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SALT LAKE CITY — How many feet in a mile? That was the homework question 8-year-old Milo Valentine asked his mom if he could Google.
The question sounded harmless enough, but the body part that popped up as his answer had nothing to do with miles.
"It was just horrifying," said Milo's mom Megan Valentine. "It's just really disheartening as a parent."
Milo didn't know what to do. "Like, OK, I guess I'll just ‘X' out of this," he said.
That homework experience illustrates a whole new area of material parents need to cover as they prepare to have "The Talk" with their children.
The topic used to come up as schools sent home fliers for the maturation program. The school gym and corny black- and-white-videos would segue into a talk about the birds and the bees.
But now, parents have to go beyond the birds and the bees to include pornography.
"Children from 8 to 10 are being exposed to porn, and often it happens very innocently and accidentally," said Child Psychiatrist Dr. Keri Herrmann. "These images will stay with them. They will bombard them."
This conversation also needs to take place much earlier than many parents realize if they want to reach their children before the Internet images do, now that even young children do homework, socialize and play games on the computer.
High school sophomore Haden Fillmore agrees. "It seems like it's gotten bigger lately," he said. "It just comes so easy through Facebook and stuff."
"I would talk to them early," said Herrmann. "I think it's always good to be preventative and talk to them before there is a problem."
It's just like drugs or alcohol, you want to warn them and prepare them so they have some skills. You want to let them know this is a problem you're comfortable talking about and they can always come to you if something happens.
–Dr. Keri Herrmann
Many parents take the familiar precautions, hoping to protect their children, but they've learned the hard way, they can't always be looking over their children's shoulders.
"We're told to keep your computers in an open area in the home, which we do, but that's still not enough," said Julie Schow.
Kristy Wihongi, mother of five, echoes Schow's sentiments: "As soon as you think that you're safe, something happens and you realize, wow, I thought we were OK."
As a result, Wihongi had the "new talk" with her daughter Tasman and tried to keep the dialogue ongoing.
"I think it's good that we talked about it," Tasman said. "I kind of already knew to avoid that stuff because it's just, like, wrong and gross."
But that's not always easy to do, especially in Utah.
A study by Benjamin Edelman, an assistant business professor at the Harvard School of Business, identified Utah as the No. 1 state in the nation that subscribes to pornography. His article, "Red Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment," analyzed several variables and Utah ranked tops in every one of them.
"It's just like drugs or alcohol," said Herrmann. "You want to warn them and prepare them so they have some skills and they know how to avoid certain things. You want to do the same thing with pornography."
Herrmann and others recommend basic tips:
- Let your children know you're comfortable talking about it and that they can come to you.
- Talk with them early, before there is a problem.
- Don't try to cover it all in one session. Start with a little and judge their reaction.
For more tips on talking to kids and teens about pornography, Former First Lady Jackie Leavitt has a curriculum called iKeepsafe. Even she told KSL she was developing materials for teens; she realized she had to aim earlier to elementary schools.