“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.