The Best Strategy for Dealing with Porn Exposure

The Best Strategy for Dealing with Porn Exposure

By Caron C. Andrews

With the amount of pornography easily available online and the many devices that can access it, it is inevitable that your child will at some point be exposed to it. Not likely, not possibly—it’s inevitable. Because of that, it’s imperative that you have a plan for how you are going to handle it when, not if, it happens. Ideally, you have previously discussed pornography with your child and have made an initial plan for when they first come across it: to look away or click away from it and tell an adult they trust what they have seen. When pornography exposure has happened, take a deep breath. This might be tough, but it doesn’t have to be. We’ve talked about general strategies for handling exposure here and here, but there are specific concrete, positive actions you can teach your child to take to lessen the impact. Talk with your child and empower him or her to take these steps when he or she has seen pornography:

  • TELL YOUR PARENTS. As soon as you have seen something pornographic, tell your parents (or another trusted adult)! It’s so important to let them help you, because seeing what happens in pornography can be very upsetting and confusing. Even if you feel embarrassed or if you have never talked about sex with your parents before, they are going to be your greatest help with dealing with this.
  • DISCUSS YOUR FEELINGS What you have seen can be exciting, but overwhelming and frightening too (Stiffelman, 2011). It’s natural to have physical reactions to pornographic images, and even become sexually aroused or excited. But it’s also normal to feel disgust, anger, confusion, and curiosity. It’s normal to feel some or all of these at once, and many other emotions as well. It’s too much for you to be able to handle alone, so tell your parents how you are feeling. Let them help you sort it out.
  • OFFER INFORMATION. Tell your parents how you found it. Curiosity about sex can lead you to look for information about it, many times running into more porn. It could also lead you to actively look for porn. It’s natural to be curious, but there are more appropriate ways to learn (Stiffelman, 2011). Kids commonly come across porn accidentally, which can be distressing or traumatizing, or even exciting. Knowing how the exposure happened can help guide your parents in how to help you.
  • DECONSTRUCT IMAGES. It’s important to talk about the images you saw. Talk with your parents about issues of consent, emotions, intimacy, and arousal as seen—or not seen—in pornography (Rosenzweig, 2013). Pornography does not show healthy sexuality or real consent, honest emotions, true intimacy, or natural arousal any more than reading a book about Ireland shows you what it’s like to actually be there. Many images that you see in porn are falsified. You know that when you watch a sci-fi movie or see a haunted house façade at a carnival, it is not real, but made-up stories and images. Pornography is much the same way.
  • COMMUNICATE OPENLY. Talking about the effect of pornography and about relationships with your parents should be ongoing, not just a one-time conversation when you have seen porn. That’s because porn and its effects are everywhere in our culture and can be seen and heard on a daily basis. In the days and weeks following your exposure to porn, be extra aware of changes in yourself, like having increased anger, curiosity, or sadness, and keep talking with your parents about them.
  • EMPOWER YOURSELF WITH TOOLS TO PREVENT MORE EXPOSURE. The internet is saturated in porn, and that’s not going to change. You and your parents can prevent further exposure, though, on both the technological level and on the human level. Your parents can install filters on every computer and internet-enabled device in your home, or update your existing filters. Make sure you know how various apps work and which ones could be inappropriate or harmful. Most importantly, learn about the effects of porn on individuals and relationships, and work together as a family to build healthy relationships.

This last point is key: for this plan to be effective, it must be taught early and often. You’ll have to repeat it many times for your children and it may lead to many great, productive discussions!

Caron C. Andrews has been a contributing writer for Educate and Empower Kids since its beginnings. She has a BA in English from the University of New Mexico. In addition to her articles for Educate and Empower Kids, she has copyedited medical books written for the lay reader, fantasy novels, and historical dramas. She is currently working on starting a blog and writing a novel. She is the mother of a teenage son and daughter and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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Resources:

Rosenzweig, J. (2013, October). What’s the impact of porn on kids? Philly.com. Retrieved from http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/healthy_kids/Whats-the-impact-of-porn-on-kids.html

Stiffelman, S. (2011, August). My son saw sexually explicit material online—what should I do? huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/08/safety-on-internet-sexually-explicit-material_n_918353.html