This article was written by Dr. Jim Burns and was originally posted here.
Most likely in the history of the world, there has never been a non-awkward conversation about pornography between a parent and child. “I had a wonderful, easy, conversation with my parents about porn,” said no kid, ever. Yet in today’s world, it’s more a matter of when, not if they will view porn. It may be accidental, or it may be on purpose, but the odds are that porn will at one time be a part of your child’s development. Surprisingly, authorities tell us that the average age a child will view internet pornography is 11 years old. Kids don’t even need to be looking for porn—it is programmed to find them. With this in mind, here are four tips for thinking about when and how we can talk with our kids about pornography.
Yes, as a parent you lead the conversation. No one said it would be easy. Just do it. And it’s not a one-time talk, it’s an ongoing dialogue. All studies show that the more positive, healthy, value-centered, sex education kids receive from their parents, the less promiscuous and confused they will be. When you talk about porn, include the larger issues of sexuality and sexual integrity whenever possible. Most parents did not receive healthy sex education from their parents, so this makes it even more difficult. It helps to find good resources, but even with the great resources available, it will probably be awkward for everyone.
Talk about the issue before it’s an issue. Far too many parents wait to have the conversation until after the child has seen porn. That dramatically changes the conversation. Introduce the issue early and keep it developmentally appropriate. (Remember: “It’s just a phase.”)
When children are quite young, you can say things like, “God made your body, and you are created in the image of God.” You will want to add, “If anyone ever shows you a photo of naked people or wants you to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable with your body, you can tell them to stop. You can tell mommy or daddy and we will not get mad at you.”
As kids get older, but before age 11, this is the time to have a more direct conversation. Yes, it will feel early, but prevention is always better than dealing with the issue after the fact. Because of the early sexualization in our culture, we just can’t hold off the conversations. Porn is only a mouse click away or one swipe of the phone away. Kids are confused and curious and part of your job is to give God-honoring wisdom while you shower them with understanding and love.
Be a safe haven.
Regardless of your approach, leave shame-based parenting out of the conversation. You want your kids to feel that you are a safe person for conversation about sexuality and pornography. Most likely your child might be embarrassed to talk about porn. Don’t push the conversation too hard or too fast because trying to help your child feel comfortable is vital. You can show empathy and understanding while still helping them with boundaries. By the time your kids are adolescents, don’t expect them to want to have the conversation. Acknowledge that this conversation can be difficult and don’t forget to listen to their thoughts. It’s better to have several short conversations with dialogue than one long, memorable, harsh one.
Make a plan together.
Don’t just talk about porn. With your child’s participation and involvement, create a plan to choose to make good decisions. Here is a simple plan you may want to begin with:
- Teach healthy sexuality
- God loves you
- God created your body and sexuality
- The Bible says: Honor God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:20), Renew your mind for good (Romans 12:1-2), Turn your eyes from worthless things (Psalm 119:37), and Guard your heart (Proverbs 4:23).
- Talk about porn not being real
- Porn stars are actors
- It’s fantasy
- Many of the porn actors have been abused themselves
- Watching porn can be addictive
- Your brain craves a false feeling of intimacy
- It can cause your mind and thoughts to treat the opposite sex inappropriately
- It causes shame, deception, and avoidance
- Roleplay ways of making good choices when tempted
- What to do if someone wants to show you porn on their phone
- If you accidentally view porn, who can you talk with about it?
- Help establish media-safe home guidelines
- Consider accountability friends (make a list)
Pornography isn’t going away. It is a temptation for all of our kids. Your role is key in helping them deal with this issue as well as the greater issues of healthy sexuality and sexual integrity.