Preparing Young People to Reject Pornography
What would your child say to a friend who suggested that they search for the word “sex” on YouTube?
Many children would do as one sweet 9-year old girl did recently, who joined her friend to see what would come up. It took a few weeks for her family to learn about the degrading pornography that these girls had been watching together. Words cannot describe the despair these parents endured as they became aware. As her mother noted, “Beyond the fact that these girls have seen porn, they still both believe in Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny and The Tooth Fairy!”
This doesn’t have to happen to our children if we take steps to prepare them to reject pornography.
Why should parents tell children about such a disturbing subject?
Think of it this way: parents don’t wait until a child is hit by a car to teach them to stay out of the street. Just as children are taught to walk safely on the sidewalk, children need to be taught to recognize and avoid pornography before they ever encounter it and experience negative consequences.
Children who are prepared will be able to react to pornography by thinking, “My parents told me about this and why it is wrong. I know what to do – I will turn away from this and talk to my parents.” Unfortunately, children who are suddenly exposed without any warning could be more likely to continue viewing, be ashamed to tell parents, and even be drawn to secretly search for more.
Naturally, most parents are reluctant to talk to children about pornography. The biggest worry for parents is that talking about pornography will create curiosity and cause children to go look for it. However, we must recognize the disturbing reality that explicit sexual media is easily available from many sources, and we cannot control when children may encounter it. Avoiding this subject leaves children unprepared and vulnerable. Therapist Anne Brown teaches that we don’t want to give kids just enough information to create curiosity without all the knowledge they need to be completely prepared.
It may be a paradox, but in order to protect children’s innocence, we must prepare them to turn away from pornography before they are exposed to it. So what is a parent to do? You have the power to help your family! Follow these steps with each of your children.
1. Teach kids what pornography is in age- appropriate ways.
2. Help kids understand what the harmful effects of pornography are.
3. Practice with your family what to do if they see pornography.
4. Use parental controls on all Internet- enabled devices. 5. Follow up with your kids:
• Check in regularly. Ask, “Have you seen pornography since the last time we talked?”
• Look for opportunities to praise them for good decisions – for example, when they tell you about problems or speak up to their friends.
• Commit to helping them get back on track when they have seen it.
If you have a group of people who would like to discuss more about how to follow these steps, contact Vauna Davis at vauna.davis@utahcoalition to schedule a free presentation. More good resources are utahcoalition.org, salifeline.org, fightthenewdrug.org, and womenfordecency.org.