Help! My Kid Saw Pornography, What Should I Do?

Yikes, my kid saw pornography, what do I do?!?!

First of all, don’t panic.

Every week someone writes in to ask, “my child saw pornography, what do I do?” From four years old to 24, this is a topic that parents struggle to manage – and it’s easy to understand why.

Sexual images are everywhere from catalogs delivered in the mail and billboards, to instagram ads and accounts, pictures sent – or demanded – by peers, to hardcore videos.

So, what you should do when your child sees anything that you consider inappropriate, whether it’s pornography or something that is just disturbing?

The first thing I want you to do is (and stick with me here it’s going to sound a little weird) is: Say thanks.

They can see it and tell you, or see it and you get the chance to address it, or see it and hide that from you. When you find out, whether you discovered it or they brought the topic to you, that’s when the good conversations happen. If your only goal is to make sure they never see inappropriate content for 18 years, you’ve probably already lost.

So start by saying, “I’m so glad we get a chance to talk about this.”

Next: Avoid shame.

This step is hard. Whether or not your child meant to see this, they may have found something interesting or enticing about it. That makes sense because that’s how our brains are wired. We are interested in big emotions, especially sexual feelings. Seeing people in any kind of intimate pose or setting may very well engage your child. No matter what their age. Even if they don’t understand what is happening. Even – or particularly – if they know you believe it to be wrong.

If your response makes them feel ashamed, two problems are created. One, they are likely to feel that shame connected to any interest in intimacy for many years to come. And two, they may focus on hiding their interest from you rather than learning enough to understand why they should avoid these images when and where they can.

It’s OK to tell them you are not okay with this.

You can make it clear to a child that something they’ve done isn’t okay without making them feel like a terrible person for doing it. This is the important distinction that all kids need when we correct their behavior. If their behavior was bad, that doesn’t mean they are inherently a bad child. They can change their behavior. If we make them feel like they themselves are broken, they’ll give up because how do you fix that?

So, what do you do?

The answer to that question varies. For young kids (under age 10), the answer is more concrete and there are definite steps you can take to prevent them from seeing it again. For older kids who are more independent, this provides opportunities continue the discussion. Keep imparting your values – they do want to know what you think!

But seriously, WHAT do you do?

Watch this video to get the steps you need to take for both young kids and tweens and teens.

We give our kids information and values and as they grow they choose their own path but our job is to make sure they know what we believe and why. 

So, do you feel better? If you have any parenting questions that are keeping you up at night, you can ask a question on the homepage, on Facebook or Twitter.

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