Porn and smartphones: 'We don't realize how dangerous it is,' ex - Toledo News Now, News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

Porn and smartphones: 'We don't realize how dangerous it is,' expert says

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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -

Experts sometimes refer to online porn as digital heroin. And just like drugs, kids who get exposed at a young age will have serious consequences to deal with as they mature.

Those experts say children make up one of the biggest audiences watching online porn in 2017. They're also becoming the biggest group of porn addicts.

"It's so accessible. It's so anonymous," said Dr. Pat Love, in an interview with Fight The New Drug, a site devoted to helping families fight back against porn and the damage it can do to young minds. "It alters your brain in a way that makes you crave more stimulation."

Stephen J. Smith, of Cincinnati, launched the online magazine A Wired Family to help parents and kids deal with digital issues facing families in the Tri-State. He said the average age of a child who views porn for the first time is 11 (possibly a sixth-grader).

"Pornography is literally two clicks away," he said. "So, the first click is to the website, the second click is saying I'm 18 -- and as soon as you say 18, they're introduced to things I don't even think parents are aware of."

Devices and the content they provide can be addictive in the same way a slot machine is addictive, said tech guru Dave Hatter.

"When you pull the handle on the slot machine, you don't know what's going to come next. It could be good news or bad news, but you get your fix, but the excitement of pulling that handle, and waiting to see what comes next," he said.

It's estimated that up to 70 percent of online pornography is viewed on iPhones in the hands of kids.

"By 18, I was addicted to pornography. And by 18, I ended up in rehab," said Breanne, who shared her story with Fight The New Drug.

She said it cost her parents $40,000 to put her through a treatment program, but today, she is free.

"There's just so much stuff out there, soon as you turn on your phone, you're just flooded with it," said Tyler, a 23-year-old student at the University of Cincinnati.

When asked if he could recall the earliest age he saw something inappropriate on his phone that his parents didn't know about, Tyler said he was likely in high school when he was first on Facebook.

With many families going all mobile, the chances of younger kids being exposed to bad things are greater than ever.

Smith said a young mother came up to him after a presentation once and told him her third-grade daughter was introduced to pornography on the school bus by a boy in her grade.

"You start out to do one thing, then something attracts your attention and you watch a video, which then suggests another video -- the next thing you know, an hour or two have gone by and you've gone down the rabbit hole," said Hatter. "Five, six, seven videos later, where you started and where you ended up are very different because of the suggestions it's making."

In many cases, young kids know how to navigate the Internet better than their parents. But kids may not even realize what it is they're viewing yet.

"It can be like crack cocaine with your brain. And we don't realize how dangerous it is," said Love. "As parents, as adolescents, we have to realize what we're doing to our brain, how we're changing it -- in some ways forever."

Smith said the brain becomes rewired. He said kids 10, 11, or 12 years old aren't quite ready for what they're seeing.

"They don't understand what they're seeing. But as they become acclimated to it, they become desensitized, so what they first saw on Day 1 is going to be different from what they need to see on Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4," he said.

Smith said more than 50 percent of fourth graders have a smartphone. With the advent of 3D porn, Smith wonders how it will impact children even further.

"Are they going to be able to sustain real, human relationships?" said Smith.

He said 25 percent of all word searches on Google and 35 percent of media downloads online are pornography.

Circle

Smith said a product called Circle is a great way parents can protect their kids and monitor what they're doing on their smartphones.

Parents remotely control everyone's devices at home -- they can pause a child's movie or even shut devices off at dinner or bedtime.

Parents can also filter adult content from dozens of sites, but part of the problem is the technologies we rely on are banking on the fact they are addictive.

The porn industry is a $2 billion empire.

"The people that are behind it, that's what they want, whether they're attempting to sell it to you directly, or they're trying to -- in this attention economy model -- get you to come to their site, where they're either going to collect your information and sell it, or sell you auxiliary things," said Hatter. "You hear the term sticky, right? They want you to stick there and come back there."

Circle costs about $100. An additional $10 a month will get the user control of a child's screen from outside the home.

BARK

When it comes to social media and controlling porn exposure, parents have a lot less control. Apps like BARK can step-in where parents cannot.

"Basically, this thing is filtering everything they're doing out on social media. And it's looking for certain things, like bullying, or pornography, then it will alert you when it finds these kinds of things," said Hatter.

Smartphones offer so many good things for families, but Smith warns, you need to treat them with kid gloves, like you would anything else that's powerful.

"This is great technology. Automobiles are great technology, but we don't toss our car keys to a 12-year-old and say, go out and have a great day," said Smith.

Safe Search

Parents can also take one more step, by turning on "Safe Search" in Google and Bing on all of their devices. They can also go to Google.com/preferences and check the box "on" or "off" and lock it, using your Google log in. Parents can also devise a tech plan, so they're all on the same page.

Communication is the key to knowing what kids are looking at on their smartphones.

"Talk to your kid. You've got to talk to them," said Smith. "Don't talk at them, talk with them, create a strategy, write a contract of the rules of engagement."

Smith suggests creating a tech-free zone in the house such as no phones in the bedroom or bathroom.

"And the third thing -- you've got to manage the passwords for the Google Play and the iTunes store. If you do that, you've got a really good chance of having a young man or young woman, that's going to go out there and resist some of the temptations, because they're not going to be so obvious," said Smith.

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