HELP, MY KID HAS SEEN PORN: WHAT NOW?!
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HELP, MY KID HAS SEEN PORN: WHAT NOW?!

HELP, MY KID HAS SEEN PORN: WHAT NOW?!

This is a question I have been asked a lot since my TEDx talk, where I spoke about my own journey in healing an unhealthy relationship with pornography. Check out the talk HERE

Although it is close to home for all of us in this age, I can relate to the discomfort in talking about this taboo topic. For me though, there are some key reasons why parents HAVE to create the kind of relationship with their children where this conversation can take place:

  1. Your child will see porn – it is a WHEN, not an IF.
  2. Your whole family need to understand the real consequences of early porn exposure and the potential addiction styled behaviour it can lead to.
  3. If you aren’t making sure they know about the “facts of life”, their reality will be learnt from online pornography and their friends.

So, what should you do? Take a deep breath and keep calm!

As always, we are looking for practical digital parenting tips, so I want to give you a simple conversational structure, some context behind how you approach the conversation, and a few videos that can help you have the conversation with your children.

First up, the context. The conversation about porn is just the tip of a bigger iceberg of topics which are challenging to talk about, and the reason is simply that we don’t practice them enough. That iceberg contains lots of other scary “growing up” topics that you’ll have to address with your tween or teen – like, how to interact with girls/boys, what is the difference between homo and hetro sexuality (and everything in between and beyond), being dumped in a relationship, being rejected by friends, having sex (in its many various forms), drug and alcohol use … you can add to this seemingly endless list.

They all require you to be present, vulnerable and have courage to talk about them, and the conversation about porn is no different!

 Context is great, but what do I DO?

As the parent, you need to approach the conversation with an understanding of how much info your child can take in before they shut down due to discomfort and embarrassment! I would recommend keeping the chat to no more than 10 minutes initially and choosing a time when other siblings who don’t need to hear it are away, and your child is in a fairly chilled mood.

If you have already discovered that your child has viewed pornography, whether accidentally or intentionally, then go ahead and have this conversation as soon as you can. Just know that, to get ahead of the game, you really do need to have this chat with your child somewhere between 10 and 12 years old (statistics put the average age of exposure to porn at 11 years of age, but kids as young as 8 are coming across it!).

Asking your child to watch these videos first, may help you to get started.  Note our strategy of using technology productively!

This first one explains how porn affects your brain – check it out HERE

The second one is a series of celebrities talking about what they think about porn and why they don’t watch it – check it out HERE

You may also want to watch this video for a summary of the science behind WHY porn use should be limited – check it out HERE

Ready to start the conversation?

Here are some pointers:

Your children are part of the first generation to grow up with internet access, and this is a whole new challenge for you as a parent as well as for them as kids.

Whilst you might have seen porn in magazines or via video tapes when you were growing up, the video streaming of high-speed internet porn today is much worse for children because it reduces their ability to think through decisions before they make them, by changing the structure of their brains (research) and reduces their self-control, which is more important than how ‘smart’ they may be (research).

If digging into the science is too much for right now, simply explain to your child that because human beings are always looking for new experiences, and we have a natural drive to connect with potential sexual partners, Porn offers a hyper-stimulating low-risk vehicle to feed our natural desire for connection, however it has untold negative effects and creates a false understanding of how partners are attracted and what intimacy is really like.

Sex in movies, and porn more specifically, is pretend stuff, and not what sex is like in real life. Expecting relationships, and sex, in particular, to be like what they see in movies and porn, is as crazy as expecting to meet Spiderman in the street when we see Tom Holland (or use any other example of your child’s favourite character/actor!)

You can go into various levels of detail here depending on how comfortable your child is at this point, or how much info you think they need, using the comparison below contrasting fantasy and reality to structure your points:

Leave the conversation open and on-going, with the opportunity for questions from your child. This conversation around ‘exposure’ needs to be brought up constantly as your child develops into an adolescent and then a young adult. It is a great opportunity to develop the strength of your relationship with them, so that they will always come to you first when they need support.

Remind them that you are always available if they need support, and let them know that you will check in on this conversation again in a few weeks.

Congratulations – you have quite possibly changed the course of your child’s life!