Monday, December 3, 2018

Who is Talking With Your Kids about Pornography?

If you're not talking with your kids about pornography, who is? Have a conversation about 
this is not something to which most parents eagerly anticipate. Often parents worry that having this talk may get their kids to start thinking about sex, perhaps even becoming curious and seeking out content earlier than they would have had nothing been said. But waiting means that rather than proactively setting up guidelines sharing our beliefs and values about sexuality with our children, we will be discussing these after we find out they have already been exposed to pornography. This could potentially be well after their initial exposure and perhaps long after a lot of time spent viewing it.  

The fact is this talk needs to be more than just a one time conversation. It needs to be frequent and ongoing. The negative effects of pornography and its effect on our brains is difficult enough for adults to navigate and certainly not something that a young impressionable mind knows how to handle. Women are often seen as objects in pornography. Young boys and grown men watching pornography learn to objectify women, valuing them for how they look rather who they are as individuals. The viewer may also come to see her/himself as an object. Mistreatment and physical harm of others is modeled through pornography. Pornography can become very addictive for adults and for kids, creating a desire to see more extreme and unusual content. It can train your brain into thinking what you see is normal, healthy, appropriate, and how relationships work. 

Dove Campaign for Beauty
If this is a taboo topic in your home then your kids don't have your guidance helping them along the way, instead learning about sexuality from the internet. In a Moth podcast recorded a while ago, Adam Savage of Myth Busters describes parenting as trying to influence the computer code in our kids' operating systems. In Talking To My Kids About Sex In The Internet Age, he explains how he tried to influence the code by having this talk with his twin sons. He said "curiosity is OK but it will quickly take you to places that you don't want to's reasonable to be curious...but you will quickly see things that you won't be able to unsee, images that will stick with you the rest of your life." In short, in an effort to put things into context he sums it up for his boys as "the internet  hates women." This is both a startling and intriguing way to describe things and set up a framework for more discussion. Years ago Dove had some PSAs about media's influence and portrayal of women that are worth viewing and discussing with our kids: Evolution and Onslaught.

(Approximately 11 minute clip)
A while ago in one of the webinars I did with Mathew Meyers, a licensed marriage and family therapist,  we discussed how to talk with your kids about pornography. Starting at a young age, we can tell our kids that there are pictures out there of naked people and explain why we believe you shouldn't look at these and why it isn't healthy or ok to look. We should also talk about why these pictures and videos are on the internet- that many unhealthy people are looking at this and creating a market for it. It is also important to talk through what to do if/when this content is viewed by playing out possible scenarios like, "What would you do if you're at a friend's house and s/he wants you to watch an inappropriate video?" Be sure to take shame out of the equation. Do not make it a taboo topic--talk about our sexuality being normal. (See Simple Tip for Powerful Conversations with Kids: Start with "What if.." vs. "Have you..?") I often tell kids to practice the Grandma Test when wondering whether or not something is OK: keep your Grandma proud of the content you view as well as create. 

Last year at the National Digital Citizenship Conference, I met Kristen A. Jenson, author of Good Pictures, Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids (Second Edition), a great short book in kid friendly language written for parents to have the difficult and often avoided conversation about pornography. Kristen helps parents explain the difference between your thinking and feeling brain and how pornography can become addictive, tricking the brain into an addiction. She lays out a five step plan entitled "CAN DO" which stands for Close my eyes immediately, Always tell a trusted adult, Name it when I see it, Distract myself, and Order my thinking brain to be the boss! There are about 2-3 discussion questions after each short chapter to help parents with this important discussion.

We need to talk with our kids frequently about pornography. Don't put this off. If you've already had this discussion, revisit the topic once again. I have more links and resources to help talk with kids about pornography here.

No comments:

Post a Comment