Eyes Wide Open —9 Ideas to help kids respond to pornography.
As tempting as it may be, the solution to helping kids address the issue of pornography is not to cover our eyes, put our fingers in our ears while loudly singing la-la-la-la. There are resources available to us. As parents we need to find the resources that suit our family, cultivate them, and put them to good use.
We simply can’t ignore the issue and hope our families will come out unscathed. Statistics show that our children will see pornography before they go on their first date. Current reports demonstrate, that 9 out of 10 youth between the ages of 8 to 16, have been exposed to pornography and 80% of unwanted exposure to pornography occurs at home. If left unchecked these experiences can have a serious negative impact on a child’s well-being. This is why we must be a generation of parents who are willing to openly discuss the subject of pornography with our children. We may not be able to completely prevent their exposure to pornography, but we can teach them how to respond to it. When taught carefully, children are able to reject pornography.
The purpose of this website is to share ideas and resources that will help families, children and teens build an immunity against the damaging effects of today’s pornography. Let’s get started!
These are just some of the ways we can help our families be more aware and respond when they have been exposed to pornography. What resources have you come across that you can share with us?
How to handle having the “other” talk with your kids.
Let’s face it…talking about pornography with your kids may not be the easiest thing you’ll ever do. Even the very idea of such a conversation, may make you feel a little (or a lot) anxious. But taking the time to figure out what could work best for your family, may be one of the best things you do as a parent.
There is no right way, no set formula. Each parent is different; each child is different. It’s not always going to be comfortable to talk frankly about pornography and sexual intimacy with your children. Then again, you may be the type of parent who is really open around these kinds of topics. When it comes down to it, you are the one who will know best how to help your family.
Chances are, no matter what your comfort level, you are going to feel on more than one occasion, that you’ve messed up. That your child isn’t responding to your concerns. That you’ve said all the wrong things.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Our greatest resource to combat the negative effects of pornography, is open communication between parents and child. Each time you revisit the subject it will get easier. It will get better. Here are a few ideas that will help you begin:
A Desire for Change. When a child comes to you and says, “Can we talk? I’ve been looking at pornography. I’m really sorry, but I want to stop.”
As a parent, you’ll probably feel a wide range of emotions. Many of which will be negative. Do your best to remain calm. Shove the negative stuff aside to deal with when you are on your own. Realize for a moment what an incredible thing has just happened. First, your child recognizes that pornography is not good. Second, your child believes that he can find help by opening up to someone he trusts. And third your child chose you to talk to YOU! Coming to you was probably one of the hardest things your child has ever done. Be sure you tell him how proud you are of him for having the courage to come and talk to you and how much love you have for him.
Do-overs. Let’s assume for a moment you weren’t the perfect parent (just imagine!) and you absolutely lost it when you discovered a child’s habits with pornography. Remind yourself that you are human too. Once you’ve calmed down, tell your child you messed up and you would like to have the conversation again, the right way. (See above.) Punishing a child/teen for viewing pornography, will only create distance between you. Let your child know that you are prepared to help him have as many do-overs as needed until you can beat this issue together.
Interest in Sex is Normal. Reassure your child that it is normal to be interested in sexuality and that you are so grateful he was ready to talk to you about his habits with pornography. Allow your child to do most of the talking. Ask why he thinks pornography is harmful? Talk as long as your child wants to talk. When he’s done tell him you have some other thoughts but you want to talk about them after you’ve both had a chance to think about things. Ask if you can follow up again. Leave the conversation with the opportunity to come back to it later.
Using your brain. A basic understanding of brain science is essential to fight against the pull to use pornography. If your child is young (age 6-11) use Good Pictures Bad Pictures by Kristen Jenson to learn more about how the thinking part and the feeling part of your brain works. If your child is older (12+) see FightTheNewDrug.com to learn more about how the brain responds to pornography and how we can work to forge new pathways and retrain the brain to develop healthy habits.
Basic Training. In an effort to retrain the brain to avoid pornography, help your child learn to recognize triggers in his life that lead to using porn —stress, people, location, moods. As much as possible, help your child remove those triggers from his life. In severe cases, this may actually include not using the internet for a time. But all decisions need to be made with the child and be a solution he feels good about. You are there to support his resolves, not to punish or dictate how things will be done. Healing the brain from pornography is as much about putting in the good as it is about removing the bad. Help your child fill his day with meaningful activities —hobbies, interests and passions that don’t rely solely on technology. Good eating habits and daily physical activity is also part of the healing process.
Focusing on the light. As you help your child to focus his energies into positive interests, hobbies and relationships, the impact of pornography will eventually lose its grasp in his life. Encourage prayer and meditation as an added source of strength for both you and your child.
These conversations are not always easy and recovery may take time. Expect many stumbles along the way. Put in the extra effort and prepare to help your child get back on track with an unlimited supply of love and encouragement.
Because they’re worth it!
“The path of development is a journey of discovery that is clear only in retrospect, and it’s rarely a straight line.” —Eileen Kennedy-Moore
When a child comes to you for help because he/she has been actively seeking out pornography chances are the viewing habits have been going on for some length of time. Most likely your child has tried to quit on his own and feels a great deal of guilt, shame and fear while coming to speak to you. Now is the time to set aside your emotions and listen with as much love and understanding as you can muster.
Pornography Today It is extremely important for parents to place the subject of pornography in context of what is easily accessible on a multitude of devices. Today’s porn goes far beyond girly magazines and centerfolds. Images and videos depicting group sex, anal sex, abuse of women, children & vulnerable men, as well as other violent and even criminal sexual activities are readily available. The internet has become the perfect breeding ground for a commodity that once took reasonable effort for adults to acquire, and now provides unrestricted use, making it accessible and affordable to anyone, anonymously, regardless of age. These factors present the perfect recipe for addiction.
What is an addiction? Addiction is present when a habit is craved and consumed without control and the resulting consequence of the habit is a negative mental and/or physical effect to one’s health. To truly help someone who has a compulsive struggle with pornography, it is important to understand how pornography affects the brain. The chemical rush the brain receives from viewing pornography brings an immediate feeling of relief and pleasure but quickly leaves the user emotionally depleted. Over time the constant use of pornography can rewire the frontal lobes of the brain causing a change in one’s sexual set-point. Because of this, pornography addiction can be harder to overcome than that of hard drugs.
The Pull of Pornography For a child, the first exposure to pornography often occurs at home by accident while doing homework, doing an innocent word search, playing video games, or using social media apps. Yet, unless a child has been coached to respond appropriately to sexually explicit material we should not expect a child to instinctively look away and run tell a trusted adult. In fact, the exact opposite would be the most common response —even when the content causes distress or anxiety the child will continue looking, and keep it a secret. The child may not know how to identify what he sees as pornography or as being harmful.
Parents need to understand that attraction to sexualized images —including pornography— is a normal biological response at any age. Even subtle images can start a rush of chemicals to the brain with just enough dopamine and oxytocin to convince young viewers that what they are looking at is deceptively pleasureful and rewarding. Combine a child’s natural curiosity to learn with unlimited internet access and one accidental image can suddenly open the door to wide range bizarre, confusing, and increasingly violent sexual images and videos. It does not take long for habits to form and spiral out of control.
Being Part of the Solution The most valuable resource children have for combating the negative effects of pornography in our culture today is parents who care enough to discuss it with them. Discuss media, the human body, and pornography early, often and in layered age appropriate conversations giving children the opportunity to have strategies in place when they do encounter inappropriate content. Approach the discussion honestly, and factually. Misinformation as well as emotional outbursts will turn children off, so prepare emotionally and intellectually as much as possible. Mistakes will happen. Your love and effort is more important than anything. By using our resource page, you will find a community of people and organizations who know what you are feeling and you will find the answers you need. Remember that many kids will be squeamish to talk, even when they have come to you for support. Be persistent and keep looking for new ways to broach the tough subjects.