Kindness Is: talking to your kids about pornography.
If you’ve spent much time reading my blog or following me on Instagram, you know I am a passionate advocate for parents talking to their kids about pornography. What’s more, I advocate for those talks to start happening at an early age. And by early, I mean around 5 or 6 years old.
This takes a lot of parents by surprise. I get it. They’re wondering, “how in the world do I even talk to my 5 year old about pornography?” And “why in the world should I have to?” Or, “what happened to childhood innocence where the heaviest conversations we have to have with our kindergarteners are about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy?”
I understand all of these reactions. I felt the same way the first time I had to tell my young sons about protecting their bodies from anyone who might want to touch them in a way that wasn’t safe or appropriate. I hated bringing up the very idea that there were people who might want to hurt them. It made me sick to my stomach. Their world was so safe and perfect and beautiful. By bringing up the idea that someone out there could hurt them, I felt like I was stealing some of that beauty.
But the reality was, by saying nothing I was leaving them open to the possibility of so much more ugliness and darkness being brought into their lives. So I had to decide, shine light into the darkness or let the darkness invade? I chose to shine the light into a dark place.
This is the exact same decision we face when talking to our kids about pornography. Even introducing the word into our child’s vocabulary can turn our stomach. We hate to bring anything so dark and ugly into their bright and beautiful world. But the fact remains that by saying nothing, we open up the door for so much more darkness to walk in.
Still, still, I get pushback from parents all the time. They tell me why they think they don’t need to talk to their kids about porn yet. Here are their top three reasons:
1. My kids are too young.
2. My kids don’t even know about sex yet.
3. My kids will become curious about porn.
In a normal world, I’d say each of those reasons are logical and make sense. The trouble is, we don’t live in a normal world anymore! Instead, we live in this kind of world: “Pornography has changed. Extreme content is the new norm. Soft porn has disappeared. In 2010 the journal Violence Against Women reported physical aggression in 88.2% of leading pornography scenes, and verbal aggression in 48.7%, with 94.4% of the aggression directed towards women and girls. And a February 2018 headline in Esquire Magazine read, “Incest is the Fastest Growing Trend in Porn.” (Enough.org) Also, “porn sites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined.” (Huff Post) This is the tiniest fraction of the extremely troubling statistics and information about the modern day world of porn. You can, and should, educate yourself by reading more here. The point is, due to the changing nature of pornography, its rapid growth, and widespread access, there is simply no justification for not talking to our kids about porn. Yes, even when they are 5 or 6 years old.
I’m going to address each of these reasons one by one, and hopefully you’ll get the push you need to begin talking about pornography with you kids, and more importantly, begin shining a light in the darkness.
Reason 1. My kids are too young.
While in the past, this may have been true, it just isn’t anymore. We all know 3 year olds are sitting in the cart at Costco, swiping away on mama’s phone while she shops. We all know 6 year olds are playing games, unsupervised, on ipads and tablets. And we all know that it is not uncommon for a 10 year old to get thier own smart phone for a birthday or Christmas present. That means that every single one of those kids is at risk for accidentally stumbling across porn online.
You might think that you have every security measure enabled on your devices, and all the filters and protections in place so your child is fully protected. Guess what? It doesn’t matter. There is no 100% protection. Just last weekend, when I clicked on a google link for info on a hike, not an ad but an actual link from Google, up popped 3 pictures of naked women. And these weren’t lovely Mary Cassatt-type images of a mother lovingly breast feeding her child. Nope. They were straight up sexual photos that made me gasp and want to hide my phone instantly. What’s worse, I could not get them off the screen. I had to turn my phone off to get them to disappear. Now you can be sure that I have every security restriction enabled on my phone. In fact, I have to enter a password just to look at my own website, because of the articles there about pornography. Yet, somehow, those images got through. Do you think your child is somehow immune to this exact same scenario? Please, please, don’t be so naïve.
“More and younger children are accessing internet pornography. The average age of first exposure is 11 (Randel and Sanchez, "Huffington Post" - 2016). However, "children under 10 now account for 22% of online porn consumption under 18" (British Journal of School Nursing.)” (Enough.org). These statistics about young kids accessing pornography are frightening. But we must take them as a wakeup call! We can’t just imagine away the dangers of pornography exposure because our kids are young.
Reason 2. My kids don’t even know about sex yet.
Here is an important truth for you to hang onto. Your kids don’t have to know all about sex for you to warn them about pornography. Yes, that’s right! Because you don’t have to tell them all the details about pornography in order for them to know it is bad and dangerous for them to see it.
All they need to know is that pornography is pictures and movies of people with no clothes on. “And just like we don’t show strangers our private parts, we don’t want to see other people’s private parts. So if we ever see those pictures or movies on a computer or a phone, or if someone shows them to us, we look away and then we go tell a safe grown up what we saw. You won’t be in trouble for seeing it. Talking about it is how we keep you safe.”
THAT IS ALL YOU HAVE TO SAY.
You see, our kids don’t have all the negative associations about porn that we have. They don’t know the content, the shame, or the things it is associated with. And in the beginning, they don’t have to! Just tell them the most basic facts, enough for their protection, and leave it at that. As they grow, you can reveal more as it is needed. But if they’re not ready for the full sex talk, don’t let that stop you from protecting them from porn by explaining, with the simplest details, how they can stay away from it.
Reason 3. My kids will become curious about porn.
Fact: almost all people are curious about sex and sexuality. We are sexual beings and God created us to be. Being curious about sex does not make your child bad. Being curious about porn does not make your child bad.
What would be bad is you not talking to your kids about sex or porn so that when their curiosity grows, they seek out answers on Google. And Google becomes their teacher instead of you. Or when they accidentally stumble upon porn for the first time, and their curiosity drives them back for more, but they don’t know they should talk to you about it. Because you never said anything to them about porn.
Look, we don’t notwarn our kids about the dangers of smoking or doing drugs, drinking and driving, or unprotected sex just because they might be curious to try those things after we bring them up. No! We recognize those things as dangerous and offer up appropriate warnings to our kids as a result. Our approach toward pornography should be exactly the same. Porn is just as dangerous as those other activities. “Studies have found that frequency of porn use correlates with depression, anxiety, stress, and social problems.” (The Porn Myth pg .194) We also know porn addiction can cause everything from brain damage to violent behavior to suicidal thoughts. Pornography is dangerous and should be viewed as such.
The reality is your kid might become curious about porn after you warn them about it. But that is not a good reason for you to avoid talking about it to them. Instead, you need to make sure your conversation with them covers what to do if they see porn, whether by accident or because they have searched it out. Be certain they know to come to you, that you will not love them less or heap shame upon them. Make sure they know they are safe with you. And when they do come to you, react to them with compassion and grace.
I know that talking to your kids about pornography, at any age, is not easy. After all, we bring all of our own fears, hurts, shame, and all kinds of other baggage to these discussions. But we can’t let any of that stop us from offering our kids the protection they deserve. I appreciate the words of Martin Daubney, former editor of Loaded magazine, now a public advocate for protecting kids from porn, “Like many parents I fear my boy’s childhood could be taken away by pornography. So we have to fight back. We need to get tech-savvy, and as toe curling as it seems, we are the first generation that will have to talk to our children about porn…By talking to them , they stand a chance. If we stick our heads in the sand, we are fooling only ourselves.” (The Porn Myth pg. 57)
There is so much to say on this topic and I always feel that I have just scratched the surface. You can read some of my other articles on the topic of pornography here, here, here, and here.
Each article has links to applicable books, articles, websites, and other resources.
If you feel like you need more direction in talking to your young kids about porn, I recommend this book, “Good Pictures, Bad Pictures Jr.”
If your kids are a bit older but you are still unsure how to talk to them about pornography, then try the book by the same author, “Good Pictures, Bad Pictures”.
If you need help talking to your children about protecting their physical body as well as their brain, I recommend the book, “God Made All of Me.”
Lastly, I am currently working on two articles, one about talking to your kids about sex, and the other on creating a healthy sexual culture in your home. I recognize these are both incredibly important parts of the battle to protect our kids from the dangers of pornography. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to share them here very soon.
Thank you for reading and educating yourself. Now I ask you to join me in the fight by sharing this article and inviting others to take part in this incredibly important conversation and fight. Be a light!!