Sadly in the current world we live in, it is not a question about if your child will be exposed to pornography, it is when. According to the American Psychological Association “the average age of first exposure to pornography among their study participants was 13.37 years of age with the youngest exposure as early as 5 and the latest older than 26.” Some studies even state that the average age of first exposure is as low as 8 years old. How can you prepare your child to be ready to reject pornography when it happens?
Unfortunately, we cannot predict or prevent this first exposure. However, we can give our children the tools they need to be able to reject pornography when they encounter it. In order to prepare our children for these situations, we need to help them understand the various ways they might be exposed to pornography, and role play what to do in each situation.
Exposure Scenario #1: Accidental
Your child might be innocently looking up a video for a science project they want to do or searching for an image to include in a coding project on Google, and suddenly they come across pornography. Accidental exposure is the easiest one to combat but is also likely to happen at an earlier age than the others.
Solution to Reject Pornography:
Make sure your children understand what pornography is, and explain to them how they may come across it while they are innocently searching for other things. Tell your children about the people in the world who will target things children will be searching for to trap them into viewing it. Help them know about the sneaky locations pornography finds kids.
Once they understand that accidentally finding pornography is not their fault, they are more likely to let you know when it happens. Come up with a plan together, or better yet have them tell you what their plan will be when they find pornography accidentally.
If your children feel like it is actually their plan they may have a better chance of remembering what to do when the shock of the situation presents itself. The plan should include shutting off the screen right away and telling a trusted adult. If you need help coming up with a plan the CANDO plan is a great way to start!
Exposure Scenario #2: Friends
As children grow, the innocence of their youth vanishes a little more every year. Once kids start bringing their own smart devices to school, or they go over to a friends house to play games on an internet enabled console, the opportunity for exposure to pornography increases significantly.
These situations are much harder to combat since there is now the element of peer pressure. So many parents are unaware of the kinds of controls, filters and locks they can add to devices in their home. Although your child may be protected from accessing pornography on their devices, you never know what kind of access their friends might have.
Solution to Reject Pornography:
At this stage, it is so important for your children to understand the risks of pornography addiction. While it might be easy for them to say no to drugs when offered, pornography could seem like a harmless activity with very little consequences. Your child may weigh the pros and cons in their mind very quickly and decide that it is not worth the possible public humiliation that may come with refusing to view or watch the content being offered.
When your children understand the significant risks to their mental and physical health that can be associated with pornography addiction they may be able to see the reasons to avoid the content more clearly.
If they are comfortable enough standing up for themselves, let them know it’s ok to go against the crowd if they feel strongly about it. If they feel like they may have a hard time saying no to their friends, come up with a different plan together on what they can do to get out of the situation quickly, and with very little embarrassment.
Some parents have a code that can be texted quickly that will let parents know their child wants to get out of a situation. Once the text is received you can call your child with a made up emergency where you have to pick them up right away.
You could also arrange a phone call at a certain time to check in with your child when they are at a friends house. If everything is going fine they can answer or not, but if they do answer and say a specific word then you know to come and get them immediately. Many girls do this when they go on first dates, it’s a perfect way out when it is needed.
Whatever plan you come up with, definitely practice it a few times. It will feel awkward at first if you are role-playing the situation at home, but as you continue to practice it will get easier for you and your child, and it will start to become an instant reflex for your child so they don’t need to think about the situation, they can just act.
Exposure Scenario #3: Seeking it out
It is natural for children to be curious about pornography. If you have frequent talks with your kids about it, like you should, it may peak their curiosity even more. They might start to wonder what it is about this pornography stuff that is so addicting? Why is it such a terrible thing to view?
Your child may try to actively seek it out since they have already heard so much about it. They may even think if they just look to see what it is they will be fine because they already know what they are supposed to do.
Solution to Reject Pornography:
In your discussions about pornography, make sure your children understand exactly what they would see. You obviously don’t want to go into pornographic detail, but you can make it clear enough to extinguish their curiosity.
Install web filters on any devices in your home with access to the internet, including phones, tablets, gaming systems and computers. Make attempting to find pornography extremely difficult, and they may give up after a few tries. I like to layer different types of filters so if something gets past one, it might be caught by the other before it reaches your child.
Be extremely clear with your children about the dangers of pornography, and how it can affect their brain like a drug. Also help them understand that it is OK and natural to be curious, but to learn to control themselves will help them in so many other areas of their life.
Finally, help them to understand when they are tempted the most to find pornography. Is it when they are bored? When they are sad about something? When they are frustrated? Hungry? There are so many factors that can contribute to having the urge to seek out pornography.
Again, you will want to brainstorm together a plan to combat each of these trigger feelings with other useful activities. If they are involved in sports they could practice when they become bored. If being sad is a trigger for them, they could paint, or write, or sing, or whatever other hobbies might help them feel better. Understanding the why behind your child seeking out pornography can help you both come up with a way to stop it that fits their passions and personality.
Being prepared for each of the above scenarios will help your children anticipate the situations before they present themselves. Hopefully, as you work together to formulate a plan for each kind of exposure to pornography, you can help them understand the dangers better and give them the tools they need to reject pornography when they find it.