Some parents might think the only way to stop the infiltration of pornography and sexual images into the minds of their children, especially their teenage sons, is by simply cutting off the source of the material. They would consider, for instance, not even installing or disconnecting the internet or throwing out the television from the home.
But while this may solve the problem temporarily, it does not teach young Muslims how to deal with this material when they see it everywhere else: on billboards, bus shelters and magazines, or even when mistakenly typing in the wrong url on a computer at a friend's house, for instance.
Nor does it encourage them to avoid this material when they have the opportunity to look at it outside of parental control.
Below are some ways to help your child avoid pornography and inappropriate sexual images whenever and wherever he or she encounters them. Please note though, this is not a comprehensive list of possibilities, nor should all of the strategies presented be used with your child. Choose the right ones that can help him or her depending on age and previous exposure to this kind of material.
1. Know the Islamic perspective yourself
Pornography is absolutely not allowed in Islam http://soundvision.com/info/life/porn/isporn.asp. Do your research by reading up about this topic and talking to another trusted parent, as well as your local Imam or Muslim scholar to get a clearer understanding.
Additional research could also be done to find more reasons to not get involved with pornography. For example, find out about the danger it poses to one's health, concentration, the way it portrays women and affects marriages.
2. Teach by example
A child who sees his/her father ogling pornographic magazines and staring at bikini-clad women at the beach in summer or a mother not changing the channel when an inappropriate scene shows up on television, is unlikely to take advice against watching porn and similar type of material seriously. As God reminds us in the Quran, we've got to practice what we preach.
3. Establish your right and authority as a parent to know
Establish parental authority gently and wisely. Remind your children through words and actions that while you love them and want to be close to them, this does not mean you are "friends". As the parent, you have the final say when it comes to their well-being. You have a right to know who their friends are, where they are and what they are doing for the sake of their own safety. That includes knowing what shows they watch, what magazines they read and what websites they visit.
4. Sit down and have a direct but non-confrontational talk about it
Deciding when and how to do this requires taking into consideration many different factors: the age of your child, whether s/he has been exposed to or sought out pornography recently, etc. But the sooner you do this the better, since children growing up in the United States are exposed to sexual imagery and innuendo very early on through television and even cartoons in some cases. According to Sex on TV 4, a biennial study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the number of sexual scenes on television has nearly doubled since 1998. http://www.kff.org/entmedia/entmedia110905pkg.cfm
The talk should cover the topic in a brief but straightforward way, without assuming guilt on the part of your child. Here are some ideas (LINK TO NEW ARTICLE):
5. Instill accountability to God
Kids need to be gently reminded that Allah, Who is very Merciful and Kind, is always watching them, even when mom and dad are not. That means a person needs to act and speak in the right manner at all times as much as possible because God is always aware of what we are doing, saying and thinking and we will be held accountable for our deeds.
6. Warn them about God's punishment and the Hellfire
While this should not be the sole focus of any upbringing, when it comes to the issue of pornography, reminding kids of God's punishment could help them. But what should also be mentioned is that Allah is Forgiving and Merciful and if anyone asks His forgiveness and stops doing the wrong thing they were previously involved in, Allah will forgive them.
7. Watch TV with them
You can do this by simply taking the remote control, and every time a scene comes up which is inappropriate, quickly changing the channel and making a sound of disgust. This can be used as a form of conditioning, where your child will see pornographic and/or inappropriate material and know that this is wrong by your reaction. He or she will associate the two and avoid looking at the material even if not under your supervision. Do the same if you come across similar types of images on websites, magazines or billboards in their presence.
8. Make family time
People often turn to the media when they're bored. This is why family time at least once a week is important. Whether it's taking everyone out for ice cream on Friday night, going to the Masjid as a family on Sundays for classes or playing a board game together, keeping the kids entertained the right way, together as a family, will reduce boredom and the need to turn to TV and the Internet to have fun.
9. Get them involved in good activities
Is there a good Muslim youth group in your city? Get your son or daughter to join. If not, start one up with the cooperation of other parents. Also, get them involved in things like sports and volunteer work.
10. Check their friends
More often than not, kids get their information about sex from friends who often mislead them instead of giving them the right perspective. The same is true when it comes to pornographic material. If you find that some of your children's friends are involved with porn, talk to the kids if they are receptive, or their parents. If that doesn't work, keep your child away from these children.
By the same token, help your kids befriend those who are practicing Muslims of the same age, who can provide them with fun and companionship, without sacrificing their Islamic principles.
11. Get involved with their school
If you want to really know what kind of material your kid is being taught and what kinds of ideas he or she is being exposed to, helping out in school is your ticket. Involvement brings access to teachers, the principal and an insider's view of what is being taught and talked about in class discussions.
12. When they're old enough, talk about pornography
This should be done in the context of a discussion on modesty, and it should be done discreetly, in a gradual way, according to their age (see tips on how to talk to your kids about sex). Talk openly and clearly, asking their opinion about this issue (this is a great way to indirectly find out what friends and peers at school are saying or doing about it), and give them the Islamic perspective.
13. Install filters or get an Internet service which is porn-free
There are many safe surfing tools available for the internet and there are TV sets which come equipped for parental blocking of some channels. Invest in these technologies.
14. Establish ground rules for the computer
Apart from setting hours for internet use for every family member, you can also make it clear what kind of material is acceptable to view or not.
Some other helpful rules for safe computer use that all kids should know are: (courtesy Protect Your Kids http://www.protectyourkids.info/)
- Never give out identifying information such as your address, phone number, school name, town, etc. in chat rooms, forums, forms or questionnaires.
- Never agree to meet anyone in person that you have met online.
- Never reply to any email, chat messages, or forum items that make you feel uncomfortable.
- Never send information or pictures to anyone over the Internet that you do not know.
- Never give your password to anyone except your parents, no matter who they say they are.
- Be aware that people may not be who they say they are. Someone who says she is a 10-year old girl may really be an older man.
- Never click on links in emails from people you don't know.
- Don't order anything or give anyone credit card information without your parent's permission.
- Always tell your parents if someone upsets you or makes you uncomfortable.
- Always follow your parents' rules regarding computer use.
15. Control of the password
To surf the Internet, you often need a password to access it from your computer. The only people in the house who should have this password when the kids are young are mom and dad. No one else. Parents should also keep changing it every couple of weeks so the kids don't figure it out.
16. Keep the computer and TV of the house in a high traffic area
It's harder to watch porn if the computer is in the living room or dining room where everyone else can see it. A television or computer in a child's bedroom is a huge temptation. Don't be surprised to discover your child is doing some late-night/very early morning web and channel surfing if they've got these items in their bedroom. Immediately move the computer to a high traffic area in the house.
17. If you catch them looking, get proof before you confront them
Don't respond in this kind of situation by losing your cool. Instead, gather all of the proof you can that they have gone on pornographic sites or have been looking at these kinds of magazines first. This can be done by going to the "History" option on the menu bar of your browser to see which sites s/he viewed or has been viewing.
18. Assume the best and confront them
Straightforwardly tell your child what you've found them watching/seeing. Talk openly but without accusation. Ask why they were looking at these things. If they say it was out of their control, it just came up while they were surfing, take their word for it. But mention again accountability to Allah and His punishment, and talk about trust- how it is broken when these type of things happen intentionally (and assume they are innocent). Also talk about how hard trust is to win back and how it affects the amount of freedom and privileges they will have access to in the future with you.
19. Chaperone Internet time, sometimes
This can be done occasionally, or it can be done regularly. But it's a good idea to have a "pop inspection", so the kids know mom or dad are watching while they surf or watch television. You could use the opportunity to show them some cool Islamic sites or the Discovery Channel, so they don't feel they are being pronounced guilty until proven innocent.
20. Have them build their own fabulous Islamic website
Help them build a great webpage or website full of bright color, games, quizzes, and generally cool stuff so they can help other kids surf right too.
21. Consider removing the internet, cable, or TV, in the case of repeat offenses
If pornographic sites/inappropriate material continue to show up when you check on your kid(s), warn them that if it happens again, the television will be thrown out and they will be limited to only one internet session a day, fully chaperoned, for not more than 15 minutes to check email or chat. Also consider making an appointment for your child with a youth counselor who deals with the issue of pornography, as well as a trusted local Imam or leader who can maintain confidentiality, to talk about the problem.