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Help! I Caught My Son Watching Porn

Every week I like to put up a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Here’s a scenario that all too many parents deal with: what do you do when you catch your son watching porn (or your daughter watching porn)?

Here’s an email I received:

This morning, I had to be out of the house for a little while and my 15 year old son babysat my 6 year old son. We let our 6-year-old get on the computer because he is a music FANATIC and spends hours on youtube watching videos, especially classic rock. Today my older son walked in and caught him looking at some ugly pictures. A quick look at the history reveals he had typed in “sexy neckit (naked) girls” in the search engine and I am DEVASTATED at what he saw. Images that I didn’t even want to see, much less my SIX year old. I want to handle this correctly…I don’t know what to do. I need to know WHY he even searched for that and I need to know how to punish him. It is making me feel like a miserable failure as a parent (we don’t monitor enough, we don’t go to sunday school enough, etc) I can’t stop crying. Of course I called my husband at work and I’m going to wait until he gets home so we can both talk to him. Our older son asked our younger son why he was looking at that and he said “my mind told me to and I cant control it” Please, do you have any advice how to handle this??

Isn’t that tough? So let’s try to work this through.

Most Children will See Porn Before they are 18

Porn accounts for 25% of the web pages on the net, and chances are your children will see it. Indeed, 43% see it before age 13. Often it’s by accident; I remember one friend telling me about her 11-year-old son doing a school project on nursery rhymes, and while he was at school he typed in something about Little Bo Peep. Guess what came up? The teacher had to hurry over and minimize the screen, because all these kids were staring, mouths agape. I’ve had that experience, too–I’ve been searching for something innocent and you click on a link and it’s porn. So chances are they will see something.

Early Porn Use is Heavily Associated with Later Porn Addiction

I’m not saying, though, that because everybody will see it it therefore means you shouldn’t be worried. On the contrary, almost everyone I’ve talked to who uses porn heavily started when they were teenagers. The root is found back then. And it makes sense. As a teen, your brain is still forming, and indeed it’s going through a lot of changes. If you start to see porn when you’re just starting to develop sexual feelings, the porn images get fused with the arousal sections of your brain, and you start to depend on those images for arousal. The porn also activates the pleasure centers of your brain, in a similar way that drugs do. So you start to form these connections that begin to rely on porn. As an adult, the effects of porn can devastate relationships.

That’s why we absolutely need to protect our kids from porn as much as we can. So here are some strategies to do that.

What to Do If You Catch Your Son Watching Porn

This mom reports being devastated and crying all day, and I totally understand. A little bit of crying isn’t going to hurt your child, and it will cement the idea that you’re sorry FOR your child.

And that’s what I would emphasize:

“I’m sorry you saw that, because it’s dangerous and I want so much more for you.”

Rather than expressing anger, just talk matter of factly about it. You certainly don’t want your child to associate sex with shame, but at the same time you don’t want your son (or daughter) thinking that this is what sex is.

So start explaining to them,

“I know you’re curious about what people look like naked because you probably hear about it everywhere–on movies, and at school. But that’s something that’s just for marriage. When we start looking at people like that then we start thinking about people just about their bodies–and we’re so much more than that.”

You can even start a discussion about what makes a good person, and how it has nothing to do with what they look like.

And then say that bodies are fun and beautiful, but we’re not supposed to share them with everyone, it’s just for marriage.

What about if you catch a child watching porn who is much older?

Then I think the key is to be honest with them fully: one of the reasons I don’t want you watching porn is because I want you to have a great sex life when you’re married, and this will wreck it. Tell them about how it retrains the brain to get aroused by an image, and not a person, so that when you’re married you can’t even really enjoy sex with your wife. If you want to enjoy sex, you have to ignore porn.

I heard this awesome story from a mom at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) conference I was speaking at last week. She went to bed one night (her husband was away at work) at about 11, and when she woke up an hour later she saw that her 14-year-old son’s light was still on. She had thought he was doing homework, but she got up to check, and as soon as she came in the room he minimized the screen. She asked what he was doing; he admitted he had been watching porn.

She immediately pulled up a chair, said, “Cool! Let’s watch it together.” Then she maximized the screen and started clicking through, providing commentary the whole way (that’s not real; she’s obviously had surgery; no one really enjoys that). About 10 minutes in he grabbed the mouse and minimized the screen again, absolutely mortified. And he said, “can we get filters on our computer?” I think she wrecked it for him!

If you want to learn more about how to handle kids and porn, Covenant Eyes has a great FREE ebook out called “Parenting the Internet Generation“.

Covenant Eyes Parenting Ebook

How to Lessen the Chance Your Child Will Watch Porn

How do you lessen the chance they’ll watch porn? Some quick steps:

1. Keep the computer in a central place.

Kids normally watch porn and become addicted if they have a computer in their rooms. Make all internet use happen at the dining room table or the living room, so that you’re doing it as a family.

2. Turn off wifi when you go to bed.

Turning in at 10:30? Turn off the wifi so your child can’t surf late at night. That’s often when they start! And have a central dock in the kitchen for charging all phones/iPads overnight. Make it a rule that devices get left to charge there, so that kids aren’t surfing at night on their phones.

3. Watch whose house your child hangs out at

The most common place to view porn, other than in your house, is at a friend’s house. And often kids see porn without even wanting to because a friend shows them, and it’s awkward to ask the friend to stop. So, in general, have kids hang out at your house when you can supervise. If they go to a friend’s house, check what their computer rules are.

4. Get filters on the computer

Honestly, these really are a great deterrent. Yes, a determined, smart child may be able to find their way around them. But filters stop the chance that searches for “Little Bo Peep” will bring something icky. And they mean that if a child wants to see something, they have to be very determined. A momentary temptation won’t be able to drag them in.

Covenant EyesI really believe that every family should have filters. They can’t stop everything, but think about it this way: 30 years ago if you wanted porn, you had to go to a store and buy it, and it was kept on the top magazine rack. It’s not like you had a shelf full of Playboys in your house, in the living room, and you just said to your kids: I don’t want you looking. But that’s what we’re doing today if we don’t have filters. It’s like we have DVDs and magazines all over the house, and we’re telling kids, “don’t look.” Putting a filter on is like putting those DVDs and magazines back on the top rack of the store, and out of easy access. Isn’t that better?

Covenant Eyes is a great program that lets you restrict access to certain types of sites, and sends a report to the person of your choosing of what sites everybody has chosen to try to access. So it really does work as a great deterrent. And I think this is a service for our teens. Porn is very tempting. If you could partially remove that temptation, isn’t that being kind? And Covenant Eyes is offering a month free to our readers (just click the link and it will know you’re from here).

5. Model Healthy Sexuality

Be affectionate with your spouse in front of the kids. Talk to them about sex and tell them that in marriage it’s good. Let them know that you’re not uptight–you actually want great sex, not a counterfeit.

6. Pray Lots–and Get Your Kids Praying, Too

Finally, there’s no substitute for the power of the Holy Spirit in your child’s life. I heard another story from a mom whose 9-year-old son jumped off the computer like it was on fire one day. The mom was startled and asked the child what was going on. He replied, “I wanted to search for naked pictures, so I typed it in, and as I did, I heard God say, “Ethan, Stop It.” Really loudly. So I got off the computer.”

He heard God’s voice! And that’s a wonderful thing. So make sure your kids are involved at a great church. Talk to them about God at home. Model prayer to them–pray about everything, just in quick sentences. Let them see you praying to resist temptation to gossip, or to feel proud, or whatever, so they see that they can do this, too.

Now it’s your turn: what have you done to protect your children from porn? What experiences have you had with your children and porn? Let us know in the comments!

This post contains affiliate links.

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