THE BLOG
05/24/2013 04:20 pm ET Updated Jul 24, 2013

Kids Start to Watch Porn Online as Early as 6 Years Old

It rather came as a shock that kids start to watch porn online as early as 6 years old. Parents, journalists and organizations worldwide have sent us questions and thoughts about our study that included 19,000 parents worldwide. Everybody knew children were more precocious in the internet age, but the image of a toddler watching porn was deeply troubling. However, most of the questions didn't take into consideration the willingness of the gesture and the fact some parents leave their kids unsupervised in front of computers, tablets or smartphones. And porn is ubiquitous on the internet these days.

As a consequence, more and more children are acting like young adults online. Leave them on the Internet, and they will find their way to the darkest corners of the World Wide Web. At young ages, we might assume they won't do it voluntarily. Mobile adware injected into benign games and innocent websites that redirect them to other pages do the trick. And many online dangers to kids go beyond pornography.

Teenage gangs that bullied children because of race or culture when we were growing up have moved from the neighborhood streets into cyber-space. This is the place where the sky is the limit, and kids can post any violent and racist message that pops into their minds. Teasing other kids through cyber-bullying can be harsher than a playground tussle.

A lot of teenagers access popular "hate" websites that discriminates on the basis of race, religion and sex. Some such sites even belong to terrorist organizations, evoking the disturbing image of children taking part in terrorist-sponsored chats. More than 17 per cent of all children reading or posting hateful messages online are 14 years old, followed by 15 year-olds at 16.52 percent and 16 year-olds at 12.05 percent.

Our study showed teenagers don't like to chat on Instant Messaging as much as they did before. With other temptations around, who has time for this infantile activity? Well, it would appear that infants do. Our research showed 3.45 percent of kids chatting with their IM friends are five years old. Of course, they can barely type or read, but they learn when enticed by the wonders of the internet.

Other troubling figures show 2 percent of computer game addicts are only five and some kids flirt on the Internet from the age of 8. It came as no surprise that children might lie about their age when creating social network profiles, especially on Facebook, where they must be at least 13 to sign up. Almost a quarter of the kids participating in the study had at least one social network account at age 12, while 17 percent were social media users at 10.

Our study has certainly had an impact, and I hope it raises awareness among children. It has certainly raised my awareness, and re-shaped my expectations for parenthood.

When I have children, I will, of course, teach them not to play with matches. I'll also teach them to think twice before installing Android apps from unofficial market places. I'll teach them not to speak with their mouth full, and to only play with devices that come with top-of-the-line security software. They'll learn that "sticks and stones may break my bones but parental control software will never hurt me."