In this counseling answer:
•Try to install some sort of filter with a password that will prevent him from viewing it.
•Suggest to your parents that they only allow him to view the internet at a certain time when there are other family members in the home monitoring what he is viewing.
•Try to use the internet with him and show him the wholesome and fun websites that you can use together.
•Explain to him why he should not be looking at such inappropriate websites.
Your concern over your younger brother is very admirable and we are glad you wrote to us. As an eight-year-old, it is surprising to me that your brother is allowed to surf the internet by himself. I am also curious also as to why you don’t want your parents to know that your brother has been viewing the sites he has. Is it out of fear that they will punish him severely?
Anyway, it sounds as if your brother’s curiosity is being raised by what he is viewing as he probably does not fully understand or is not familiar with the material. For example, if it is pornographic pictures that he has seen, an 8-year old boy is probably not completely understanding what or why the people in such pictures are doing those things!
It is really important that you do several things in my opinion.
First off, if your brother is going to continue to use the internet by himself, try to install some sort of filter with a password that will prevent him from viewing it.
Moreover, I would suggest that you suggest to your parents that they only allow him to view the internet at certain times, when there are other family members in the home monitoring what he is viewing, in the same way, a parent would monitor what their child is watching on TV.
Better yet, try to use the internet with him and show him the wholesome and fun websites that you can use together. One way to get him away from negative stuff on the internet is to guide him to things that will be fun, educational and appropriate.
Lastly, it is important that you, your parents or another sibling explain to him why he should not be looking at such inappropriate websites. At eight, he is tremendously vulnerable to his own curiosity and if he is not taught that such things should not be viewed and why – in a way that an 8-year old can understand – then he will seek to satisfy his curiosity in other ways.
You must find a way to nip this in the bud and act on it now, and not wait! If it is made clear to him why he shouldn’t look at such things – and your parents would be best to do this probably – along with appropriate restrictions and monitoring on using the internet, then perhaps this will prevent him from surfing the inappropriate sites again.
Always, we must try to strike the balance between control and reason/understanding/educating, so that children understand what are the healthy boundaries in life as put forth by Allah and why they should not cross those boundaries.
From Counselor Abdullah Abdur Rahman
Thank you for writing for us. Dedicated staff and contributors from around the world work very hard to deliver the highest quality services with credibility and distinction. Here are some thoughts for your consideration.
First, how wonderful to see such concerned sisters, ma sha’ Allah! Your brother is blessed because in other families, the younger children suffer from neglect from their parents as well as their elder siblings. In your case, Allah Most High has been merciful because He allowed you to witness an action on your brother’s part that is sinful and the impact of which is harmful to him now and may be harmful in the process of his future development.
May Allah make it easy for you as you are dealing with your brother and may He guide your brother to the right path.
Second, when you say that your brother is a good boy and you ask why does he do this, we can answer that question in two words: curiosity and accidentally. You said that he visited inappropriate sites and we are going to assume you mean sites featuring pornography. It is highly likely that your brother heard about such a Web site or such content from his friends or on television and decided to explore on his own.
Being 8 years old, he most likely does not have a full grasp of sexuality in general and more specifically his own sexuality. So, it is possible that he is curious and just exploring. Another possibility is that your brother stumbled on to the sites in question accidentally.
As disgusting and opportunistic as it sounds, some advertisers actually have pop-up advertisements and very well placed buttons linked to sites with inappropriate contents. One could inadvertently end up on such sites by following links which, for example, young children would not be able to discern as “good” or “bad” sites.
Of course, once they get to those sites, in sha’ Allah, they would know that those sites are bad and that they should not go back to those sites.
Third, in terms of what to do about your brother, we suggest strongly that you talk to him. You need not accuse him and need not confront him. Instead, help him to understand that from now on, someone from the household will have to be with him when he accesses the Internet.
Do not let him get defensive and upset. Just let him know that there are many viruses that can destroy the computer as well as a lot of inappropriate sites whose content is sinful and should not be viewed. You can of course also make technical adjustments by researching how to put certain parental controls on what content can and cannot be accessed via the computer.
If, after your talk, you find that your brother is sneaking around and still trying to access the inappropriate material, then you need to confront him. Sit him down and help him to understand that his eyes will speak out against him on the day of judgment for causing them to view sinful material.
Be assertive but be merciful, in sha’ Allah, and make sure you come to some type of resolution with your brother so that he understands and does not repeat his behavior for his own sake, not just because he is afraid of you.
Finally, make du`aa’ (supplication) to Allah to guide your brother and, in sha’ Allah, to help him be righteous and pious.
While you are helping your brother, protect yourselves as well and make sure that you do not visit those same sites even for a second, because in effect you will be exposing your eyes to the same filth. We make du`aa’ that your brother only accessed the material accidentally and that, in sha’ Allah, with enough support from you and your sisters, he will learn that he is responsible for his own actions in the end.
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