Ever wondered if you should warn your kids about the dangers of pornography? Find out why you should, along with tips and strategies to get you started.
We wear so many hats as parents. Cook, cleaner, chauffeur, event coordinator, entertainer, nurse…
And although they’re all needed, some of the most important hats we wear are those of “teacher” and “protector”.
As parents, we have the distinct privilege of being there every step of the way as our kids learn to navigate this life. And with that comes a lot of teaching and protecting.
Most of the time, we don’t even realize we’re doing it.
Other times, though, it takes an educated and conscious effort. Especially when it comes to hard topics.
Topics like pornography.
Teaching your kids about pornography might not have been on your radar before now, but I’m so glad you’re here. Because it is important. And it’s absolutely necessary.
But where do you even start?
The first step is exactly what you’re doing here…educating yourself.
I know, the idea of talking to your kids about pornography might make you cringe. It’s terrible to think that our sweet, young kids will be exposed so such an awful thing. But in the world they’re growing up in, we have to accept that they will.
And as our children’s most important teacher, we can warn them about its dangers. We can teach them how to stay safe.
Talking about pornography is an extremely difficult topic to cover. I understand that there are endless opinions on the best approach. I also understand that it can trigger difficult emotions in anyone who’s had experience with pornography in their families before.
Please know that this post isn’t meant to offend or intimidate. But because I feel so strongly about protecting children from pornography, I want to give you actionable tips and strategies so you can protect your children too.
And because I love lists, here’s what you can expect to find here:
- The best time to start the conversation
- Five important things your kids need to know about pornography
- 3 actionable strategies for dealing with exposure
- How you can help as the parent
- Where to find more helpful resources
This information is based on advice from experts and other parents I’ve learned from throughout the years. It’s how I talk to my own children about it.
And although I wish I didn’t have to talk to them about something so ugly, I’m happy to say that I’m no longer afraid to. And my hope is that you’ll leave here feeling empowered to do the same.
When should I start talking to my kids about pornography?
According to some statistics, 90% of children 8-16 have been exposed to pornography and 70% of children 7-18 have accidentally encountered online pornography, often while doing homework.
Those are some pretty scary and staggering statistics!
So although we want to preserve the youth and innocence of our children as much as possible, the unfortunate fact is this:
Pornography is everywhere. And chances are pretty good our kids will be exposed to it.
But we can beat society to the punch.
We started talking to our two older kids about pornography when they were about 6. Over the years, our conversations have changed quite a bit. But even at that young age, we were able to open the dialog.
After all, kids don’t need to understand the in’s and out’s of sex to be affected by explicit images and videos.
So when is the perfect age? Honestly, there is no perfect age!
Early is good, but remember, it’s never too late either! Don’t ever think you’ve missed the boat. This is too important for your guidance to ever be irrelevant.
It’s vital that we empower our children with knowledge and strategies regarding internet safety at every age. If they know how to protect themselves, they’ll be able to enjoy media in a healthy way.
What do my children need to know about pornography?
Starting the conversation can be uncomfortable. But don’t feel like you have to cover everything in one shot.
Several 1-minute conversations over the years will be much more powerful than a few “big talks”.
As your children grow, and as you keep the dialog going, they’ll probably have questions. Answer them as you feel comfortable.
But here are 5 tips to get you started:
Tip # 1: Define it
Don’t assume your kids know what pornography is.
I was reminded of this in a recent conversation with my daughter. We’ve had an open dialog with her about sex and pornography for a few years now. But one day, I decided to ask her to define it for me.
Here’s how it went –
Me: “How would you describe pornography to someone else?”
Her: “It’s pictures and videos of inappropriate things.”
Me: “That’s right. Would you mind telling me what you mean by inappropriate things?”
Her: “People with inappropriate clothing, bad jokes, and violent and bloody movies.”
What a perfect opportunity to solidify the definition with her! She was right, but only partly.
She thought pornography was anything “inappropriate”.
We went over how violent movies and bad jokes are inappropriate. But they’re not pornography.
I needed her to understand exactly what pornography is.
One of the most powerful things we can do with pornography is to recognize what it is. Defining it when we’re exposed weakens its power over us.
And luckily, the definition is pretty straightforward.
Pornography is “pictures and videos of people with little to no clothing on”.
As your kids get older, you might also explain that sometimes those videos show people doing sexual acts, which can be pretty traumatic for children to see. But this basic definition is a perfect starting point.
Teach your kids that if they ever see pictures or videos of people with little to no clothing on, it’s pornography. Teach them to call it what it is.
By saying “that’s pornography” or “that’s porn” or “that’s a bad picture”, they’re sending a clear message to their brain that it’s not something they should be looking at.
Tip #2: Teach them about healthy sexuality
When and how you talk to your children about sex is up to you. (I’ll be writing a post on this topic soon.)
But even for our youngest children, there’s more to sexuality than just sex.
We can teach our kids about their bodies and how to take care of them. We can teach them about healthy affection. About love and connection.
And we can do our best to model what healthy relationships look like.
When you think they’re ready (which is usually younger than you might think!), you can teach more.
And then you can teach them that sex has 2 purposes, especially in a committed relationship: To make babies, and to connect.
And neither of those things happens in pornography.
No matter what some may think, pornography is not artistic. It’s not beautiful. And it’s not the way we want our children to learn about sex.
But it can be enticing.
Why? Because it plays on a very natural and real thing that every human experiences: attraction.
If your kids are ever exposed to pornography, whether by accident or on purpose, they might feel curious our aroused. Help them understand that attraction is a natural and beautiful thing. But it’s meant to be experienced with real people in a healthy and loving relationship.
And not with screens or magazines.
I love this quote from Dina Alexander, the founder of Educate and Empower Kids:
For your kids to understand the dark, they need to understand the light.
When we teach about the dangers of pornography, don’t forget that it’s just as important to teach about the opposite – healthy and beautiful sexual intimacy.
Tip #3: Discuss possible places they may be exposed to pornography
Our kids are growing up in a very different world than we did. Pornography is no longer hidden in magazines or adult video shops. It’s infiltrated our society in a way that’s hard to ignore.
It’s on billboards, commercials, movies, video games, computers, and the list goes on and on.
And smartphones? Well, let’s just say that the likelihood of exposure has increased dramatically over the last several years.
So get specific. Don’t just tell them it’s everywhere.
Help them understand that they might see explicit content just by accidentally typing a misspelled word in Google. Or friends might show them something on their phones at school, on the bus or at their houses.
Knowing where possible dangers lie will increase their chances of avoiding it.
For example, if the group they hang out with at school looks at inappropriate things on their phones at lunchtime, they might find a new group to sit with.
Our kids don’t need to know where to find pornography. They just need to recognize possible places and situations they might be exposed. Then they can come up with a game plan.
Which leads right into the next tip.
Tip #4: Come up with a plan
If your child comes across pornography, what will they do?
I promise, that when your kids decide beforehand what they’ll do in certain situations, they’ll dramatically increase their chances of making good choices.
It’s much easier to make the decision once, especially if they have a plan for what they’ll do when the time comes. And this is true for anything, from drugs to pornography.
Because we’re talking about young children in this post, I’ll just cover a few simple and basic strategies. Older children and teenagers may have different needs, but this will give you a place to start.
Strategy #1: Teach this poem
This poem is an excellent way to help kids know what to do in the moment. Chances are, especially if they know what pornography is, they might panic. But this poem will help them through it.
Shut it off. Make sure they know the quickest way to turn off the T.V., computer or any devices. It doesn’t matter if it shuts down correctly. The point is just to turn it off as quickly as possible.
Turn about. If shutting it off isn’t a possibility, they can turn away. This is especially helpful if they’re with friends.
Close it tight. This could work for books or tablets with covers.
Just walk out. Whether they’re alone or with friends.
Say this poem with them over and over until they’re so annoyed they won’t forget it!
Strategy #2: The 3-step Plan
This strategy is a simple and straightforward game plan.
- Call it what it is
- Get away from it as quickly as possible
- Talk to your parents
Remind them that they can come to you no matter what.
Strategy #3: Roleplay
Roleplaying might seem silly or make your kids giggle, but it will help your kids come up with words and phrases they can use. Practicing actual dialog (out loud!) will help more than they realize.
You can either talk through scenarios and have them describe how they would respond. Or you could roleplay.
Choose what works best for the specific child you’re talking to.
IF YOUR KIDS COME TO YOU
Ok, listen up, because this part’s important.
If your kids come to you, it shows they’re trusting you with something big. Something that makes them feel extremely vulnerable.
Be prepared to shift roles from teacher to listener.
The last thing we want is for our kids to sink into shame and secrecy. So in order to be a good listener, consider the following:
- Let them do the talking.
- Listen without judgment.
- Don’t lecture or show signs of disappointment.
- Only offer advice if they ask for it.
- If they seem open to it, ask them how it made them feel.
- Make sure to praise them for coming to you.
Another thing that’s important to remember, especially as your kids get older, is that pornography sometimes makes kids curious. They might also experience feelings they haven’t felt before.
If this is the case, listen and be a support. After all, those feelings of attraction are natural.
But even though sexual intimacy – and the feelings associated with it – are wonderful, pornography finds a way to twist it into something ugly and unnatural.
Help them understand that.
And continually be on the lookout for teaching moments in your daily lives. Take advantage of those opportunities to reinforce what healthy relationships are and what sex is really meant to be.
When kids are young, especially between the ages of 8-12, it can seem crazy to talk about healthy sexuality so openly.
But it’s essential that we teach our family values and views on sex. Or our children could pick up their education in bits and pieces from other, less desirable sources.
HOW ELSE CAN PARENTS HELP?
Unfortunately, we can’t control everything our kids see and hear. But we can help a little.
We can be aware of what our kids are consuming. We can teach internet (and social media) safety.
We can make sure our kids don’t go to be with phones and other devices in their rooms. And we can take advantage of parental controls on the family’s internet and devices.
Again, look for teaching moments. Be a good listener if they come to you. And be prepared to talk further if they have questions.
Your kids might come across material that will leave them full of questions. Be ready to answer and explain. Remember, you are your child’s best teacher.
YOU’VE GOT THIS
It’s so hard to think that our sweet, innocent children might be exposed to pornography so young. But the best way we can protect them from its damaging effects is to educate them. To love them. And to support them.
You’re a good parent. I can tell because you care enough to have made it through this long post!
I want you to feel as comfortable as can be expected so you can be ready to help your kids in this area. So I hope you’ve found some of this information helpful.
And if you need any more information or clarification, I’m only an email away.
Looking for a great way to break the ice? Try this video! It’s a perfect way to start the dialog with your kids!
I’m also including a list of resources that I’ve learned from. They are excellent and packed with helpful information to help us parents navigate this scary topic!
Do you have any more helpful tips for talking to kids about pornography? I’d love to hear them in the comments!
- 3 In 30 Podcast: How To Talk To Your Kids About Pornography
- Educate And Empower Kids
- The Novus Project
- Fight The New Drug
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