Want help talking to your kids about porn?  Get our free Quick Start Guide: How to Talk to Kids about Pornography.

Tackle the Tech

Unexpected Nudity and Unsuspecting Kids: Protecting Your Children Online

Today’s post comes from our friends over at Canopy. Defend Young Minds readers can take advantage of 20% off any of Canopy’s packages, monthly or annual, with code DYM2023. Use this code when registering at www.canopy.us. Accessing this link via a browser (opposed to app stores) will allow you to enter the coupon code.

As parents, we face an ongoing battle to protect our children from the hidden dangers lurking on the internet. Today, we will shed light on the potential risks associated with children encountering explicit content, even in seemingly safe online environments. We'll also explore important steps parents can implement in protecting their children online.

Understanding the hidden dangers

As you know, our children’s use of the internet presents serious risks of them stumbling upon inappropriate content. The damaging effects of exposure to explicit material can extend beyond a mere glimpse on the screen. Psychologically, mentally, and socially, pornography viewing and addiction can have severe consequences on a child's well-being.

Even if your child is young and innocent, he or she still stands the risk of coming across such content online. On one end of the scale, sexualized partial-nudity can present itself in front of your child in the forms of pop-up ads, lingerie model pictures on a department store website, bikini pictures on tabloid news websites… the list goes on and on. 

On the other end of the scale, actual pornography can make its way to the most popular social media networks frequented by children, despite the best efforts (or lack thereof) of those running the platforms. Even if a picture or video is eventually removed by the platform after being reported, damage may still have been done to impressionable children who have already been exposed. 

Related: https://www.defendyoungminds.com/post/lingerie-ads-little-eyes-protect-kids-from-porn

Mental health consequences

Exposure to explicit content can lead to confusion and distorted perceptions of relationships and human sexuality. Children who view pornography at an early age may struggle with forming healthy attitudes towards sex, often developing unrealistic expectations or engaging in risky behavior. This psychological impact can impede their emotional development and lead to challenges in future relationships.

Research has highlighted a link between pornography consumption and mental health issues. Children who regularly view explicit content may experience higher levels of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. The graphic and often violent nature of pornography can cause trauma and distress, leading to a negative impact on their overall mental well-being. 

While this unexpected content may seem far afield from such negative effects, even more “benign” content can serve as a gateway drug of sorts, leading your child further down the rabbit hole of internet pornography.

Related: https://www.defendyoungminds.com/post/5-proven-ways-porn-harms-kids

Protecting your child: Key steps

It's crucial to acknowledge that combating these dangers requires a multi-faceted approach. Let's explore a range of strategies for creating a safer digital environment for our children.

Have open and honest conversations

Engaging in open and honest conversations about the dangers of pornography and explicit content is paramount. By providing age-appropriate information and addressing their concerns, we can help children develop a healthy understanding of sex, relationships, and online safety. Ideally, these discussions should occur earlier than you feel comfortable having them - if your kids are online, then you are in a race against time. It is better that they learn from you than from the internet.

Create a family tech agreement

Establishing clear rules and guidelines regarding internet usage helps children understand boundaries and sets expectations. Teach them to navigate the internet responsibly and avoid explicit content, empowering them to make informed choices and protect their own well-being.

Limit screen time

Limiting screen time is another way to protect children from prolonged exposure to explicit content. The less time they spend in front of a screen, the less chance they will be exposed. Of course, spending too much time online has other negative impacts beyond exposure to explicit content. These impacts range from depression and anxiety caused by social media to increased chances of nearsightedness. Encouraging offline activities, such as outdoor play, hobbies, and face-to-face interactions, helps promote a healthier and more balanced lifestyle.

Teach digital literacy

Empowering children with digital literacy skills equips them to navigate the online world safely. Teach them about responsible online behavior, recognizing and reporting inappropriate content, and the importance of consent and respect in online interactions.


Implement parental control solutions

Supplementing open conversations and guidelines with a parental control tool can provide an additional, and very important, layer of protection. 

Canopy is a great option for a parental control tool. Powered by artificial intelligence (AI), Canopy scans incoming pictures and videos on your child’s browser and blocks inappropriate content before it is even displayed. This ensures protection not just from overtly pornographic websites (which many parental control solutions accomplish by way of a blacklist of such sites), but from the unexpected sources of nude imagery and videos mentioned above. With Canopy, your kid can browse Sports Illustrated but be blocked from the swimsuit model pictures specifically. Social media platforms can also be viewed via the filtered browser without worrying that pornography will evade the platforms’ censors and be displayed in front of your child. 

This same technology is used to deter sexting. If someone sends your child an inappropriate image (settings can allow you to define “inappropriate” as a picture of someone in underwear), you will be alerted. Not only that, but if your child is swayed into taking and sending a nude photo, Canopy can detect that as well!

Canopy contains a full suite of internet safety features, such as screen time management, removal prevention, and location alerts. In addition to sophisticated AI technology used in its filtering, it can also be set to block specific sites, apps, and categories (such as gambling, gaming, drugs, etc.). 

4 Questions parents have about Canopy

Question 1: Isn't my router enough? We have strong parental controls through our router that can block websites to all devices in the home. How does adding filtering software strengthen the system that I already use? What holes do I have in my system that Canopy would fill? 

Answer: There are two issues with the WiFi solution. One is that it won't work outside your home, or when someone in the household turns off their WiFi and switches over to mobile data. The other is that no WiFi solution allows you the AI-based partial-nudity blocking that Canopy does - such as blocking bikini pictures on Sports Illustrated's website, for example. Routers will help you more with known pornography sites than with sources of unexpected nudity. 

Question 2: Does Canopy scan every app too? For example, some teens work around parental controls by communicating on Google Docs or similar apps to avoid having their texts monitored. They can send explicit photos here as well. 

Answer: We are able to filter in some apps, more on iOS than Android, and are working on adding an up-to-date list on our website. However, most companies make it difficult if not impossible to filter within their apps, unfortunately. With Canopy, you can block the actual app from being downloaded onto your child’s device and allow permission to use the platform on the device’s web browser that Canopy does filter.

Question 3: Is Canopy solely an image/video-based filtering software system? Does it scan and block other potentially dangerous web pages such as explicit text (erotic lit), drugs, weapons, erotic podcasts on Spotify, etc.? 

Answer: We allow parents to select categories to block (drugs, gambling, etc.) in terms of text as well. 

Question 4: There doesn’t seem to be one parental control system that can really do it all. Can Canopy? If not, what other layers of protection do you recommend with Canopy to give the best protection?

Answer: It is true that no solution provides every feature, but Canopy does seem to be the only one specializing in the important ability to detect explicit content in otherwise acceptable spaces on the internet. Canopy cannot provide a specific example of an app or hardware that may complement our abilities, as it depends on a given family's needs, but we would definitely recommend to parents to research each solution's compatibility with the other beforehand, as they are sometimes incompatible. 

Canopy is an important part of your family’s online protection strategy. Even on the incredibly off-chance that you can sit next to your child and monitor everything that crosses the computer or phone screen, only Canopy can actually catch problematic material before it appears! And if you are unable to supervise internet use - then having a content filtering app is all the more vital. 

However, it's essential to remember that no tool is foolproof, and active parental involvement and the other steps mentioned above remain crucial.

Related: https://www.defendyoungminds.com/post/why-kids-need-an-internal-filter 

Use a comprehensive approach

Protecting our children from the damaging effects of exposure to explicit content is crucial. By understanding the psychological, mental, and social consequences that pornography viewing and addiction can have on our children, we can approach this issue with the seriousness it deserves. 

We recommend utilizing a comprehensive approach that involves: 

  • open conversations, 
  • age-appropriate guidelines, 
  • limited screen time, 
  • digital literacy, and 
  • parental control solutions like Canopy. 

We really can do a lot to safeguard our children's innocence and promote their healthy development in the digital age.

Together, let's equip our children with the knowledge, tools, and support they need to navigate the online world safely. This will give them the best chance to grow into resilient individuals with a healthy understanding of relationships, boundaries, and respect.

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

Learn more or buy