Do you know what your teenager is really looking at online? Parksville resident and certified sexual health educator Kerri Isham says most parents don't, and it can lead to devastating consequences.
Isham will host a two-hour seminar for parents at the Beban Park Social Centre on Wednesday, Nov. 6 called "Six Must-Have Conversations With Your Teen." Isham said it is nearly impossible for parents to always know what a child is doing on the web thanks to technology advances and a generational gap, which is why communication is vital.
"Parents need to have early communication - way earlier than they think - with young kids about sexual health education and the perils of looking at sexualized images," she said.
"Before, (to learn about sex), we may have looked at our magazines or things like that, but what they have access to now is really degrading, dehumanizing and objectifying towards women. Our young people are mimicking behaviour they see in pornography thinking that the things they see are normal."
She added that despite parents' best efforts, there are many different venues for kids to access now that parents just can't be aware of - she named a "Hot or Not" iPhone app that allows users to rate people based on their appearance, and a website called Omegle where the slogan is "talk to strangers" as examples. Isham wants parents to understand kids can get addicted to pornography in the same way they can get addicted to drugs or alcohol.
"There is a high chance for addiction for teenagers looking at pornography because it actually rewires the brain and can lead to personality changes in young people," she said.
"We wouldn't leave cocaine on the table for our kids to access, we wouldn't say it's OK for them to go into a car with a drunk driver, so why would we let them look on the Internet without any parental supervision or any parental control on there?" Isham stressed that parents should develop communication methods about Internet pornography with kids without perpetuating shame.
The six topics she will cover during her two-hour Nanaimo seminar are: consent, sexual harassment, sexting, gender violence and sexual fluidity. Tickets are $25 and available online at www.powerupworkshops.ca under "workshops" then "parents" tabs.
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