PROVO — Spammers and pornography peddlers don't have any qualms about having the "porn talk" with children — neither should parents, said speakers at a "Communities for Decency" conference Saturday.

"Many of you have never, ever seen as an adult what your children have already seen," said Charles Knutson, host of the nonprofit program Internet Safety Podcast. "You either are going to have the pornography conversation with your child, or your child is going to suffer."

The conference, titled the Technology Summit, focused on how parents can combat the risks of technology. Speakers said parents should be aware that children have almost constant access to pornographic material through the Internet, Internet-enabled cell phones and video-gaming systems.

Ninety percent of children between the ages of 8 and 16 have viewed pornography online, said Knutson, a computer science professor at Brigham Young University. Most of these stumbled upon pornography while doing homework.

"The benefits of the Internet to the world are unprecedented," said Knutson, who has 10 children. "As a computer scientist, I'm excited. As a father, I'm absolutely as terrified as you are."

Knutson gave conference attendees a quick tour of the different ways parents can monitor Internet use. On the basic level, he said, parents can make a habit of checking the browser history on their home computers. Some children are tech-savvy enough to selectively delete entries in the history, however, so parents should learn how to check the cache and cookies on their computers as well.

Other options include automatic filters that monitor the type of content Internet users can access. In extreme cases, Knutson said, parents can install software that will record their child's keystrokes.

"You've got to understand you have the right to manage your child's access to material on the computer," Knutson said. "The bottom line is you have to somehow seize control."

This advice also holds true for cell phones, which, in most cases, can take and receive photos as well as download Internet content, said Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings.

Rawlings was recently involved in prosecuting 19 teenagers for allegedly using cell phones to produce and distribute child pornography. The crimes were on par with felony misconduct, but because of the children's ages, 13 to 15, Rawlings reduced the charges to misdemeanors in all but one case.

Even if a child is not directly involved in taking nude photos, there is a chance they have or will receive such material, Rawlings said.

"If your children are armed with this type of technological capability, they're vulnerable," he said. "Don't be afraid to do something. Learn what you can and can't control through your cell-phone provider. Set rules. Have an open dialogue with children."

Rawlings argued that the sexualization of society, propelled by pornographic material, is affecting children's judgment and behavior. Most of the teenagers who were taking and passing along naked photos of themselves were "good kids," he said. "They are so bombarded with sexual material that this is somewhat normal to them," Rawlings said. "It may even be considered socially acceptable. This is the type of stuff they see."

Rawlings expressed concern that society's casual attitude about pornography may contribute to sex crimes.

"I can't remember being involved in a case dealing with a sexual offense against a child where porn wasn't a tie-in," he said. Fraser Bullock, founder of Citizens Against Pornography, agreed that pornography is one of the biggest dangers facing today's youth.

"We need to focus on the rising generation because we know how at risk they are," he said. "Let's protect those kids and those innocent minds."


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