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What to Do If Your Kid Is Watching Porn

by | Feb 24, 2020 | Child & Teen Depression, Kids and Technology, Parenting Tips | 0 comments

When we were growing up, kids were limited to watching porn on a videotape, DVD, or fuzzy cable channel. For today’s generation, however, kids can find it with a two-second Google search — no matter where they are or what time it is. Right now, there are at least 4.5 million porn sites on the web, and every minute, 63,992 new visitors arrive at Pornhub — a popular streaming platform for sexual content. According to our 2019 Annual Report, 70.7% of tweens and 84.0% of teens encountered nudity or content of a sexual nature online.

Different families have different views on porn and sex — and that’s OK! But regardless of how you’ve learned that your child is viewing porn — whether by stumbling across their browsing history or walking behind them on their laptop — you probably have some complicated feelings. In this post, we walk you through how to handle this situation so you can have an important conversation about your child’s emerging interest in sex and sexuality.

Have a Plan for How to Handle It

Your first instinct might be to take away your kid’s phone or laptop if you’ve learned that they’re looking at porn. But that could actually encourage them to not talk to you about difficult issues in their life — and it could lead them to go to greater lengths to hide what they’re doing online. Instead of banning access to technology altogether, come up with a solution that both you and your child can agree to. If your kid is a tween or younger, you might even find that talking through an age-appropriate book about pornography can help guide your conversation.

Your plan of action may vary depending on your family’s values. Options range from making a tech contract with established rules to setting up parental controls that will make it more difficult for your child to access pornography on their device. This can include screen time limits and even web filters. No matter what you choose to do, make sure your child understands why you’ve chosen this course of action, and don’t be afraid to revisit the conversation.

When the Time Comes, Don’t Shame Them

It can be awkward to start a conversation with your child about porn — both for you and for them — and it’s important to keep that in mind. Your child might feel embarrassed, ashamed, upset, or afraid, and a cooling-off period can make a big difference. Instead of making them feel like they’ve done something wrong, make sure to approach the topic calmly. This will help them feel more comfortable opening up and listening.

Sexual curiosity is a natural part of a child’s development, and so is acknowledging that they aren’t “broken” just for having questions about sex. If you haven’t had the “birds and the bees” talk yet, now may be the time. And if you’ve already broached the topic, readdress it and ask if they have any additional questions.

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Talk About How Porn Is Unrealistic

If your kid has been viewing porn, you may want to have a candid conversation about what they’ve seen. Start by explaining that pornography doesn’t always represent what happens when regular people have sex. Your kid’s favorite superhero movie, for example, is fun to watch, but the people in it are just actors and the special effects are all made by computers. Porn is similarly unrealistic in many ways — and it can even perpetuate unhealthy ideas about relationships or body image.

These conversations can also help kids develop the emotional intelligence they need to create healthy relationships. “If we start teaching kids about equality and respect when they are 5 or 6 years old, by the time they encounter porn in their teens, they will be able to pick out and see the lack of respect and emotion that porn gives us,” Miranda Horvath, a sex researcher and professor of psychology at Middlesex University, told The New York Times. “They’ll be better equipped to deal with what they are being presented with.”

Explain the Potential Dangers of Watching Porn

Take the time to explain to your child why, exactly, porn can have a negative effect on them. For some families, this might mean saying that pornography is against their values or moral convictions. But for other families, this might just mean talking about how viewing pornography can give children skewed views about sex. You can also discuss how porn can perpetuate sexist views, especially when it comes to how women are treated.

This is also a good time to talk about consent. No matter how old your child is, you can discuss what that means in age-appropriate ways. If your kid is a tween or younger, you can stick to examples that aren’t necessarily as sexualized. For example, you can talk about the fact that they have to ask their friend’s permission before playing with their toys — in the same way, they should also get someone’s permission before initiating physical contact.

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