Excerpted in part from Kids Online: Protecting Your Children In
by Donna Rice Hughes (Revell, September 1998)
Parents, teachers, and guardians may find it difficult to distinguish between
normal and healthy childhood sexual experimentation and sexual deviance
resulting from exposure to pornography. The following guidelines, established
by mental health and law enforcement officials, are useful in assessing
sexual disturbance among children.i
These guidelines can also help to identify the symptoms of psychological
damage resulting from exposure to sexual material on the Internet.
Children who have been harmed by viewing pornography may be excessively
curious about or overly preoccupied with sexuality. Some children expose
their genitals to others or engage in a sudden, unusually high level of
Age-Inappropriate Sexualized Behavior
Some children may display sexual knowledge and behavior beyond that which
is appropriate for their age. According to the American Psychiatric Press,
this is one of the few reliable and distinguishing characteristics that
identify sexually abused children. Very young children may enact adult
sexual scenarios and behaviors in their play with other children or with
their dolls and stuffed animals.
Having learned the message that sexual overtures are acceptable ways to
get attention and rewards, children may enter into unhealthy relationships,
particularly with older, age-inappropriate partners. Additionally, believing
the myth generated by pornography that their bodies are for the use of
others, young girls may become promiscuous. Children preoccupied with
sex may attempt to engage younger children in sexual behavior because
younger and smaller children are easier to manipulate and often more cooperative.
Aggressive attempts to undress, sexually touch, or attempt intercourse
with others are not uncommon among sexually preoccupied children. When
a tendency toward secretive play combines with intense sexual preoccupation,
a child may be vulnerable to repeating his or her abuse with other children
in ways that can create chaos and further victimization. Such a child
requires extensive parental supervision and therapeutic help.ii
iStephen Kavanagh, Protecting
Children in Cyberspace (Springfield, VA: Behavioral Psychotherapy
Center, 1997), 63-65.
iiCynthia Monahon, Children
and Trauma (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993), 45.