Prepare Kids to Reject Pornography

10 Tricky Ways Porn Will Target Your Kids in 2022–PLUS Our Top Tips for Increasing Resilience!

We start each new year by sharing some of the ways porn will target kids in the coming year. It’s our most popular post–because concerned parents like you want to know what their kids (and their kids’ friends) are facing.

But we aren’t all doom and gloom! The porn industry is powerful, but kids can learn skills to reject pornography and defend themselves against it. That’s why we also include things parents CAN DO to minimize threats and raise empowered, resilient, screen-smart kids who will reject pornography.


#1 Kids are just two clicks away from the worst porn the world has ever seen

Kids can’t walk into a store and purchase guns, cigarettes, vapes, or alcohol on their own. They can’t even buy a can of spray paint or a bottle of cough syrup. The sellers of these items are required to verify age by checking ID. And while we aren’t naive–we know kids still access these things–it at least prevents some access and kids are much less likely to stumble upon these things by accident.

Porn used to fall under this category. ID was required to rent from adult video shops, a credit card required to subscribe to a dirty magazine.

Today’s porn is the worst the world has ever seen. And the most accessible. No ID required. No payment necessary. You don’t even have to be looking for it. 

Children today are two clicks away from the most graphic and degrading sex acts imaginable. -Exodus Cry

While some kids are seeking out porn directly, most kids stumble upon it because they are curious about sex or they type something innocent into a search engine that returns not-so-innocent results (for example–a young girl who is interested in bunnies has no idea what she’ll come across when she types that into Google!)

They make one wrong click and suddenly they’re viewing explicit porn–set on auto play. They’re viewing acts of sexual violence. They’re viewing rapes.

To learn more about what kids are being exposed to, see the documentary below. WARNING: This video does include some images that give a sense of what kids can easily access.

Related: Kids getting exposed to hardcore porn is a catastrophe we CAN fix

What parents CAN DO:

1. Talk with your kids about pornography–early and often.

Kids are being exposed to pornography at younger ages. No child deserves to face the porn industry alone. Kids who are armed to defend themselves against pornography before they ever come across it are much more likely to be able to reject it. Kids need 

  • an age appropriate definition of pornography, 
  • a warning about the harms of it, and 
  • a plan to reject it when they see it. 

The Good Pictures Bad Pictures series of read aloud books helps parents get the conversation started in age-appropriate ways with kids ages 3-12. For kids ages 8-12, you can also enlist the help of the Brain Gang! These fantastic teen role models are featured in our Brain Defense: Digital Safety program and teach kids the digital self-defense skills they need to stay safe online.

2. Add your voice to Exodus Cry’s campaign: Protect Children Not Porn

Exodus Cry’s new campaign is “...calling for all sites hosting porn to require that users be age verified, with ID, before they can access content.”

It’s just that simple. The technology is there. But we can’t wait for big tech to police themselves–they aren’t going to do anything that will lead to lost revenue if they aren’t required to do it.

That’s why we must demand age verification laws. Add your voice to the tens of thousands of others who care about defending our kids by signing the petition or giving to the cause.

#2 A generation that thinks sexual violence is the norm, including CHOKING

The porn industry continues to create increasingly violent content for viewers who get aroused by sexual violence. Even if your kid isn’t actively viewing porn, it bleeds out in conversations online, at school and in other spaces where kids share new information they’d never tell their parents. Sadly, this sexual violence in porn becomes normalized in actual behavior.

Let’s look at the practice of choking during sex. A recent study entitled "It Was Scary, But Then It Was Kind of Exciting": Young Women's Experiences with Choking During Sex found that 58% of young college women participants had experienced choking during sex. And where did they learn about this harmful sexual behavior? “We found that women had first learned about choking through diverse sources including pornography, erotic stories, magazines, social media, friends, and partners.” 

A neurosurgeon’s perspective on choking

Although young people experiment with different degrees of choking, they have no idea how dangerous it can be. 

Let’s consult a neurosurgeon for that information. Dr. Donald L. Hilton, Jr., MD, FAANS, FACS is a neurosurgeon and associate professor at the University of Texas Medical School, San Antonio. He’s also a fellow of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and a member of the Defend Young Minds Advisory Council.

In an emailed response to the choking study, Dr. Hilton stated:

First, any pressure on the carotid arteries risks carotid dissection, the most common cause of stroke in young people. Even seemingly insignificant pressure can tear the intima of the artery. 

Second, depriving the brain of oxygen to any degree, for any period, risks watershed ischemic events, and is never safe. Erotic asphyxiation is hypoxia [deprivation of oxygen], and thus is always harmful and dangerous. 

In summary, there is never a safe way to put pressure on anyone's neck.

It is ludicrous to suppose that a sexually aroused, porn-trained male will be able to safely grade the degree of compression he is exerting on the carotid arteries. His focus at that moment is certainly not on the well-being of the human being he is assaulting. This type of assault cannot ever be described as consensual, as there is no way to realistically give informed consent.

Related: KinkTok: How Porn Culture & TikTok Are Grooming Children

What parents CAN DO

How can you educate your kids so they don’t adopt sexually violent attitudes and behaviors?

1. Talk to your kids early and often about sex and share your values, your ideal of sexual integrity.

2. Teach kids that hurting another person should never be a part of a loving relationship. Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids teaches this concept on p. 4.

3. Help your kids see the difference between healthy sex and porn sex--check out the chart in this article.

#3 Porn “tube” sites--how today’s porn exploits kids

Unlike the past, today’s porn is mostly shared on tube sites and makes money with ads and subscriptions, instead of direct sales. Now that so much porn is “free”--kids have easy access.  

Sadly, children are being exploited on these porn sites. How? Here are a few common ways:

  • Children are “sextorted” online to provide sexual pictures and videos.
  • Children and other trafficked minors are recorded while being raped and those videos are uploaded and shared all over the world, making money for the tubesite and whoever uploaded the video. 

And until recently, sites like Pornhub were getting away with it! And even though victims reported and asked for videos to be taken down, the videos were already downloaded by viewers and can never completely be eradicated from the internet.

Thankfully, due to the bold courage and tenacity of organizations like Exodus Cry, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, Justice Defense Fund, and many others, Pornhub and other sites have had to delete much of their material, including videos that exploit children.

Earlier this year we interviewed Laila Mickelwait, founder of the TraffickingHub movement, and learned how a grassroots movement rocked the porn world!


What parents CAN DO

Here’s what you can do to defend your children against sexual exploitation online:

1. Get savvy and read Today’s Porn Industry: 5 Things Every Parent Needs to Know.

2. Watch or read our interview with Laila Mickelwait of Traffickinghub and this interview with Russ Tuttle from Stop Trafficking.

3. Talk with your kids about the importance of not sharing nudes or other sexual pictures/videos online because it’s virtually impossible to remove them completely once they’ve been uploaded to any internet site. Make it clear that there are lifelong consequences for victims whose sexual videos/photos are uploaded to the internet without consent, as well as for those who upload or possess them. (See section 8 below).

#4 Social media, AKA SEXUAL media

You know that social media can be a serious waste of time, but you might not realize exactly how much dangerous material is just a click away. Reporting this year showed that hardcore sexual content is frequently recommended to accounts registered to minors, and it quickly dominates their feed. Social media is grooming our children for sexual violence and unrealistic expectations for sexual relationships.

Additionally, Facebook and Instagram continue to be the top places for recruiting sex trafficking victims.

In addition to hardcore pornography, teen accounts also get dragged into a world of content focused on promoting eating disorders. A leaked Facebook internal study showed that Instagram made one in three teenage girls feel worse about their bodies after using it. 

And even knowing how much danger is on the platform, Facebook continues to develop an Instagram app for kids.

Related: The Shocking Tactics Sex Traffickers Use to Trap Your Kids and 5 Ways You Can Protect Them

What parents CAN DO

1. Delay social media use. Most social media apps require you to be at least 13 to make an account. But we would encourage you to look at the dangers to kids and wait as long as you possibly can. The older they are when they start using social media, the better judgement they may have.

2. Consider deleting kids’ social media accounts. If your kids and young teens already have accounts, we urge you to strongly consider discontinuing use until they are older. This isn’t something you should do behind their backs one day. They’ll just make a new account on a device you’re not monitoring. They need buy-in to the harms of social media and how it makes them feel. To learn more about how to have a productive conversation with your kids about deleting social media, see this article and this article.

3. Use a filtered browser rather than an app. Most filters can’t do anything for individual apps, but if social media is accessed via a browser, your internet filter can still do its job. The Canopy Internet filter blocks pornographic videos and pictures while allowing teens to continue to use the site. 

4. Use Bark to watch for warning signs. Bark is a great way for parents to give older teens the chance to feel more independent while still watching out for danger. The app lets you know when it spots something concerning on your teens’ social media, so you don’t have to constantly be checking.

Related: TikTok: The Sound of an App Stealing Your Kid's Life Away

#5 Backdoors and workarounds 

A mother recently told us of when her 15 year old son started a new job and his countenance drastically changed after only one week. She knew something was off. She had recently learned about our work here at Defend Young Minds, so even though her husband (who works in technology) had set up filters to block out porn, she asked him to check their son’s phone. They were shocked at the amount of degrading and violent sexual content found on their son’s phone from just one week. An older teen coworker at his new job had shown him how to get around his parents filters on his first day.

Teens have all sorts of work-arounds for dodging parental controls. A popular one is using a VPN (Virtual Private Network). Adults use VPNs to protect their company data or to watch European Netflix shows from the US. But teens can also use VPNs to get around parental controls. Once a VPN is turned on, your internet activity is untracked. Similarly, proxy sites allow teens to access blocked websites by routing them through a third-party site.

Teens may also use apps that look like a harmless calculator, but turn into a private storage area once a code is entered. These apps are called “vault apps” or “photo vaults,” and their purpose is usually to keep sexual photos or illicit texts away from prying eyes. These apps can even be hidden so they don’t appear in the app drawer.

Related: 7 Ways Teens Hide Online Activity + What You Can Do

What can parents do?

1. Know that technological solutions are not foolproof. In the end, no amount of parental control software can permanently control a determined, tech-savvy kid. Acknowledge this with your teen and treat filters and parental controls as a commitment device for an internal decision, not an impenetrable fortress.

2. Talk frankly with your teen about why you are protecting them. Educate your teen about the dangers of pornography, sexting, and online predators so they can understand why you are using filters and blocks. Our book Good Pictures, Bad Pictures is a great place to start your discussion. In the end, an internal filter is much stronger than any filtering software.

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#6 Erotic lit on school recommended/required reading lists 

In 2021 we had an influx of concerned parents contacting us about the disturbingly inappropriate and descriptive sexual and violent content in books that are on recommended (or even required) reading lists at their children’s schools. These books contained vivid descriptions of sexual encounters–including rapes and anal sex. We also warned parents about how easy it is for children to gain access to erotic literature on school devices.

Erotic lit is harmful to young brains and diminishes the ability to form healthy, real life connections. And it’s also a gateway to porn.

Related: Erotic Lit and Young Minds--How Hyper-Sexualized Fiction Harms Girls and Boys

What parents CAN DO

1. Talk with your kids about what is appropriate and what’s not appropriate in terms of what they’re reading. See this article for tips on talking points and how to approach the conversation.

2. Read reviews for the books your kids are reading. A quick look on Common Sense Media or other book review sites will give you a taste of what the book contains. 

3. Speak up! If you find a book on a school’s recommended or required reading list, be sure to speak up about it! Check out this 2 minute video of a mom from Texas who spoke on the topic at a school board meeting–powerfully defending the kids in her community.

#7 Sexual violence in music

Pop music reflects popular culture and if you’re listening you just might be horrified by the amount of sexual violence described--available to any kid who has access to a music streaming app. 

In today’s music, love is rarely mentioned as a prerequisite for sex. In fact, sexual violence is normalized in hip hop, rap and other genres of music that glorify actual rape, revenge rape, date rape, child rape. Besides forcing sex on women, lyrics describe hurting and even killing rape victims. 

It’s horrifying. 

But it gets worse. Kids who listen to these lyrics, boys and girls, may come to believe the idea that boys can “take it” from girls, and punish them if they say no–thinking sex is owed to them. 

Music is a powerful way that pornography and porn culture flow out to the minds of millions of children who have easy access to it.

Related: Explicit Content in 7 Top Music Apps - A Parent's Guide

What parents CAN DO

1. Talk with your kids about the power of music. Discuss their music choices with them. Take a look at the lyrics. Ask kids how they feel when they listen to different types of music. One mother noticed a drastic change in her 13 year old son. He was suddenly down and angry all the time. She found her son had been listening to rap music with very depressing themes. He argued that he just liked the beat and that the lyrics didn’t really affect him. She challenged him to stop listening for just one week to see how he felt. The change in her son was visible. He couldn’t deny how much better he felt.

2. Think carefully about how your kids access music. Music is such a wonderful tool and kids should definitely have access to it! But vet your music streaming app carefully before granting access.

Filters for music are lagging far behind. Most streaming services have an explicit content filter, but be aware that these only filter swear words. A song could vividly describe a sexual encounter or rape, but make it past the filters because the lyrics don’t contain certain words the filter is screening for. 

AND most of those explicit content filters can just be turned off from your kid’s device. Not very helpful.

Also keep in mind that many album covers are suggestive and sometimes even pornographic. Kids can see any album cover, even if the explicit content filter would block songs from the album. Many music streaming services also provide access to podcasts that are meant for adults.

Here are some ideas for safer listening:

  • Spotify Kids This is the best service for kids we’ve seen so far. You can select an age group for your child and it chooses music that Spotify deems appropriate for that age group. If you come across a song you don’t feel is appropriate for your child, you can block that song from being played on your child’s device.
  • Apple music is a relatively good choice for teens because it can be tied to Screen Time–meaning you can set up the explicit content filter and set it so they can’t turn it off. But remember they’re still getting access to sexual or violent lyrics and album covers–just without swear words.

3. Be mindful of what your kids are dancing to! We’ve seen young children in TikTok videos dancing with their parents to songs with very sexual lyrics. The dances may be fun and it’s great that you’re using technology along with your child, but pay attention to those lyrics. 

And know that your kids are probably going to look up other TikTok dances to the same song–and they’ll come across videos of dancers who do know what the words mean!

We’ve also seen kids dancing to the popular Just Dance video game. Take a look at the actual lyrics to the 2021 and 2022 versions and see if you’re comfortable with your child dancing to those songs. Even though Just Dance songs are censored, you can’t censor out the entire meaning of a song. And again, your kids are likely to look up those same songs on music streaming apps where they won’t be edited.

#8 If you love me, send me a nude

Teens continue to share nudes (nude pictures of themselves-also known as sexting)--sometimes solicited and other times not. They may do this via text, messaging apps, direct messages in social media apps, Apple AirDrop, etc. This activity is especially troublesome for so many reasons, including:

  1. It’s a federal crime to possess or distribute nude pictures of minors–even if the sender and receiver are minors themselves. This quick, thoughtless action can have serious consequences.
  2. Predators and sex traffickers will often get a minor to send progressively racy photos and then blackmail the child by threatening to send the pictures to their parents if they don’t continue to send more photos and videos or to meet up in person. The average time it takes from a predator's first connection with a child to when they can convince them to meet up in person is eight days!
  3. Even if the photos are sent to someone the child trusts–a friend or significant other–those photos are often leaked to someone else when the relationship sours. The child’s private picture then spreads like wildfire–and can never be taken back.

Related: Sending Nudes: Starting the Convo Early--3 Tips for Smart Parents

What parents CAN DO

1. Talk to your kids about nudes early and often. See this article for tips on when and how to have the conversation.

2. Employ technology to help you out! Apple’s newest update scans for nudity and warns iPhone users of pictures that might contain nudity, but it doesn’t prevent those pictures from being sent or received–kids can still choose to view or send the images after being warned. And it doesn’t notify parents of the activity. 

The Canopy Internet Filter is a great tool for actually preventing the sending and receiving of nude photos. If Canopy detects that your child is sending or receiving a nude photo, it warns the child that a nude photo has been detected and asks if they want to decline sending/receiving the photo or send it to a parent to review. Either way, the parent is notified so they can talk to their child about it.

#9 Anime and cartoon porn

Cartoons are supposed to be fun for kids, not a way to initiate them to deviant sexual behavior. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of cartoon porn out there, including anime porn. What parents need to know is that anime

  •  is just as addictive and destructive as “real” porn (we know women who started with erotic literature, then moved to anime porn and became addicted to nonetheless),
  • explores and portrays all kinds of sexual fetishes, and
  • it’s no longer illegal in the U.S. to portray children in pornographic cartoons since they aren’t “real children” who are being exploited. 

What Parents CAN DO 

1. Broaden your definition of porn to include cartoon/anime pictures or videos. (See the kid-appropriate definition in Good Pictures Bad Pictures.)

2. Find safe anime shows by reading Is Anime Safe for Kids? Top Tips for Finding Age-Appropriate Shows

3. Monitor and set up parental controls for streaming services. See our parent guides for Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and DisneyPlus.

#10 Video Games: A gateway to porn?

Video games continue to be an avenue for porn culture to find our kids. Many mainstream video games promote the sexual objectification of female characters, which has effects on how girls see themselves and how boys think girls should be treated. 

More concerning than a game’s content is online interaction between your child and strangers. Predators take to MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online games) to spam pornography and proposition players to take relationships to other platforms, where kids may be asked for photos or personal information. (Beware of Discord invites!)

Even younger-seeming games are not necessarily safe: Roblox, the popular elementary school game, is full of custom sexual mods and servers

Related:  Gateway to Porn? Sexual Objectification in Video Games

What parents CAN DO

1. Do your video game research. Use this article to help you determine if a game is right for your child. If you can’t find information about a game, default to no.

2. Keep kids off online video games. Any game with online interaction opens your child up to sexual language, harassment, bullying, and grooming by predators. 

You can empower your kids with digital self defense skills

This list only scratches the surface of the ways kids are targeted by porn. There’s no end to the ways the porn industry seeks to entrap people of all ages. It can feel daunting, even hopeless. And if we are only trying to keep up with the trends and protect our kids from every danger out there, we’re playing an endless game of whack-a-mole that we will never win. 

That’s why it’s so important to empower kids with the skills they need to defend themselves against digital dangers. Conversations must start early and often. Just telling kids to avoid porn doesn’t empower them with the skills they need to reject it. They must have an age-appropriate definition of pornography, an understanding of why it’s harmful, and strategies to reject it when they are exposed to it. And as their parent, you can give them all those things and raise empowered, resilient, screen-smart kids.

Brain Defense: Digital Safety Curriculum - Family Edition

"Parents are desperate for concepts and language like this to help their children. They would benefit so much from this program - and I think it would spur much needed conversations between parents and children.” --Jenet Erikson, parent

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