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21 October 2011

Cellphone porn and your teen

Most parents won't allow their teen unrestricted access to the internet where they can browse porn or visit chat sites, but few realise that the same dangers lurk on cellphones.

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Most parents would not allow their teen unrestricted access to the internet where they can browse pornography or visit adult chat sites where they could fall victim to paedophiles or cyberbullies.

But few parents realise that the same dangers lurk on their children's cellphones. Most smartphones today allow users to browse the web where you can access the same content that you find while browsing the internet on your laptop or PC. And, as many teens have their own cellphones, there is a real risk that young people may be exposed to indecent content via this medium.

"Many parents don't fully understand what the phones can do," says Stuart Levey of the IT Department at Herschel Girls School in Cape Town. He explains that although many parents control their children's internet access on home computers through software packages like Net Nanny, there aren't many that take precautions for cellphones.

"The internet is not only a powerful source of information, but it is fraught with illegal content that could be harmful to children," says Portia Maurice, Chief Officer of Corporate Affairs at Vodacom. "Children may adopt behaviour seen in pornography as acceptable and normal, making them easy victims of abuse.

"The social network platforms such as chat rooms also expose children to paedophiles whose aim is to lure children into meeting them," Maurice warns. "Children should not only be guarded against accessing websites that have adult content, they should be discouraged from interacting with strangers in chat rooms as this exposes them to being victims of paedophiles."

Possible solutions

There is software available for cellphones that allows parents to set filters for what multimedia content their children can download to their phones. However, parents should be aware that content filters are not foolproof and inappropriate content can also be received via SMS, IM or e-mail.

Says Maurice: "Although technical solutions exist to block children from accessing adult content, these measures have proved not to be robust since the internet is fairly ubiquitous and is constantly changing."

Levey suggests that parents check the browser history on their child's phone if they suspect s/he may have accessed inappropriate websites. The browser history show stores a list of recently visited sites. "And if parents find that the browser history has been deleted, they should ask why s/he is doing it."

Maurice argues that parents have a vital role to play in educating their children about the risk associated with accessing inappropriate content and the dangers of the cyber sphere. "Providing children with insight into the repercussions of reckless use of the internet has a better chance of ensuring that children are more aware and are better prepared to protect themselves." – (Wilma Stassen/Health24, October 2011)

More information

Your kid, porn and the law

Porn and sex addiction: an expert's view

How to handle cyberbullies

 
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