Failure to supervise online use leaves children in danger

Therapist Peter Kleponis warns against the dangers of internet pornography and addictions.

CNS PHOTO | TOM TRACY

Therapist Peter Kleponis warns against the dangers of internet pornography and addictions.

April 4, 2016
TOM TRACY
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

Parents who don't supervise their children's online activity and mobile device usage might as well be dropping off their kids at an adult bookstore filled with dangerous strangers.

"Keep the computer use in a public area of the home - you never leave a child alone with the Internet," said licensed clinical therapist and family therapist Peter Kleponis.

"If you leave a child alone with the Internet you might as well be leaving them alone with a perfect stranger - that is how serious this is."

Kleponis led a frank and wide-ranging conversation on Internet pornography and addiction for some 70 parents and young adult men and teens March 7 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Kleponis, assistant director of Comprehensive Counseling Services in Conshohocken, Penn., specializes in marriage and family therapy, pastoral counseling, resolving anger, men's issues and pornography addiction recovery through the Integrity Restored program.

Research shows that age eight is now the average age at which youngsters first encounter online pornography, according to Kleponis. Parents with young children and teens at home need to install parental filtering controls on youngsters' cellphones and Internet services at home.

"Even with that, if your child is on the Internet and using any technology a parent needs to be standing behind them watching everything they are doing," he said.

As well, parents need to be aware that gaming systems with online connections and even public libraries and public access devices have been widely used for viewing pornography without parental awareness.

"Up to the age of 11, we need to protect kids, and they don't even need to know this stuff exists, and for children 11 years and older we need to educate them about the dangers of pornography so they can reject it and say 'no' to it," he said.

"I also don't believe young children need to have smartphones; get them 'flip phones' or the 'Cricket' brand phone which is only used to call Mom and Dad."

DISTURBING NUMBERS

Kleponis said research shows pervasive pornography use even among religious-affiliated people including Christians. He shared a number of statistics:

Every 39 minutes, a new pornographic video is produced in the United States, and increasingly they are videos made by amateurs.

The pornography industry earns more than US$97 billion worldwide every year.

There are 4.2 million pornographic websites.

Forty-seven per cent of Christians say pornography is a major problem in the home; 20 per cent of men admit to accessing pornography at work.

The percentages of male/female visitors to pornographic websites: 71 per cent are male and 28 per cent are female, with a steadily growing ratio of young female viewers.

"Nobody is immune to this," Kleponis said.

PROTECT ADULTS TOO

"We are so concerned about the kids who are the number one users of Internet pornographers but adults have to be protected too, and we need to educate ourselves on the dangers of porn and new technology and all technology use."

He recommends Covenant Eyes - www.covenanteyes.com - for tools for keeping up-to-date with Internet porn trends and Internet filtering tools.

Parents must have open communication with each other and a willingness to seek help if one adult member of the family is having a problem with porn, he said.

The deeper emotional and family problems underlying the porn use need to be addressed through counseling and support groups and 12-step programs, Kleponis said.

"We need to do everything possible to protect our kids from this stuff because it is poison."

He added that if young children are exposed to online porn there are good books and materials to help parents properly discuss the experience with them.

KITCHEN TABLE

"For teens, again we limit the screen time, and I suggest no more than two to three hours a day including school work online, and monitor all social media. And you never allow a teenager to isolate with the Internet," Kleponis said.

"The (Internet) access has to be done on the kitchen table where everybody can see that, and we need an online accountability service for computers, tablets and cellphones," he added.

He advises parents to remind youngsters that they are simply trying to protect children from sexual predators and profit-seeking pornography merchants and that they have a right to supervise all communications devices and social media usage.