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Let’s Talk About Porn: How To Have The Porn Conversation (Part 4)

Talk to your kids about porn

This is Part 4 of our Let’s Talk About Porn series. You can find Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of the series right here. In today’s post, we’ll discuss some best practices for how to talk to your kids about porn.

“If parents cared about their kid and porn as much as the porn industry cared about their kids wanting to see it, how different this might be?”

– Robbie Roate, Student Pastor

Caleb’s Story

As a young adolescent, I remember when I confessed to my dad my struggle with pornography. I was scared, embarrassed, ashamed, and guilt-ridden. I was also toiling inside because I felt terrible for falling into the sin of porn over and over again. But I desperately wanted to stop the addiction, and I knew the right thing to do was to come clean to my dad.

And I did. Full of stress and worry on what he would do/say, I confessed this sin to him. And to my surprise he didn’t point a finger, he didn’t shame me, his voice and demeanor were calm. Ultimately, in the moment of pure anxiousness on my end, he exemplified grace and acceptance towards me! He embraced and comforted me, sharing his struggle in his past with the same thing, while at the same time telling me the dangers of what porn can do to me and my future.

As a result of his reaction to my confession, I felt like my dad was a safe place. Which in turn, over time, I would go to my dad with different life questions because I knew he would love and accept me no matter what. Our relationship grew so much that he ended up being my best friend and best man at my wedding!

5 Tips On How To Talk To Your Kids About Porn

I share that story with you as a reminder that your graceful, tender presence with your kid, whether they are in a good place or rough spot, has a huge ripple effect. It’s been almost two decades since that conversation with my dad happened, and I still remember it. So it’s true, what you say and do MATTERS to your kid. On that note, what are some tips on what to say or do when you find out your kid is struggling with porn? How can you help your kid stay away from porn, whether they’re currently struggling with it or not?

Here are five tips for you to start implementing that will help your kid win in this area/struggle: 

1. Set clear boundaries and expectations

One of the biggest ways to protect your kid from porn is by creating a “Technology and Social Media Parent/Child Agreement” together. When it comes to online expectations and boundaries for your kid, try setting agreements, not rules: both parties will win! Agreements empower you and your kid to set appropriate expectations for their online usage together. Agree on things like device monitoring, setting appropriate privacy settings, doing random phone checks, creating no tech zones, etc. 

If you’re looking for a place to start with a technology/social media agreement, we’ve developed one for you! Take a look at our Parent-Child Social Media Agreement Contract. One more thing: The earlier you set an agreement, the better. Everyone is on the same page, and when there is a random “phone check,” you will have fewer eye rolls and sighs.

2. Know your goal as a parent

“Regardless of what was viewed, the goal is to help heal your child and relieve any suffering he or she may be experiencing—not to punish your child.”

internetsafety101.org

As parents, setting realistic goals for my kid in this area is crucial. Think about the stats mentioned previously. Most kids will encounter porn at some point in their adolescent stage, and many of those kids’ parents didn’t want them to ever look at porn. In other words, statistically, it’s almost impossible for your kid to escape his/her teen years without seeing pornography.

So maybe your goal shouldn’t be that your kid never looks at pornography. Maybe your goal should be for your kid to see you as a safe place they can come to with anything and not feel shamed or looked down upon. It’s always wise to set boundaries and expectations, but your goal shouldn’t be that your kid never makes mistakes. It’s important for your kids to see you as a safe place, because after all, parents are the most influential person in a child’s life, for better or worse.

3. Talk to your kids about porn

“The key is not to overreact or shame your child; rather, create an open and loving environment where you and your child can openly discuss what has been seen. Then, you will be able to better determine the appropriate course of action.”

internetsafety101.org

By far the most powerful tool you have in warning your kid about the dangers of pornography is to talk to your kids about porn. Don’t do it just one time or when something bad happens. Having an ongoing conversation with your kid about this subject will play a big part in helping them conquer it. Have conversations about the dangers of porn, why it’s so addictive and desirable, how it affects someone deeply (shame and guilt and makes you want to hide), how the brain deals with porn, your past with porn, etc. Is it going to be uncomfortable? Obviously yes, but truthfully kids are naturally curious about sex and sexual matters. Here are some sample questions to ask:

  • Have you ever seen something online that made you uncomfortable or curious?
  • Have you accidentally seen sexual pictures online? How did that happen? What did you do? How did it make you feel?
  • Have any of your friends ever accessed pornography that you know of? Accidentally or intentionally?

The key to these conversations is to have them early and often. Many times parents fall into the lie that if they talk to their kid about this subject too soon, they’ll be curious and want to know more. But typically our kids already know more about this subject than we assume they do. So why not be the person who helps guide them from the very get-go on how to win in this area? Plus, the more you talk about this subject to them, the more likely you’ll be to know if they are curious/struggling with porn already. And keep in mind your goal; for your kid to come to you because you care and are a safe place. 

Quick Conversation Tips

Is it time to talk to your kids about porn?

  • For younger kids, talking in absolutes is necessary: “Don’t ever get in the car with a stranger, Don’t take what’s not yours, Your communication with others online should never involve someone with no clothes on.”
  • Older kids = be more direct. Ask questions specifically on what the know, how they’re feeling, what they’ve seen, what they’re thinking, etc. What If questions are good: “So those conversations should include the “what if” scenarios: What if you feel pressured to send a sext and you don’t want to, what are the right strategies? Who would you turn to, how could you get help and advice?” (nytimes.com)

4. Do your research

Assuming your kid is not struggling, or at the very least curious, with porn is very dangerous and naive (again, look at the stats). So maybe for a moment, flip the coin around and pretend they are struggling with pornography. Where do you think they might be getting it? How are they getting access, or what are their potential access points? Also, what are the top emotions you see in your kid right now: anxious, hiding, pulling away, depressed, sad or down, acting out, sneaky, etc.? These emotions don’t necessarily mean that my kid is struggling with porn, but they are potential indicators. Is my kid acting different or out of the norm, is he/she spending more time on the screen or less time doing things he/she once loved, etc.?

Another good thing to watch for is your kid’s trigger points (see the previous blog on this). Have they recently experienced hurt, rejection, fatigue, success, failure, stress, loneliness, etc? Understanding how they’re finding porn to be the answer to some of their deeper issues (trigger points) is important. Awareness of this is key.

Lastly, you should know the different platforms where your kid can access porn (or inappropriate material): Netflix/Hulu/HBO, Xbox, and other gaming consoles, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Sexting, Laptop/Phone/Tablet/TV, Youtube, etc. Porn can basically be found anywhere there’s an Internet connection and a screen.

We’ve found that it’s challenging for parents to stay on top of all things social media, and who’s to blame them? With new trending apps and updates constantly happening, the stress of not knowing exactly what our kids are looking at can leave parents feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. And that’s exactly why we started Be Socially Smart, to keep you informed and up-to-date on all things social media. So if you haven’t already, check us out at besociallysmart.com and consider joining the Be Socially Smart Community to stay in the know!

5. Provide resources and help

A few resources that we recommend in helping your kid deal with porn would be:

  • Closing the Window: A Christian book on why people run to porn and how to stop it.
  • Covenant Eyes: An internet accountability software that alerts a selected few individuals on when you are looking up inappropriate things. Highly recommend! To find out more, go to covenanteyes.com
  • Phone carrier parental controls: every major smartphone has the capability of allowing parental controls to be set. Though we shouldn’t rely on this only, it is a good thing to have in place.
  • Circle by Disney: this is a great device to manage all your home smart devices that are connected to the home wifi. You can set time limits, pause the internet, filter content, see history, etc. They even have an option for when you’re family uses the internet outside of the home wifi! To find out more, visit meetcircle.com 
  • Mobicip, Norton Family Premier, Qustodio: all of these are similar in that they help you monitor and manage your kid’s online usage.

In conclusion, pornography is a dangerous issue that is highly addictive and destructive to our adolescents because it hits at the heart level (identity) and offers false satisfactions/solutions to our deep needs. Since this is true, we need to be determined to help our kid win this battle. If we don’t, pornography will have a grip on them that will affect their identity, relationships, and view of the opposite sex.

Parents, you’ve got to learn to talk to your kids about porn. We need to come at this issue strong, while at the same time treating our kid with much grace, understanding, and helping them believe we are a safe place. Easy to do? No, but is it worth it? Absolutely. Our kids are always worth it!

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