I Don’t Want My Child to Even Know the Word “Pornography”
By Spencer Loyd
Do you have children who are starting to learn things you did not teach them? Whether it’s at school, with friends, at church, or from their older siblings, this can be nerve-wracking. You might be wondering, “What are they being exposed to?” and “How can I stop it?”
Recently, my seven-year-old son and I were watching a Disney movie and a man and woman kissed. Immediately, I heard my son say “Great, now they’re going to have sex.” It hit me like a ton of bricks.
My first thought was, “You don’t know what sex is! Why would you even say that?” After a couple seconds, I realized I had just given him one of the sex talks and explained the basics which is what had led to his comment and then my temporary freak out.
Many parents don’t want their kids to be introduced to the topics of sex or pornography and when it does happen they freak out, just as I did. This seems reasonable. Pornography can have detrimental effects, including reduced gray matter in the brain, the increased need for stimulation, behavioral addictions similar to drug addictions, “altered sexual tastes, less satisfactions in [relationships], and real-life intimacy and attachment problems” (Zimbardo, 2016). Based on these effects why would parents even allow their children to know the word pornography?
When your child has heard the word pornography, because children are curious they may be tempted to Google it and then be exposed. Therefore, many parents fear that once their children know the word “pornography,” it might lead to pornography use.
However, it is important to remember that no matter the circumstances almost everyone will be exposed to pornography at some point. According to Rob Jackson (2004), “Some researchers have stated that the average age of exposure to pornography is down to 8.” This is partially because our society is accepting of pornography. It is everywhere, including the internet, social media, television, magazines, books, and music! Teaching what pornography is and preparing kids to deal with exposure instead of choosing to view it, is one of the most important things we can do as parents.
As a father, I have found there are many effective ways to teach children to reject pornography. Children have different capacities for learning based on age and development, so parents will need to adapt to fit their child’s needs.
Here are some tips to help parents when addressing pornography:
- Discuss with your spouse your beliefs on what constitutes pornography (ie. people posing in underwear, verbal sexual innuendos, or pornographic sites) and determine if your definitions of pornography are the same. Rob Jackson (2004) said, “If a child’s parents are divided about pornography, [teaching children] will be more difficult”.
- Don’t try to shield your children from the word “pornography.” Educating your child isn’t taking their innocence; it is empowering them with knowledge and an understanding of how to behave. Teach your children what pornography is, the consequences of viewing it, your family’s rules regarding it, and what they should do if they are exposed to pornography.
- Teach your child what body parts are and how they are used (i.e. breasts naturally feed children, penis includes a man’s urethra to urinate)
- Look at advertisements in a magazine and discuss how the media uses a model’s body to appeal to consumers.
- Monitor family members’ media use to avoid pornography.
- Have all computers including laptops available only in public areas of the home, and monitor media usage including television programs, internet sites visited, and phone apps for content and usage.
- Use site blocking software like Disney Circle, Net Nanny, SpyAgent, Qustodio, etc., to block and monitor your family’s online accessibility to porn sites.
- Have open, honest, age-appropriate conversations often with your children about healthy sexuality. It is better for a child to be aware and prepared for the consequences of sex than to be unaware and be subjected to the consequences.
- Check out 30 Days of Sex Talks for easy, bite-size chats for different ages. There are 3 different versions of the book: for ages 3-7, ages 8-11, and ages 12+.
- Talk to your kids about pornography. As parents, we may feel awkward to start these conversations but they are essential to helping our children understand why they should stay away from pornography.
- To start these conversations check out How to Talk to Your Kids about Pornography and A Lesson about Pornography for ages 3-7, A Lesson about Pornography for ages 8-11, A Lesson about Pornography for ages 12+
- Answer questions your child has about their body when they come up. Use these conversations as mediate additional more in-depth conversations.
- If during your discussion you discover that your child has already been exposed to pornography, take Josh Gilman’s advice. In his article, When Your Child Has a Porn Habit, he discusses the importance of not shaming them. He says :
“The first thing you need to know is that your child needs you to not freak out. The truth is that nobody enjoys porn. Yes, it fires off dopamine like crazy, and yes, their brain is demanding that they watch it again. But every person who watches it also has that uncomfortable feeling in their stomach. As violent and disturbing as today’s porn is, despite every craving, there is also shame, and when you freak out you are only falsely confirming to them that they are shameful and they are disgusting.”
- One of the most important things we can do is to keep communicating with our children about sex and pornography. As Amanda Grossman Scott said in her article, Your Child Has Seen Porn Now What?:
“Follow up. Frequently. The older your child gets, the more he or she won’t be under your direct supervision. Let your child know YOU haven’t forgotten the discussions you’ve had and that you are always available for follow-up questions. This is the best way to keep the lines of communication open and ensure that your child knows you are dependable.”
Following these tips can help parents clearly teach their children what pornography is and how to avoid it. Then instead of freaking out, you and your children can have effective discussions.
As a parent, I know that it is difficult to begin but you can do it! Eventually, you’ll gain a closer relationship with your child even as you discuss issues as difficult as pornography–which is what has happened in our family, as my wife and I have tackled tough topics with our kids.
Spencer Loyd is the father of four amazing children under the age of 10. He attended Brigham Young University-Idaho and studied Marriage and Family Studies, and currently works as a substance abuse counselor at a correctional facility. Spencer has a passion for music, especially creating his own with his family and binge-watching scary movies with his brothers. He also enjoys helping others succeed and seeing the joy this brings.
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Jackson, R. (2004). When Children View Pornography. Retrieved November 21, 2017, from http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/sexuality/when-children-use-pornography/when-children-view-pornography
Zimbardo, P., Ph.D. (2016, March 01). Is Porn Good For Us or Bad For Us? Retrieved November 21, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hero/201603/is-porn-good-us-or-bad-us