Kids and Online Nudity: How Much is Too Much?

**Editors Warning**: several of the pictures in this article contain adult content.
Reader discretion is advised.

One of the biggest complaints from parents about technology is the amount of nudity that is available online.  This is particularly true when it comes to many popular social media apps used by teens and even pre-teens.  If there was ever a case for pushing things to the edge, but not over the edge, this issue might be the best example for them.  Or is it the worst example?  I guess it depends on your point of view.

How Kids See It

Part of the problem is that many kids don’t see it as a big deal anymore.  Nudity is something that many minors are exposed to, in one form or another, far more often that in the past.  It’s not seen as any kind of taboo or threat, by many of them.

Sure, many of today’s parents remember looking at adult magazines when they were children.  But it wasn’t as readily available, often limited to finding someone else’s hidden stash.  The availability has made it seem acceptable.

Just recently, rapper Cardi B released a new song which can be seen as opening endorsing hard core pornography as acceptable. The lyrics make frequent use of language that most parents would find objectionable.  When this is considered mainstream, there is little doubt why children will be influenced by it.

Why Parents Should be Concerned

Technology, mainly cellphones, have given minors the ability to send/receive such pictures whenever they choose.  Even worse, they could be pictures of themselves!  How would you react to finding pictures of your own child on their phone, as this mom did?  Children see more risqué content exposed to them on a daily basis than their parents ever did at that age.  Sexting is now, by many, considered getting to “first base” with someone.  It’s become the new norm, for better or worse. I say worse, no doubt.

Why This Matters

You may have seen some nudity when you were a child.  So, why is it such a big deal if our kids see some now?  Because the overwhelming volume of it and society’s acceptance of it is having a negative impact on them.  According to the American Psychological Association (APA), about 40% of teens and preteens visit sexually explicit sites.  Here’s some of what various studies have determined about children viewing sexually explicit content online:

  • Boys are more likely to seek the content out and that increase with their age.
  • It led to a more casual attitude towards sex, putting it on par with, “eating or drinking”.
  • Teens tended to see women as sexual playthings.

In a study conducted by Drexel University, they determined that, “more than 50 percent of those surveyed reported that they had exchanged sexually explicit text messages, with or without photographic images, as minors.”

The Technical Reality

As for social media sites, the sheer volume of content on most popular social media sites makes it almost impossible for the companies to monitor it effectively.  While they may have content moderators who can remove adult content, most sites rely heavily on users reporting content to them.  How often do you expect that happens?

Search algorithms can be fairly effective at finding text that may be offensive, but images are another matter entirely.  Image recognition software is not nearly as advanced as television shows would have us believe.  Plus, artificial intelligence and software designed to scan for images are hard-pressed to keep up with the enormous volume of what’s posted online.

Most social media sites have at least some rules/guidelines when it comes to nudity and what is acceptable on their sites.  Here are a few links to some of the more popular social media sites’ guidelines:

For the most part, this means no nudity of anyone below the waist from the front.  A bare rear is often acceptable, however, depending on just how much is visible.

For women, bare breasts are allowed to be shown, so long as the nipple is not visible.  “Bare” is the key word in that sentence, as even the sheerest covering is often considered acceptable by most platforms.  Some sites have disclaimers in their guidelines that allow for nudity if it is used for educational or historical use.

Like most other people who are trying to improve their careers, people in the adult entertainment field have taken to using social media.  Many of them have accounts on apps like Twitter and Instagram, posting very racy images.  While some of them have set their privacy settings to private to keep people out, many more don’t, posting images that can include hardcore pornography.  In some cases, they use those posts to lure people to pay-sites to see even more graphic images.

Bear in mind that if someone who can see what’s on a private/blocked account decides to share an image, who can see the image is no longer based on the original poster’s privacy settings, but by the person who decided to share it.  That’s a good thing to keep in mind for everyone who posts things online.

Some apps, like Facebook, have settings that prevent people from being able to share their posts without getting the permission of the person who posted it, but that is hardly foolproof.  Anyone can take a screenshot, crop the image and save it to their device.  Then it’s “theirs” to do with as they choose.

Let’s be honest with what we’re facing here when it comes to online nudity.  According to author and sex therapist, Jo Robertson, Playboy magazine was at its peak around 1972 and it had around seven million subscribers a year.  Meanwhile, Pornhub receives 92 million views per day!

This is extremely important, as Pornhub does not require any kind of age validation or even the creation of an account to view hard core pornography on the site.  Imagine how a parent of a teen or even pre-teen would feel if they found out that their child had seen the videos posted on Pornhub.  They are hardly the only such site out there, just the most popular.

Social media sites aren’t much better, when you get down to it.  All you need is an email address to open up most accounts.  Some don’t even require that.  Some apps simply require that the app be downloaded.  Even those that do require an email address to create an account don’t do any kind of vetting process, which is why catfishing, the act of pretending to be someone else online, is so common.

A related topic is that of Hentai.  A variation of Japanese anime and magna, it’s a genre of animation that is erotic in nature. It is not a new genre, going back centuries. More modern examples though, tend to be less erotic and more hardcore in nature.  There is a complete sub-culture online of Hentai images, even graphic novels that exist for people to see.

While adults should be able to see whatever they wish, parents may not want their children exposed to such graphic images at young ages.  What originally got me involved in cybersafety years ago was when our daughter, who was only in first grade, came across some inappropriate content online.  It wasn’t nudity, but vulgarity, but it affected her all the same in a way that most parents wouldn’t want to experience.

What Can Parents Do about This?

This is a tough position to be in as a parent.  Taking a hard stance and simply forbidding kids from viewing nudity online can often backfire.  And it’s virtually impossible to enforce.  Taking away a child’s device may not help, as Zombie Phones (or any device, really), can get someone back online without much trouble.

The APA also mentioned that the likelihood of a child looking at online content of this nature is strongly influence by parenting styles.  As they report, “When teenagers are old enough to be interested in sex, they are competent enough to find ways to access Internet porn.”  As a result, they focus on educating minors rather that preventing them from seeing it.

Like most problems with our kids, the key is education and letting them know the serious risks that are involved with nudity online – especially sending intimate pictures of themselves to anyone!  One option which can help, assuming that they don’t have a zombie phone, is installing parental control apps onto their devices.  PC Magazine recently reviewed many of them and you can check out what they have to say by clicking here.

My article for Pediatric Safety last year offers parents other options on being able to see if their kids are doing online via apps.  And of course, while you have their device in your hand, you can always view their browser history if they haven’t cleared it recently.

To help prevent them from accidentally seeing nudity on devices, have the “Safe Search” feature on all search engines set to their most restrictive settings. 

This link will explain it when using Google, but others have similar features, even going so far as to call it  Safe Search.  While Google is the most popular search engine around, be sure to make the change on any/all search engines, since children may use a different search engine that their parents.

As a parent of a teenager myself, I can certainly relate to most parent’s worries about this topic so if you have any additional questions, please feel free to ask them here in the comments and I’ll do what I can to help.  If anyone here wishes to share some resources to other parents, please do so as well in the comments.  I wish you the best!

How Special is Your “Special Needs” Child?

THERAsurf takes special needs kids out onto the waves

I have been struggling with the issue of labels. I have a special needs child, but I believe all children are special – and they all, in some way, have special needs, as I discussed in an early blog post.

So, how special is “special”? Actually, my child doesn’t qualify for most programs – she isn’t “special” enough for them. But sometimes as I see her struggling with something I realize she is more “special” than I thought.

So what is the real meaning of “special”?

Clearly a child who is a musical prodigy is also worthy of being called “special.” Merriam-Webster says special is an adjective meaning distinguished by some unusual quality. So, the term “special” really means different. I have no problem with the term “different needs child” but I suspect someone somewhere would find it offensive. And again, every child has different needs so it seems redundant to me.

Most people don’t know my child’s medical history, and they really don’t need to know it. But I don’t want it to be viewed as some deep, dark secret, either. I continue to struggle with this.

How do you handle it with your child?

Kids and Flouride: How Important is it…Really?

Fluoride is a mineral that is naturally occurring in water and certain foods. On a daily basis we lose and gain minerals from the enamel layer on our teeth. These processes are known as demineralization or remineralization. Acids are formed in our mouths from sugar and bacteria which then attach to our tooth surface. There are minerals like fluoride or calcium that help to redeposit or remineralize the enamel layer on our teeth. When you have too much demineralization and not enough remineralization, you develop tooth decay.

The main benefit of fluoride is to prevent tooth decay. It helps do this by protecting our teeth from the acid that develops in our mouths. It also helps reduce the risk of losing teeth and dental disease.

Fluoride has been shown to reduce cavities in children by at least 60% just by the use of fluoridated drinking water.

For children under the age of six, fluoride assists in the development of their adult teeth. At the dentist, we apply fluoride in several different forms including: foam, varnish or gels which have a much higher amount of fluoride then what is found in water or food. There are other forms of fluoride available such as supplements, tablets or liquids but also consult your pediatrician or dentist before using these treatments.

Children between the ages of 6 months all the way up to 16 years need to be exposed to fluoride. That’s not to say that adults don’t benefit from it too, but 6 months to 16 years are the most crucial ages to be exposed.

Fluoride is an easy way to fight decay in your child’s mouth. Make sure you know whether or not you live in an area where the water is fluorinated. This will help your doctor or dentist determine if your child is getting enough fluoride.

First Aid Basics Every Parent Should Know

No matter how protective you are as a parent, kids are just accident magnets. They scrape knees, bump heads and bust lips in their endless pursuit of exploration and fun. In fact, according to the National Safe Kids Campaign, one out of four children per year sustains an injury serious enough to require medical attention. While you can’t always keep your kids from getting hurt, you can be prepared to provide first aid when they are. Here are some common emergencies and guidelines on how to react:

Emergency Your kids are running barefoot in the backyard, when one of them cuts her foot on a sharp rock.

What to do “The first thing you should do is clean the cut and stop the bleeding,” says Dr. Richard E. Miller, a pediatrician at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles. Wash it thoroughly with soap and water and then apply firm pressure using gauze or a clean washcloth. “If the cut is superficial, apply an antiseptic ointment and close the wound with a butterfly band-aid,” says Dr. Miller. “But if it’s a deep, open wound that won’t stop bleeding, or if any tissue or muscle is exposed, basic first aid may not be enough – go to the emergency room for stitches.”

Be prepared Always make sure that kids wear shoes when playing outside. And keep adhesive bandages, gauze and antiseptic ointment on hand at all times.

Emergency Your toddler sneaks up to the stove while you’re cooking and burns her hand on the pot.

What to do First aid is needed to quickly to reduce the temperature of the burn and limit the damage to skin. For first-degree burns (red skin, minor swelling and pain but no blisters), remove clothes from the burned area, run cool – not cold – water over the burn for 3 to 5 minutes. Or press a wet, cold compress. If the burn is small, loosely cover it in gauze or bandage. For second-degree burns (blisters, severe pain and redness) or third-degree burns (the surface looks dry and is waxy white, leathery, brown or charred, although there may be no pain or numbness), call 911. Keep your child lying down and elevate the burned area. Remove clothing from the burned area, unless it is stuck to the skin. Don’t break any blisters. Apply cool water over the burn area for 3 to 5 minutes and then cover it with a clean white cloth or sheet until help arrives.

Be prepared In the kitchen, turn pot handles toward the back of the stove while you cook. Never hold your baby while you cook. In the bathroom, always turn the cold water on first and off last, and test bath water with your elbow.

Emergency Your energetic son just knocked his tooth out on the bedpost while jumping on the bed.

What to do To stop the bleeding, firmly apply a piece of wet gauze to the gums until the bleeding stops. If he lost a baby tooth, there’s no need for concern: A permanent tooth will eventually grow in its place. But you should visit a dentist regardless just to make sure none of his underlying teeth were damaged. If the tooth he lost was a permanent one, time is of essence. The faster you act, the higher your odds of saving the tooth. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists recommends holding the tooth by its crown and reinserting it into the socket, pressing it firmly in place with clean gauze. (If that’s not possible, place the tooth in a cup of milk, which will preserve the tooth’s roots.) Then visit a pediatric dentist immediately.

Be prepared Keep a pediatric dentist’s number on your refrigerator and in your cell phone.

Emergency You’re making breakfast when your toddler walks over to show you his new toy: an open bottle of prescription pills.

What to do Any time a child has potentially swallowed a hazardous substance, call your local poison control center immediately. If your child has collapsed or stopped breathing, call 911 first. Each case of poisoning is unique, and treatment varies greatly depending on what hazardous substance your child has ingested. Never take a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to poison emergencies. Seek immediate treatment.

Be prepared Poison-proof your home by storing all medication in childproof containers kept out of children’s reach. Post the number of your local poison control center somewhere highly visible, like your refrigerator.

Teenage Acne: As a Parent, What You Need to Know – Part II

In my last post I discussed the pathophysiology of acne and how a pimple is formed. From the initial plugging of the duct going from the small gland in the skin to the outside to the colonization of the thick material stuck in the duct with bacteria. The growth of bacteria and the eventual formation of a pimple was the final common pathway to the process.

All of the forms of treatment are aimed at relieving one of the above factors. The simplest form of treatment is the use of keratolytic agents which cause the top layers of skin to peal faster than they ordinarily do. You must remember that our skin is constantly pealing and replacing itself. In an effort to prevent plugging of the ducts an effort is made to try to keep the skin pealing frequently.

The two most common keratolytic agents are benzoyl peroxide, and retinoic acid. When used too rapidly these can cause flushing and irritation of the skin, so we usually start using it less frequently than we use it eventually. The other process involves bacteria getting into the pores from the skin (we all have bacteria on our skin) and growing to produce a painful pimple. For this there are a variety of antibiotics that can be used both topically (placed right on the skin) or systemically (taken by mouth). The problem is that the process of formation of a pimple takes quite a long time, and the stimulus for teenage acne (hormones) does not stop while treatment begins. So, it is usually a prolonged process to clear the acne (months versus weeks or days).

There are all types of combinations of medications to use for acne and if one does not work it is reasonable to change products. A few of these are found over the counter such as proactive, but most are prescription medications.

Of course, regular soap and water washes help also and avoidance of picking or squeezing the pimple is very important because it can change simple acne in the skin to a much larger cyst or abscess under the skin that can then scar the skin.

Most kids get some degree of acne at one point or another, but keep reminding your children that there are ways to deal with acne, because is can be an emotionally upsetting time for adolescents.