Pornography is prevalent in our society, and increasingly more accessible. As parents, we rely on internet filters and parental controls to protect our children.
Knowing which apps and websites have easy access to explicit content, and how kids bypass these filters, can help you protect your child better.
Apps with Hidden Pornography
We often hear about the dangers of social media. However, there is a misconception among many parents that parental controls on phones will completely protect their children.
Parents are working against a powerful system.
The length of time a viewer spends on a piece of content, even how long they pause on an image, gives social media algorithms insight into our hidden interests. The app then uses that data to feed our kids similar content in greater quantities.
Kids are smart and tech-savvy, so they can learn to bypass parental controls. Here are five apps where kids can be exposed to pornography and ways they avoid being found out.
TikTok is the most used social media network by minors. Experts report that children spend an average of 91 minutes daily on the app.  During all this time, kids can easily be exposed to pornography in the following ways.
While scrolling through the ‘For You’ page—a TikTok area where users can explore and watch videos uploaded by strangers—kids may encounter pornography and explicit content.
Our employees saw explicit images within 10 seconds of scrolling this page.
A spokeswoman for TikTok said the app has no way to differentiate between videos shown to adults versus videos shown to kids. 
Searching TikTok hashtags is also a common way to access pornography.
As a method of bypassing control algorithms, hashtags can seem perfectly innocent or be intentionally misspelled. For example, #orangeyoutube is actually code for Pornhub and won’t be flagged as inappropriate.
Search history deleted
TikTok makes it easy for kids to clear their search history.
Nearly 40% of Gen Zers prefer using TikTok and Instagram over Google when performing online searches.
User history is available for seven days, but users can turn this feature off or delete it entirely. Once it is deleted, parents have no way of knowing what their kids have been explosed to on the app.
Instagram is a popular photo-sharing app that lets you connect with nearly anyone. As such, pornography is easy to find using hashtags and within user profile URLs.
Instagram’s Community Guidelines allow nude photos if certain parts are covered or blurred. Although explicit images considered art are marked and only available to individuals over 18, it is easy to lie when creating an Instagram account. Many photos makes it past these guidelines.
Kids can also delete their search history and interactions (which include comments or image likes) on Instagram’s Your activity page. Once it’s deleted, it’s gone for good.
Snapchat is popular among teens for its fun filters and disappearing snaps (photos and videos sent within the app).
The function allows kids to share explicit images, including nudes, with the hope that the images will disappear once they have been viewed. This is not true in reality, since the receiver can take a screenshot before the image disappears.
59% of users have received unsolicited nudes on Snapchat.
Since snaps disappear, parents can be completely unaware of what their child is seeing on Snapchat.
In addition to explicit content, Snapchat’s disappearing features make it a breeding ground for cyberbullying.
Twitter is an online news and social networking site where people communicate in short messages called tweets. Users can track other users and content through hashtags.
Trending hashtags on Twitter often get hijacked by spammers and contain pornography. 
Hashtags are where the porn is.
Since Twitter functions as its own search engine, kids can use it to access pornography often undetected. Searches within Twitter will not appear when parents search web browsers for explicit content.
Known for its pinned boards with inspirational crafts and decor, Pinterest is another app that kids can use as a search engine. Just like Twitter, these explicit searches are not found when parents comb the history of their web browsers.
Codewords for pornography
When searching for an explicit word directly, you will receive a message stating “Some nudity is okay for Pinterest, some isn’t.” However, searching for codewords will reveal suggestive images.
For example, #boudoir will bring up images of women in lingerie and sexually suggestive poses. While technically there are no fully nude photographs, these publicly available images are still not appropriate for children.
Some nudity is okay for Pinterest, some isn’t.—Pinterest Search Message
Although Pinterest uses technology and human review to filter out some intentionally explicit content, some images still make it through.
The Effects of Pornography on Young Minds
Experts and families have realized how damaging pornography can be to a child’s relationships, sexual development, and general well-being.
Objectifies human beings
All pornography objectifies women, men, and children as commodities to be sold and consumed. Explicit content often depicts women as submissive or abused, including a frightening category of “rape porn” fantasizing about sexual abuse.
This can result in unrealistic expectations about sexual performance, the normalization of abuse, and a distorted view of consent. 
Diminishes relationship satisfaction
Significant pornography consumption in youth can diminish self esteem and reduce relationship satisfaction.  Further, their time spent alone with a screen has negative social and academic consequences. 
While this may sound frightening, please know all is not lost if your child is viewing pornography. There are ways to help your child discussed later in this article.
To avoid getting in trouble, kids hide their activities when they feel ashamed. Maintaining secrets increases shame, resulting in lower self-esteem. 
Some kids worry that if their parents find out about their online activities, they will lose their phone or internet privileges. Consequently, many become experts at deception.
How Can Parents Help?
Laws trying to ban pornography have continually failed to pass because of infringement upon First Amendment rights. Pornography is here to stay, but there are ways parents can help their children withstand the onslaught.
Most kids who initially seek out pornography do so because they are intrigued. Curiosity about bodies and sex is not deviant behavior, but rather normal part of human development.
We can best protect our children by having uncomfortable conversations without shaming them into hiding their natural curiosity.
Do all you can to remove guilt from the narrative of pornography use. Shame is a risk factor that is associated with poorer recovery and increased risk of mental health conditions.
Self-forgiveness can be an antidote to shame and reduce negative experiences. 
Most data suggests that the average age of first exposure to online pornography is between 9 and 11.
Sex education can help satisfy children’s curiosities and prevent them from seeking answers on the internet, which will inevitably expose them to pornography.
Have open conversations
Talking to our kids about sex and pornography often and openly is vital to their well-being. Though it may seem awkward at first, you are your child’s best teacher, not the internet.
Kids need to know that parents are a much better source of information about sex than Google.
When talking with your child, avoid labels such as addiction. Labeling a young person as an addict can have serious implications, and pornography viewing does not automatically mean a person is addicted.
If you suspect your child has a diagnosable porn addiction, seek professional help for more guidance on how to help.
How to CHAT About Pornography with Kids
- C – Correct terms used when discussing body parts
- H – Healthy exchanges of affection look nothing like pornography
- A – Ask open-ended questions about what they already know
- T – Take charge of the narrative
Reading a book together such as Good Pictures, Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids can really open up conversations that feel more natural. For younger audiences (ages 3-6+), consider Good Pictures, Bad Pictures Jr.
There is Hope
If your child is viewing pornography, you are not alone. There is hope. Staying calm and removing shame are keys to helping your child feel comfortable talking to you so you can help them.
As needed, reach out for professional help while continuing to support and love your child through it all.
As parents, we can control the narrative when it comes to pornography. We have the knowledge and experience to guide our children through this difficult topic.
Speak confidently to show your child that you feel comfortable taking about sex and pornography. This will help them open up without shame.
Receive more resources and support to help your family at Gabb Family Resources.