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How to Talk to Your Kids about Porn

 

There's no sugarcoating it: It's likely your kid will come across porn online, even through completely innocent searches. In all honesty, haven't you come across adult content when searching for something unrelated?  I once looked up Girl Scout cookies under Google images and stumbled across some different "cookies" I wasn't looking for if you know what I mean? Parents may find themselves confronting this issue much sooner than imagined, with kids who may not even understand exactly what sex is yet. 

If younger kids are frequent Internet users...

It's a good idea to implement some of the following prevention tactics to reduce the chances they'll be exposed to inappropriate images or video. 

  • Put computers in common areas of the home (not in bedrooms)
  • Use software and parental controls to make devices safer
  • To prevent accidental exposure, consider configuring your search engine for “Safe search.” You can do that within Google, but an easier option is to use SafeKids.com Child Safe Search page that’s powered by Google. Yahoo also has a safe search setting as does  Microsoft’s Bing
  • Use family contracts to set rules and limits for device use. Here is one from Common Sense Media I love.
  • Contact your cell phone carriers for parental monitoring options 

If you think your kids might encounter porn online, either by accident or on purpose, it's a good idea to explain what pornography is in an age-appropriate way. This is a good talk to have after your child knows what sex is. 

  • Tell your kids that it's natural to be curious. Avoid saying something that may make them feel ashamed.
  • Make sure they know you're available to talk about any subject -- nothing's off the table. 
  • Look for other resources -- courses, books, age-appropriate websites, movies -- that can educate your kids about sex, intimacy, puberty, and relationships. 
  • It is best to address porn ahead of time, not after the fact.
  • Have "The Talk" about porn. Watch the video above for scripts on what to say. You could watch it along with your child even as I filmed it as though I was talking to a 9-12 year old child. You're welcome! :) 
  • Teach them to click away from content that is clearly not intended for kids their age and explain that certain stuff on the Internet is for adults only.

If it is after the fact, your child saw porn and they tell you...

  • Praise them for telling you.
  • Ask what they saw or what site they went to (you can also look at the computer history so you know what you are dealing with).
  • Ask how it made them feel and what questions they have about what they saw.
  • Tell your kids that it's natural to be curious. Avoid saying something that may make them feel ashamed.
  • Explain the difference between fantasy and reality when it comes to sexually explicit material. Tell children that people in porn films are “actors and actresses and that they’re not in loving relationships."  
  • What they saw is for adults, not for kids.  
  • Teach them to click away from content that is clearly not intended for kids their age.
  • Tell them that if they have questions they can and should come to you.

If you discover porn on your child's device (they didn't tell you)

  • Stay calm - Don't overreact.
  • Take a deep breath and spend some time thinking about the situation before you do anything. If possible, talk it over with the child’s other parent before confronting the child.
  • Avoid saying something that may make them feel ashamed.
  • Ask to speak with your child after you have decided what you want to say.
  • Say, "Today I looked through your device and I found something that concerns me. I'd like to talk to you about it. I noticed you visited some adult websites. It's normal to be curious or have questions about sex. I'd like for you to come to me with your questions first and not look them up on the internet. Here is why...."
  • Some whys could be:
    • This content is for adults and not for kids.
    • You can't unsee something. 
    • There is a lot of sexy images and video online that is not representative of what sex truly is or what most people do in the privacy of their bedrooms. 
    • I don't want you to think what you saw is what sex is all about.
    • I want you to have healthy relationships as an adult. 
    • I want you to have a good self-esteem about your body and respect other people's bodies.

If you catch your child in the act

  • Both you and your child will likely be embarrassed, but try to stay calm. It is possible your child was masturbating. If so, shut the door and discuss later.
  • If s/he closes their device quickly and you don't see what it is tell them, "You seem embarrassed by what you were doing on your computer. What are you up to?" (watch your tone) Ask them to come to a different room in the house to talk. 
  • When talking with your child, consider bringing up some of the consequences of spending time on these types of sites. There is often very graphic sex as well as a variety of divergent sexual practices that can be especially problematic for someone who has little or no sexual experience.
  • Explain your family's policy on viewing Internet porn. One thing to consider discussing is that some porn sites can introduce harmful viruses onto your home computer.
  • Consider if you are giving a warning or a consequence.  If you go with the latter, I recommend making a consequence minor for the first offense. For example, no computers in their bedroom or take their device away for a few days.  If it continues to happen after your discussion you can adjust the consequences accordingly.

Today the sex industry has become the main sex educator for many children. According to a research study conducted by MediaSmarts, 23 percent of students in Grades 7 to 11 say they have searched out pornography online, with 28 percent of the boys admitted they looked for porn at least once a week.

Here are some tips for older kids:

  • Explain that pornography typically presents the extremes of human relationships -- and that the people depicted are usually paid actors. It's not representative of real intimacy.
  • Explain your family's policy on viewing Internet porn. One thing to consider discussing is that some porn sites can introduce harmful viruses onto your home computer.
  • Talk about dangers of sexting (sending or receiving nude pictures or videos). Sending or receiving pictures of a minor could put your child at risk for being in possession of child pornography. A serious crime that could result in having to be registered as a sex offender. 
  • If the teen is looking at pornography for hours at a time, or is collecting it, then you may have a more serious problem that requires professional help.

Conversations like this are part of parenting. I know it is a tough talk, but ultimately it can be good for your children and your relationship with them. You've got this. 

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