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Online Safety: Protecting Your Kids from Cyberporn

Worst-Case Scenario

You've had dozens of discussions with your tween or teen about Internet porn. You've supervised, monitored, checked browser histories and thought all was well. Then you receive a call from his best friend's mom, who has just caught the boys online at a XXX-rated site.

Don't panic. Take a deep breath and tell yourself that this unwelcome discovery opens the door for yet another positive exchange. When your child gets home, ask how he got to the site. By accident? Lured by spam or pop-up ads? Was he already familiar with the destination?

Even if it's the latter, hold your temper and turn the talk into a teaching moment. Acknowledge that sexual curiosity is natural, and that with so much pornography online, it's tempting to search it out.

"Remind your child—yet again—that the images he's seen do not depict what sex in a relationship is actually like, and that the sex portrayed is often exploitative and harmful to women," says Eva Goldfarb. You might even offer to get some educational books about sex that are geared for teens.

Fact is, no matter how hard we try, we can never totally control what our kids do online. But they are far better off being informed and forewarned, and that's worth whatever embarrassment or discomfort it may cause you. "When children feel connected to their parents and have had conversations with them about their sexual beliefs, it matters," says Jane Brown. "It really does."

Originally published in the May 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.