Oh, that's not an issue, they're adults now, they should have to deal with that themselves...

      2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        Re: "I also don't see any involvement of the internet"

        The flip side is that those same phones are often the thing that tips off the carers that the abuse is taking place, and then is used as evidence to catch & prosecute the perpetrators. Think how many cases have been reported where the giveaway was a text message seen by someone else. In the past the kids would meet up with adults in cafes and arcades and it would never be discovered at all. The real cause has nothing to do with technology, it is because a child or teenager who feels unwanted by parents or carers will seek out adults who *do* give them attention and want their company. If a parent does not look after their child properly, it won't be long before the child finds an adult who is more than willing to "look after" them, and when the situation is such that (a) child is a willing participant at the time, (b) both parties have a vested interest in keeping it secret and (c) the parent/carer is not too interested in what the child is doing, then electronic evidence is by far the most likely way it will ever be discovered.

    3. John Sanders


      """I also don't see any involvement of the internet in such dramatic and frightening cases as the child sex abuse in Rotherham."""

      The authorities and the establishment are keeping it quiet.

      The gamergate exploded because the people involved had first hand knowledge of what was going on. So when the game journos tried to accuse their critics of being misogynistic & racist, etc it exploded in their faces, and rather than trying to keep it quiet, they went on and on, eventually more and more people woke up to it.

      In the case of Rotherham no one is talking up because this is not just some "kids stuff" thing, this is a very serious societal problem that has been allowed to happen in purpose, those responsible for letting it happen (hint politicians and their advisors) keep and force a low profile, lest the British public question the status QUO.

      See establishments like the BBC or the government have invested so much in certain "cultural" themes that they can not walk down on them without looking like complete idiots.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    "In that case, 43 per cent of parents felt the negatives outweigh the positives, although that figure drops significantly to 26 per cent for those parents that have actually allowed their child to have one."

    WTF, seriously....who makes these up.

    In another survey, parents are worried about their kids getting fat, except those that allow their kids to eat cake for breakfast with a doughnut chaser, with a dose of pizza and chips for lunch and evening meal of KFC and McD's.

  7. trafalgar

    Yeah, it's not the internet or TV or games harming kids.

    It's a lack of parent interaction and neglecting the kids that causes harm.

  8. JeffTravis

    The internet is 'outside'

    The internet is 'outside', even if you access it from your sofa. My children get that. They are under 11 and wouldn't want to go to the park or shops without me currently so it's the same with the other outside stuff like the internet.

    As they get older they'll do outside stuff without me the internet being one of them.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: The internet is 'outside'

      I like that analogy.

  9. Cipher
  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are these parents under the impression that their 16-year-old came floating down the river in a little wicker basket?

    What's worse? Them masturbating to porn in the privacy of their own room or going out and getting someone pregnant, or becoming pregnant themselves?

    Or, should we all pander to your personal feelings?

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Yeah because clearly a)those are the ONLY two options and b)experiences online don't affect perception of the real world or vice versa.

      Looking at a photo of a naked lady online circa 1995 dialup is very different from what is available now. And it's not like extreme/hard porn is any harder to find, potentially even easier, than soft stuff. If finding the hard stuff required special effort it might be different but kids are likely to stumble across pretty extreme stuff right off the bat.

      1. Graham Marsden


        > kids are likely to stumble across pretty extreme stuff right off the bat

        Fine, so what do we do? Forbid them from having computers? Ban them from seeing it? Try to block it?

        Or maybe we need to *educate* children about these matters *before* they come across it and teach them that porn != sex and that there are things called "relationships" which are important with things like treating others with respect that need to be learned...

        1. Skymonrie

          Re: @Graham Marsden

          A simple no nonsense response that cuts through the BS, I salute you.

          No excuses, nothing beats genuine "life" education, schools can't teach that without someone complaining.

        2. Qu Dawei

          Re: @JDX

          I think this emphasis on sexual matters is unbalanced: I think porn is of minor concern compared with realistic and extreme violence, for example. But on top of all this, we need to ask ourselves how can this harm children? If they can clearly distinguish between reality and fantasy (and we need to research this, rather than rely on our own prejudices if there is no pre-existing facts and empirical evidence) then may be all that is required is for parents to take their responsibilities more seriously and talk to their children about respect, love, relationships, etc, and about how violence of any type (and this necessarily involves rape, and other non consensual activities, because it and others are power and violence things, rather than sex things) diminishes us all.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The difference between now and 1995 was the speed of images appearing on screen.

        There were plenty of extreme and hard porn available in the BBS scene around that time (and years before). Rusty n' Edies, NixPix, Farmer's Daughter - the list goes on and on. It wasn't exactly one click away but you shouldn't underestimate resourcefulness of horny teenagers! :-)

      3. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        Yes, there is extreme porn easily available on the Internet. No matter what a parent does, when their child reaches the stage of development that they become interested in sex and porn, they will access such material whether the parent permits Internet access at home or not. Many kids these days see their first porn pics and videos on a friend's mobile device at school. OTOH they will already have had a lot of exposure to extreme non-sexual material in everyday TV and films, and so will view it in a similar way - i.e. it is make-believe and nothing like real life. Unless the child has far worse problems, seeing such material will be less harmful to an adolescent than being told the story of Little Red Riding Hood (and other violent fairy stories) was when they were 6.

        1. SineWave242

          And far less harmful then reading the bible.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think my reading comprehension is going downhill

    Am I reading this paragraph right?

    "The next biggest concern was children having a social network account. In that case, 43 per cent of parents felt the negatives outweigh the positives, although that figure drops significantly to 26 per cent for those parents that have actually allowed their child to have one. Not all parents were worried though: 26 per cent felt social networks provided more benefits than harms."

    That says to me that of the parents who allowed their kids on facebook

    26% felt the negatives outweigh the positives

    26% felt social networks provided more benefits than harms.

    Seems a bit contradictory. Unless the parents consider "harms" a poositive or something

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: I think my reading comprehension is going downhill

      No, you're not. I'll re-word what the article said:

      In the population of all sampled parents, 43% felt the negatives of social networks outweighed the positives, 26% felt that social networks provide more benefits than harms, and 31% answered "something else".

      In the population of sampled parents who allow their children on to social networks, 26% felt the negatives outweighed the positives.

  12. Daz555

    Porn is really my only serious concern with regards to my kids being online. Too much of it, too easy to find, far too extreme for a young mind.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm inclined to agree somewhat. In my day <shows age> the most likely first exposure to porn was finding a soggy copy of Fiesta (or the like) down the woods. Nowdays a few keypresses will get you to some interesting stuff along the lines of naked wrestling (ahem). Though hopefully all semi-responsible parents will investigate options (be they technological or social) to not make it easy/possible for such things to be found online.

    2. NotWorkAdmin

      Never worried about porn really when mine were young

      But by the same token, I didn't let any of them use the web alone before I felt it was appropriate. It's a bit like how I waited until I thought they were ready before letting them cross dual carriageways alone.

      My dog, by comparison, still has his internet activities and road crossing heavily supervised.

  13. ItsNotMe

    Hey...I have a novel idea.

    "Obsessively following social media is more of a sign that your son or daughter is socially anxious and fear they will not be successful in face-to-face relationships than being unhealthily addicted to something." about putting the electronic devices down kids...and actually talking face-to-face with others? You know...opening your mouths and making words come out? You do remember how to do that...don't you?

    No...actually...many of you do not. So it's one more generation of Dullards in the works.

  14. Sludged

    "when should we allow our little one to have a phone? The answer appears to be 11 years old"

    Do we have to replace it when they lose or break it? My 15 yo son is on his 3rd or 4th.

  15. John Tserkezis

    "Obsessively following social media is more of a sign that your son or daughter is socially anxious"

    Obsessively following social media is a cause of your son or daughter exhibiting socially anxious behaviour.

    Fixed it.

  16. IGnatius T Foobar

    Facebook is bad

    It's pretty clear that no one between the age of 1 and 32,767 should have a Facebook account. It is very bad for them.

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