Given the high likelihood that youth are going to come across or seek out online pornography at one point or another, not to mention the many messages they receive about sex through other media, it is important that parents take an active role in their kids’ Internet use and start talking to them about healthy relationships and sexuality at early ages to help them contextualize and make decisions about what they’re seeing online.
- Talk to kids about sex from a very early age. They are being exposed to sexual images in various media so you need to establish an open and honest dialogue with them so they will come to you with their questions.
- In broader terms, exercise their critical thinking skills with regard to sexual stereotypes. Point out how boys and girls are depicted on toy packages, in clothing catalogues, in advertisements or in movies. Discuss how these stereotypes differ from their own reality.
- Use filtering software on your computer or subscribe to a service through your Internet service provider to block sexually explicit content. If this becomes impractical because your child wants or needs fuller access to the Web, use the parental filtering options available in search engines like Google.
- If they stumble across pornography, remain calm. In many cases these sites pop up accidentally and are difficult to leave, which can be very upsetting for kids. Don't overreact: we want children to feel comfortable turning to us for help and advice when these incidents happen.
Tweens and teens
MediaSmarts’ research  shows that the older the kids, the more likely they are to pay purposeful visits to pornography sites (the figures almost triple between Grade 7 and Grade 11 for boys).
It is natural for adolescents to be curious about sexuality. It is also natural for them to be more inclined to do their own research online rather than asking their parents awkward and embarrassing questions. The problem with pornography is that it is an unhealthy response to a healthy concern.
- After a certain age, parental filters are no longer a viable or desirable solution, as filters indiscriminately block both pornographic and good sites on sexuality. The best approach for parents of tweens and teens is an ongoing dialogue that acknowledges their interest in relationships and sex as normal, and helps them develop the critical thinking skills they need to make good online decisions.
- Discuss the sexual messages in various media. Help your kids understand the harmful effects of images that degrade and exploit women or girls, or that pressure boys to conform to a male-gendered model centred on sexual attractiveness and prowess.
- Direct your kids to good-quality websites that provide information for young people on sexuality and health. If the only information your kids are receiving about sexuality is from porn sites, you have a problem. Explore with them the differences between normal, healthy sexual expression and the exploitive activity that is so prevalent online.
- Establish clear rules about visiting pornographic sites. You can monitor where they are going on the Internet by looking at the history, cookie and cache files on your computer. However, keep in mind that computer-savvy kids know how to erase their Internet tracks. Open, honest communication is always preferable to invading their privacy.
 Young Canadians in a Wired World, Phase II, Student Survey, MediaSmarts. 2005.