There’s no doubt that the Internet and technology have made the world of parenting vastly different than it was in the past. There was a time when a parent’s biggest concern was finding their child with a Playboy magazine, which probably just piqued the child’s curiosity. Now, with sex being more prevalent in the news, movies, and even in children’s programming, it should be no surprise that more parents are discovering their teenagers taking their curiosity one step further and into the world of full-blown pornography.
Discoveries like this often lead to knee-jerk reactions by parents. Consider these tips for handling your reaction to finding your child watching porn:
- Calm down before approaching your teenager. Even the best-prepared parent is bound to be emotional in this situation and talking immediately will probably not be very effective.
- Get your thoughts straight. Most parents’ first reaction to their teen viewing porn is to think there’s something wrong. In reality, viewing porn online is not uncommon. Studies show that 42% of Internet users, ages 10 to 17, report having seen online porn at least once in the past 12 months.
- Be open to discussion. It’s important to realize that teenagers will naturally be curious about sex. Approaching the conversation with the intention of easing that curiosity, rather than being accusatory, will make everything much more productive.
Handling the Conversation
This is “The Conversation” – the one every parent fears from the moment their child is born. It’s probably going to awkward. It may be uncomfortable for one or both of you; but in the end it can be a pivotal conversation in your child’s development. Try these tips for making it easier:
- Help them to understand they’re not in trouble. Make the focus more about educating them correctly about sex, rather than making it about punishing them.
- Invite them to ask questions. Since curiosity is often the biggest factor in these scenarios, it’s important to be open to your child’s thoughts and feelings.
- Consider starting the conversation in the car, where it’s easy to talk without making eye contact. Just make sure you’re close to home so your teenager doesn’t feel trapped by the confines of the car if they’re uncomfortable.
- Accept that they may not want to talk with you. This is highly likely and forcing the issue isn’t going to help anything.
- Consider alternative resources for educating your teenager. If they’re not open to a discussion, you might try casually leaving education materials around or even providing them with information they might be better able to relate to. There are great for-teenagers-by-teenagers resources available nowadays.
- Explain the real concern with these teen issues, which is not that a teenager may be looking at porn…instead, the focus for this conversation should be keeping their understanding of sex grounded in real life. Some important aspects to discuss are:
- Realistic body expectations. Help them to understand that porn actors’ bodies are often drastically modified by makeup, surgery, and by other methods, and are unrealistic portrayals of the average person.
- The emotional side of sex which typically has no representation in pornographic materials.
- The “every day” side of sex and how it differs from the fantastical elements they see in porn. An easy comparison might be pointing out the differences between how life is portrayed in blockbuster action movies versus what they see in their everyday lives.
- The fact that some online porn sites show hardcore sex, sexual violence, and perversions. Help your teenagers understand that these sites do not generally reflect real life and aren’t made to be watched by teens, in any case.
- Don’t be afraid to discuss the feelings that porn can generate. It’s important for teenagers to understand this and how those feelings can be addictive.
- Discuss the differences between viewing sites and interactive sites, such as social media and chat rooms, where topics related to porn may come up. It’s important for them to know about sexual predators and the risks that can be involved in these types of interactions.
- Set some guidelines. Just as there are places you would consider dangerous in the real world, your teenager needs to understand that there are dangerous places in the virtual world. Help them to understand that you will be monitoring their computer usage while still trying to protect their privacy.
Still having a hard time coping with this change in your teenager’s life? For more tips about teen issues and approaching your teenager about online porn, contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen and The Center today.