Whether you catch him in the act or find it on the computer, if you have a boy odds are he’s seen pornography. With some studies saying that 9 out of 10 boys use pornography, it’s not so much a matter of if your son has seen it but when.
As scary as it is, this is the world we live in. Even if you lock your home down, eliminating all access to technology, you can’t protect your children from access at their friend’s houses, smart phones, explicit video games, you name it.
One of the most difficult features of pornography today is that it can be so private. If your son is hiding this guilty pleasure, chances are that he feels that you won’t approve and he is nervous about how you might react if you find out.
The good news about finding pornography on your computer, is that you now have another avenue of connecting with your son in an area of extreme confusion and unrest. It is an opportunity to communicate love and truth. Remember to keep this in mind as you develop a plan of action to help your son navigate this distorted exposure to love, sexuality and human interaction. The most important thing is not that your child knows how bad this is, but that he grows and matures into a respectable adult who understands God’s design for sex and marriage.
Our first reaction as parents when we find out about something our children have done that we disapprove of (like viewing pornography) is to “teach” them how wrong it is and to do everything we can to keep them from doing it again. The problem is that our “teaching” tends to be emotional and reactionary which actually communicates something entirely different than what we intend.
What we need to communicate with teenagers is that we are on their team and we want the best for them. The desires they have are normal and good, but pursued in the wrong they way will be hurtful and harmful. This message sounds very simple and straightforward, but knowing what we should communicate and actually doing it are two extremely different things when our precious children and our emotions are on the line!
The most important thing to remember whether you’ve already found porn on the computer or not or even if you’ve already had an altercation with your son about it is to communicate your love and acceptance of him. He needs to know you love him, accept him, and are on his team. Keeping this in mind as you work through the following suggestions will make a huge difference in how your son responds to you as you try some of the following suggestions.
First, and most importantly, do not panic but stay calm. I cannot stress how important it is to keep your cool when you hear your teenagers talk about shocking behavior or find out they are involved in it. Overreacting, especially in this area, will push your teenager into shutting down and hiding what they are thinking, feeling and doing from you.
If he hasn’t expressed surprise or disgust to you about naked people on the computer, he probably has all kinds of emotions about it, including feeling guilty and that he’s some sort of pervert for liking it. What he needs is a parent who lovingly comes alongside him, tries to understand, and helps him navigate these new desires and feelings while directing him to God’s truth about love and sexuality.
Secondly, do not try to set up one, single conversation that will solve the issue. Prepare yourself for an ongoing discussion. The feelings and emotions he is experiencing are confusing and take time to process. If you try to have a one-time conversation about this complex issue, your son won’t even know what questions he has in that one moment, and when he does figure out what he would like to ask after the conversation is over, he will either ask his friends or Google them! We definitely want better options than those!
Third, if you haven’t had opportunity to discuss questions your child has about sex or begun the ongoing discussion, this is your opportunity to begin. A good place to have this conversation would be on a drive in the car or something similar where you are doing something together not just facing each other. This way your son doesn’t feel like he’s being scrutinized or interrogated. It’s also a bit more relaxed and although he’s stuck with you during the drive, he knows it will have an end when the destination is reached.
Keeping in mind how important it is to stay cool, to communicate love and truth, and to establish an ongoing conversation, it’s probably best to calmly and succinctly explain what you found and ask him about it. Then shut up and listen.
If you have already established an ongoing conversation, it will be a little easier to refer back to a previous conversation while explaining what you found and asking about it.
You do not have to state your disapproval of viewing pornography. Your son knows. You want to communicate that you love your son and want what’s best for him. You also want to communicate that you are committed to work with him through finding healthy ways of dealing with sexual desires and emotions. Ask him if he has any questions, and leave it at that for the time being.
Fourth, explain why pornography is so dangerous. Porn is highly addictive. Boys are often exposed to it innocently, but their curiosity is piqued and they want to see it again. Being naturally visually stimulated, more viewing leads to more desire. This desire is both for seeing it more often and for viewing more extreme content. As this happens, the brain is actually altered to desire it more making it harder and harder to stop. Eventually, the habit becomes compulsive and even out of control.
Even worse, the porn industry has no ethical boundaries. Women and children are lied to, coerced, drugged and forced to do terrible things for money and power. The men who view it begin to think of women as sexual objects and believe lies.
Fifth, move all computers to a central and public place in the home. If a laptop is taken to a bedroom desk to do homework, leave the door open a crack so the temptation is reduced. Ideally this should be a house rule before children hit puberty. However, it can and should be implemented any time with an explanation that the internet can be a dangerous place and we are a family who helps each other avoid temptation and harm.
Cell phones make the internet accessible anywhere your teen has one, so another rule should be that they are collected at a certain time at night for the same reason. Evenings alone in their rooms before bed tend to be a very tempting time to explore the internet. Additionally, teenagers need around 10 hours of sleep at night for optimal brain development – cell phones greatly hinder good sleep schedules.
Sixth, set up internet controls to block inappropriate content from your computers and devices. This can be done at the router level so all computers and devices are filtered on each individual machine. There are many programs available such as “Covenant Eyes” that help with this.
As you work through some of these ideas, remember that you are on your children’s team. They need to know this. Be firm about implementing protective strategies, but leave room for them to fail and learn through the process as they grow and mature.