Preparing Your Child for Pornography Exposure
By Amanda Grossman-Scott
Keeping pornography out of the home is an important task, but after all the effort we make to PROTECT our children from harmful influences- shouldn’t we PREPARE them for what they might be exposed to when we’re not around?
Unless you live on a deserted island or a commune, your child is eventually going to be exposed to images, language and behavior that you may not approve of. In most places, you can’t drive down the freeway without seeing billboards or advertisements containing sexualized images and language. How will your children react to these kinds of images? Have you prepared him or her? Can you? The answer is yes, when you have constructive conversations and seize teaching opportunities, you can prepare your child. The best way to protect your children outside your home is to start preparing your child for the possibility of being exposed to pornography while they’re still inside your home.
Seize Opportunities to Teach
Recently at the mall with my two sons, I saw a lingerie store with larger than life posters of scantily clad women. Of course my sons began to stare. I took the opportunity to talk about the way those women were being portrayed.
“See those ladies in the window there?” I asked. They nodded that they had.
“Those aren’t even real human women!” I exclaimed.
“What? They’re not?!” Was my sons’ response.
“Nope,” I explained, “they USED to be real women. But then someone took a picture of them and put it into a computer and took away everything about them which makes them human. See how they have no moles, freckles, beauty marks (stretch marks!) or birth marks? Those are things that make us special and make us unique. When you take away all of that- you’re basically left with a mannequin, not a real person… NO ONE looks like that!”
This short conversation alone will not necessarily deter my kids from ever looking at pornography. But I know that I have placed some thoughts in their developing minds: pictures aren’t necessarily real, humans have unique and distinctive features, and REAL women and men don’t look like the images in magazines and advertisements. This is a good start! In the future, I will also point out to my children that those images are meant to entice, sell products, and get attention. Like pornography, they’re meant to draw the viewer in.
This example is useful because a teaching opportunity was seized, and that’s good. But what happens when your child sees something worse and you’re not around? How can you prepare your child for this? As parents, we must take the proactive role of informing our children about what’s “out there”.
If you decide to install filters on your home network and internet-enabled devices or even if you just limit your child’s screen time or insist on supervising online time, explain WHY. This is a great opportunity to tell your child, in age appropriate terms, what it is you are trying to protect him or her from.
- Explain that the internet connects to millions of people and not all of them are good. Make clear that the internet has great things but also not so great things.
- Clarify your family standards for internet use but also describe how other people may not have the same rules.
- Tell your child she’ll need to earn your trust and show that she is mature enough to spend time online.
- Let him know that he may see pictures that are scary, confusing or inappropriate for a child his age when he is not in your care and that you want him to know how to handle it (look away, walk away, tell a trusted adult).
- Always assure your child that she can talk to you about things she’s seen or heard and that she won’t be punished for her honesty.
- Never make your child feel ashamed for being curious.
- Be sure to let him know the dangers of seeking out pornography or seeking out answers to questions using online resources.
- Remind your child that YOU, the parent, are the most reliable source of information.
We cannot possibly protect our children from every specific circumstance. What we can do is make sure that they are well informed and prepared for general situations which may arise. Training your child to be ready in any setting is part of child-rearing, and it has become an unfortunate necessity to include pornography in the list of things they need to be prepared to be exposed to.
Coming Soon: When Your Child Is Exposed to Pornography