What To Do When Your Child is Exposed to Inappropriate Content.

African Dad and son

Last week, my auntie called me. She was livid. Her seven year old son had cussed at her in a fit of anger and she could not understand where he had learnt it from since no one in their household uses such vulgar language. A few minutes into the call, we determined that it was probably learnt from a TV show or Youtube, since he’s been spending a lot of time on his new phone. One problem down. Onto the next one; 

“What do I do? How do I deal with this situation?” My auntie asked.

And this was my response:

  1. Don’t Villainize the Act

Once you recover from the shock, it is very natural to proceed to anger and opt to chastise the child in the name of discipline. But our kids probably stumbled upon this inappropriate content by accident. In understanding this, perhaps you could sit them down and have a chat. 

  1. Speak About What He’s Seen

Talk to them about what it was they have seen or heard. In my nephew’s case, he dropped an F bomb on his mother. It would be great to discuss why using the F word is inappropriate as opposed to wagging a finger at him and saying“Don’t do this or that” or “If you do this or that you’ll go to hell” Instead approach it from: 

“Hey son, I understand why you felt you had to use this word, but the reason why I wouldn’t advocate for you to use such words when talking to others, no matter how angry you are, is because it is disrespectful and does not reflect well on your character. If you don’t mind me asking, where did you learn to use these words?”

  1. Have Him Feel Like He Can Always Come to You 

Should they open up to you about where they learnt these words or saw this content for instance: Social Media or Youtube or TV. I would advise refraining from banning them from watching TV or engaging on Social Media. Instead explain to them why you might need to add controls to some of these platforms or limit access. 

For kids under 7 years:

Let them understand that it is your job as their parent to keep them safe from content that is meant for adults, who have a better mental capacity to appreciate them. Then instead of grounding them, you can add PG controls to everything in the home. 

For kids between 7 and 14 years:

This age group is super curious. So they have probably discovered how to work around the PG controls. No problem, Just have them understand that while it is your job to protect them from the dangers of the world, it is also up to them to look out for themselves when it comes to content that is meant for grown ups/adults.

For kids above 15 years

This age group just wants to be treated like adults, even though they are not yet. It is therefore necessary to acknowledge this, and point out the fact that this is content that they will keep running into as they grow and with this realisation comes the fact that like adults they need to be more accountable for themselves and their actions since as their parents we will not always be in a position to protect them as we did when they were younger. However, they can always come to you when they need advise, a second opinion or a third eye.

But I cannot stress this enough. Should you ever find out that your child has been exposed to inappropriate content, whatever you do, do not reprimand them. Take a step back, breathe. It was not their fault.

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