They might scream out in shock. Or they might quietly close the page. They might look around to see if anyone is near, and then take one more look…
They might keep quiet about it until bedtime. Or tomorrow.
I cannot tell you what your kids will do when they happen upon pornography, but I can tell you that most likely it will happen.
And I hate that.
I hate with a passion that I just typed those words because I sound like a cynic or a like I’m giving up or something. If you know me at all you know that I’m all about believing that kids don’t have to go through all of the awful stages that the world suggests are “part of growing up.” I’m the one saying: “My kids really CAN stay pure/off of drugs/ (or avoid a hundred different things that so many people say a teenager will do).”
I’m a committed optimist when it comes to kids and character.
Except I cannot say that about internet porn, because no one is immune. Not the good ones. Not the pure ones. None of them.
Because kids don’t have to be looking for porn. Porn has a way of finding our kids.
So the best thing we can do is be prepared, and prepare our children.
As I prepared for this post I asked my Facebook crew if they would message me to share any experience they’ve had with their kids stumbling upon internet pornography. The stories that flowed in blew my mind (and broke my heart.) Ten and twelve year old boys who were introduced to porn at a friend’s house, or sitting a few feet away from their mom. One of the boys clicked on a link through Instagram. (yes, instagram.) A few of these kids were watching porn regularly before their parents found out…some of them are in therapy now. None of them will ever be able to “unsee” what they have seen.
And trust me–These were not bad kids, OR bad parents. Everyone parent who messaged me sounded like wonderful, loving, smart people who were very involved in their kids’ lives. Parents just like me. And you.
It is a simple reality: If your kids are online, they will eventually be exposed to something inappropriate–whether it is full-blown pornography, or a tempting link which may take them there.
If you haven’t read it yet, I really urge you to begin by reading my post: Teens, the internet, and Social media: Seven steps that might save your kid. I believe with all of my heart that by following the steps outlined in that post you have the very best chance of avoiding this altogether. I also believe that by following the steps provided, you have the greatest chance of your kids telling you if they see something they know they shouldn’t.
But please: Don’t wait for your kid to come to you! Check in with them frequently. Use a simple script, something as simple as this: “I want to check in with you every once in a while to ask about what you’ve seen online. The internet is kind of crazy and sometimes things pop up that we are not looking for. So I want you to feel completely comfortable telling me or your dad if you see something that makes you uncomfortable. Has anything like that shown up on a device that you’d like to tell me about?”
And don’t just ask once – Continue to check in with them over time. (Don’t worry about the eye rolls, it’s just how they deal with the awkward part.)
So the question is, what happens next? How should we respond if we find out our kid has seen pornography?
The best thing to do is respond with self control and a thoughtful plan. Don’t freak out. Don’t get emotional. The nature and extent of what they’ve seen will determine the next steps, but ultimately they need to know that you love them, and will not shame them. It may take time for theme to tell you the full story, so be patient and let them know you can handle the truth. If they sought out inappropriate pictures or videos on their own, then you should discuss what motivated that, or how they found them. If they were introduced through a friend, you will need to make a plan for the best way to handle it. If they have been looking at porn regularly or habitually, I would suggest getting professional help.
I highly recommend every parent subscribe to the web site: Protect young Minds . (this is the web site by the people who wrote the book I highly recommend: Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids)
Protect Young Minds has a lot of great articles and free materials to support families. An excellent resource at their site is this article: MY CHILD HAS VIEWED PORN: NOW What: (Go ahead and tag it now! :)) In it they have put together what they call the SMART PLAN guide for parents.
The SMART PLAN guide will help you:
- Stay calm. It’s critical to deal with your own emotions first!
- Make a plan. Don’t confront your child until you’ve figured out a game plan. (This is key!)
- Assist your kids to sort out their feelings: Porn is confusing to kids and parents can help kids figure out their feelings and triggers.
- Regularly check in with your kids: How to keep the conversation going!
- Train your family: Porn can hurt the entire family, and everyone needs to be involved in the family’s defense plan
Our kids need to know that we are for them, and want the very best for them. They need to understand that sex and sexual feelings are not wrong; they are part of God’s awesome plan for them. Pornography, however, can destroy that awesome plan and make a mess of their future. They also need to know that it is never too late to make changes, and you will be there for them every step of the way.
This conversation may seem awkward at first, but if you can push through the awkward you will find a very important and meaningful connection with your child. If they know they can talk to you about these things, doors may open to ask all kinds of questions that they’ve been keeping to themselves. ( In fact, kids often land on pornography because they are searching for answers to very simple questions on the internet.) Once we begin talking about things, our kids will also be more likely to come to us for future conversations.
Please take some time to browse the Protect Young Minds site and find a lot of helpful articles and resources. I wish you all the best as you navigate this ever-changing world that we are raising kids in! I also hope that you’ll share this post with your friends and family by using the social media share buttons.
PS Besides my amazon affiliate link to the book: Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids I have no official connection to Protect Young Minds site. I am a huge fan and so grateful for what they do, so I try to share them with everyone! 🙂