Helping Young Children Avoid Porn Addiction

Helping Young Children Avoid Porn Addiction

By Katelyn King

No one wakes up in the morning and decides, “Today I am going to get addicted to porn”, especially not a 5th grader.  But it can happen, and it does. It happened to my own brother.

When my brother was in 5th grade, his best friend showed him a picture of a naked girl. He felt uncomfortable and quickly told him to put it away. He considered telling our mom but was too afraid of getting in trouble. His friend kept pressuring him to look at porn with him, and each time my brother began to feel less and less uncomfortable. In fact, my brother began to want to look and found ways to look at porn whenever he could. He rationalized, “It doesn’t hurt anyone else”, and before he knew it, he was addicted.

It took my brother years to see how his addiction to porn was negatively affecting his life and hurting those around him. He would make sexist comments, and had developed a skewed view of women and relationships. He eventually wanted to stop and would make commitments to himself that he would never look at porn again, but he just couldn’t do it. All he had to do was open his phone and there it was.  It had become a part of his life of which he could not control. He finally confessed his addiction to our parents because he knew he needed help. The path to recovery was not easy. He worked hard and had to force himself to keep going even when he faltered. It was a long process, but he did not give up and has been free of his addiction for 2 years now. 

So why is pornography so bad?

The brain responds to porn like other addictive substances such as cocaine, heroin, and tobacco. Porn, like addictive drugs, releases dopamine without regulation. This leaves the user wanting more and more in order to get the same “high”. Pornography also causes new pathways to form within our brains. In other words, it actually rewires the brain. These pathways create more tolerance, leading to desires for more intense porn (Wilson, 2015). (For additional details and information on the effects of pornography on the brain click here.)

Viewing pornography changes the users’ beliefs and attitudes about themselves and others, affecting identity and relationship expectations. Porn encourages violence, compulsiveness and risky sexual behavior (Owens et al., 2012).

Did you know that the average age of exposure to pornography is age 11 (National Center on Sexual Exploitation. (n.d.))? Kids are being exposed to pornography much earlier than most parents realize, sometimes as early as age 8. What can we as parents do to help protect their children avoid the possibility of exposure and addiction?

Here are 7 things parents can do to help protect their kids from falling into porn addiction.

Define It: Teach your children what pornography is and why it is bad for them. A great resource for this is How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography. 

Name It: Help your kids understand that when they see porn, they should identify it as porn. For example, you could be out with your child and both see an inappropriate advertisement. Instead of just pretending it is not there and avoiding the conversation, use that opportunity to point out that the ad is not appropriate. Talk to them about why that ad is not ok. 

Get away from It: Teach your child to remove themselves from situations where porn is present. Let them know they can and should tell their friends “no.” Give them a way out, like a code word they can text you if they need your help getting out of an uncomfortable or unsafe situation.

Discuss Feelings: Help your children understand that they can and should come to you if they see porn. Ensure that they understand that they will not be in trouble and that you are not mad at them. If a child lets you know they saw porn, talk to them about it. Let them share how they felt and help them understand these feelings.

Deconstruct Images Together: Help them realize that porn is a fake representation of what sex really is. Point out that they are actors. Teach them how it dehumanizes individuals. 

Prevent Further Exposure: Discuss ways to avoid seeing pornography in the future. 

If your child saw it at a friend’s house, discuss the exposure with the parents. Also, ask your child to discuss the issue with their friend. Sometimes it might be best to avoid going to that friend’s house again depending on the situation. It is important to do what you feel is best for your child.

Help your children have healthy relationships by teaching them the negative effects of pornography. Establish a R-U-N Plan, so if they have a similar experience to my brother’s, they will not hesitate to talk to you.

To download A Simple Lesson for Teaching Your Child About Pornography, Ages 3-7.  To find further information about preventing and helping kids overcome porn exposure see our book, How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography.  

Katelyn King is a wife and mother of two children. She is a graduate of Brigham Young University-Idaho, in the Marriage and Family Studies Program, and is an advocate for parent-child relationships.

Citations:

National Center on Sexual Exploitation. (n.d.). White Ribbon Against Pornography: Harms to Children. Retrieved from https://endsexualexploitation.org/wp-content/uploads/WRAP-harms-to-children.pdf

Owens, E., R. Behun, J. Manning, and R. Reid (2012). “The Impact of Internet Pornography on Adolescents: A Review of the Research.” Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, vol. 19, no. 1-2: 99-122.

Wilson, G. (n.d.). “Your Brain on Porn: How Internet Porn Affects the Brain.” (2015, May). Received October 28, 2015, from http://yourbrainonporn.com/your-brain-on-porn-series.