How to handle it when your kid sees something they shouldn’t on the internet
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! 🙂
Thank you for this. My son accessed porn today. And I felt devistated. I truly was not prepared for this. As I thought I had enough blocks on internet use to protect him. It breaks my heart that he still believes in Santa, but his eyes have seen things I had never even seen!!
My church put out an outstanding video on this subject also working with the people from Protect Young minds. It’s incredible! Here’s the link:
Thank you Shellie–That was super well done!! I will share that for sure. 🙂
Thanks, Monica for this post. As parents, we all need all the help we can get to navigate the child-rearing waters. I’ll keep the site you recommended and share with others. I will include it as part of my web site as well.
With having four kids and two grown. I find being transparent about the dangers of online curiosity is a must. Boys aren’t the only gender now getting addicted to porn they found via the internet, girls are now the largest growing group consuming pornography via the internet. That is the world we live in. As a software engineer, I’ve employed every possible tactic from software, to checking up, to stopping entry via my server, and my kids still found ways around it. Like video games offer the option to surf the internet, cellphones, tablets and the list goes on. Even with open communication, kids have an honest curiosity so stay ever vigilant. Youtube is also a very dangerous place for kids to hang out online, Anime and Magna seem innocent but have high sexual content. Also, kids can do a search and just look at the ‘images’ without ever seeming to go on a ‘bad’ adult site. Parents who don’t believe their kids will desire to continue to view images once they’ve been exposed is naive and should monitor their kids while online.
well said, thank you. So many good points in there it makes me want to write a follow up post about sites with images and not full-blown porn. SO important to remember that!! Thank you thank you.
Hi, thank you for sharing that! My 7 and 9 yr old girls have recently gotten into Pokemon and they like anime cartoons so far. I think the things they’ve seen are pretty innocent, but what should i be watching for with anime shows? I have let them watch their show via YouTube, but it is always in our family room, where the tv and pc are easily seen. I’m just wondering what to watch for – particlar shows etc. – esp with anime.
I am looking into getting a parent safety filter for the pc. Do these protect against sexual anime (since they are in cartoon form)?
My daughter said Anime and Magna is very tricky. If you stick to the ‘K’ series you will be okay, but as your child watches more, they may tend to slip into series that aren’t rated. All of them have scantily clad females and ‘feminate’ men she told me. It is really marketed to adults in Japan, older kids. She advises the parent watch it with the child or before letting the child view. It’s not out right porn she said, it’s just really sexy for the women and boys sometimes have ‘crushes’ on each other.
I am devastated because today I figured out my 11 year old son has saw images through anime. We do not allow internet use in our house. He asked if he could do “how to draw” anime figures videos. I saw no harm and let him. I saw the drawings (he hid them) and couldn’t believe the nude images. I went straight to the history of the computer and I was stunned at the images. How could this have happened?? I thought I was so careful. Beware of anime. It is out of my house now. I appreciate this article. Wish I would’ve saw it sooner. My stomach aches. It was a lot. I am so tired of over sexualizing woman all the time, everywhere. It has really hit me since I have become a parent.
I would HIGHLY suggest staying away from ALL anime except pokemon! Especially on YouTube!
Thank you! I have read some things about anime recently so this is interesting to hear from you. Appreciate the comment.
I have a 8 year old daughter so pretty close to both of your girls age well she was exactly the same way, she loved all the kids animated movies, animated shows, animated video games and it was a nice relief you know at least with those you don’t have to worry about what their innocent eyes will see ( or so I thought ) Welp (she uses my email address) anytime she goes on the Google Playstore or anytime she signs into YouTube and I was completely 1000% shocked by what I came across, it was a Pornhub video that for whatever weird sick twisted strange reason was titled
-Minecraft Sex- and I swear to god it showed everything and I mean literally every single thing. I felt like whoever titled it Minecraft Sex was maybe hoping children or just any younger people in general (especially those who play the Minecraft game) would be curious enough about it possibly or just go ahead & click on it cause of the title you know. I was both confused, startled, shocked, sad and upset though like I’m still even multiple days later sitting here trying to comprehend that now my little, fragile, innocent 8 year old sweet baby girl knows what a penis looks like now cause of that beyond disgusting video. It’s sad to think about and horrible when it happens!
Also the reason I have her use my email address is since I figured that way anything important that I truly need to be aware of will definitely go straight to my email welp, somehow that video still was able to find it’s way to her 🙁 🙁
Wow, Momica! This one hit home! I am just lije you, a optimistic mom about my children staying chaste of mind and body until marriage, and that they won’t do bad because I truly believe in God’s protection; however, temptations are not controlled, right? I am so concerned about pornography if just any type. It is one powerful weapon the Devil is using to destroy families, but I teuly trust in the Divine Providence of our Lord, and to inform ourselves as parents to act upon it if needed, and to fight these battles on our knees. Thank you for sharing these uncomfortable words with us, moms, but so necessary!
God bless you!
Thank you Nidia! Yes, pornography is a powerful weapon indeed–and a sneaky one. We must stay vigilant as parents — in prayer and in knowing what is going on in the world of our kids/teens! 🙂 Thank you for commenting. aloha-