Protect your child from porn

Ugh.  Your sweet innocent babe has been exposed to porn, and is now asking you about it.  Or maybe they’re not saying anything – is that worse?  Or maybe your child is totally accessing porn, on purpose.

 

How can you possibly open the conversation?  What will you say?

 

First off, let me say that this is not your fault.  You’re not a bad parent.  You didn’t fail to protect them. It’s a dilemma that all parents today face.

 

Does it feel like your child is too young for a talk about porn?  I get it!  In the era we grew up in, that instinct is right.  But with the internet so close by, on every Smartphone, in every house and library and coffee shop, with porn just two clicks away from YouTube and their favorite video games, they’re being exposed.  

 

Studies from ten years ago say that minors were exposed around age of 11; newer studies suggest the average age of exposure to online porn is age 8.   A lot of “teen-age” issues are creeping younger, including problems with body image, sex, and porn.  Unfortunately, the porn industry is targeting kids rather like the cigarette industry did.  Getting kids hooked on their brand early is very profitable.

 

The thing is, your kids don’t have any perspective on sex.  They don’t know that what they’re seeing isn’t normal adult sexual behavior.  Not only that, we unconsciously absorb social dynamics, and the mirror cells in our brains “try on” the behaviors we witness.  The violence and misogyny and power dynamics in the average porn video is not what we want your child using as a model for their sexual interactions or their fantasies.

 

Even just being aroused by a screen is a problem.   Our brains are wired to be sexual with a real person, to learn to communicate and navigate someone else’s needs and wants.  Porn short circuits the incentive to build those skills by offering all the sex you want with no social risk.  And of course, you get good at what you practice, right?  The arousal pathways in the brain are forming in such a way that many men can only get aroused by porn, and not by their partners, which is now diagnosed as porn-induced erectile dysfunction.

 

Then there’s a danger that our teens will try out what they’re seeing online.  That rabbit hole goes deep, as described in this article from the UK.

 

So what to do?

 

Your first step has to be to get clear about your own values.  Are masturbation and fantasy a normal part of sexuality?  Is it ok to watch porn if you’re an adult?  If you’re a kid?  Why?  When you sit down to have this conversation, you’ll need to have your answers ready.

 

Porn isn’t a one-time conversation, and the goals will be different for different ages.  For your young child, simply warn them that there are naked pictures of people having sex on the internet, and tell them what to do if they see them.

 

Adolescents will need much more though.  There’s evidence now that we imprint our first sexual experiences, so those need to be normal kid-like experiences, not hardcore porn.  Explain that normal adult sexuality is quite different from the pornography they’re seeing.  Use analogies they can relate to.  Explain the arousal trap.  Help them understand why sex sells and how extreme sex has become mainstream porn.  Emphasize that healthy sex includes all the basics of a healthy relationship: good communication, a little laughter, and real empathy for your partner.   Help them understand that PORN IS NOT SEX ED! (cuz they think it is)

 

Perhaps the most important thing to convey to a kid of any age is that you’re not limiting your child’s freedom or being “uptight” when you discourage them from watching porn.  You’re actually their ally, looking out for them, protecting them from a pitfall they don’t understand yet.

 

For many of us, that’s a real challenge.  If you’re struggling with when to talk about porn, how to open the conversation, or what to say, I’m here to help!  Grab a spot on my calendar and we’ll talk about what the next step is for you and your kids.

 

In support of you,

 

Anya

 

PS: Porn is one of the topics I’ll be discussing in my next FREE webinar. If you have a teen (or if that’s just around the corner), register now for Talking with Teens about Sex.

 

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