Caught Your Kid With Porn? How You React Makes All The Difference

Posted: July 18, 2017
Many children will come across porn in some fashion as they grow up. As a parent, being aghast or shaming them will not help. Here’s what to do.
Sometime ago I wrote an article advocating female masturbation. I wanted to help bring an end to the taboo surrounding the subject and encourage women to explore their sexuality. I came across studies that show that masturbation is not only usually harmless, it may have health benefits too.

Now, many people masturbate to either their own sexual fantasies or rely on external material a.k.a porn. Porn, however, is another taboo subject even among many who consider themselves open minded and modern. Parents are horrified if they catch teens browsing porn – even more so than if they catch their teen smoking and many have no clue how to react, except with disgust, embarrassment and anger.

But on the one hand if I am encouraging my kids to explore their sexuality, then is it not hypocritical to tell them that porn is off limits? Besides, in this age of internet, with easy access to porn, is there any point in forbidding them? Won’t that make it all the more tempting for them to explore it behind our backs? We can install all the cyber-security we want, but teens will find a way on other computers outside our control.

Is porn always a terrible thing?

I am not a fan of censorship. And I don’t believe porn in itself is that horrible. Just like watching a superman movie does not make a child despair that he does not have superman’s physique, similarly, porn too should not give teenagers unrealistic expectations of sex. Then why does it?

This is mainly because some kids hear of sex only in the context of porn and have no one they can talk to about it, other than similarly inadequately informed friends. So the problem is not that they read or watch porn, but that they have no one to give them perspective on it. In my opinion, as uncomfortable as the subject might be, we need to talk to our kids about porn and give them much needed perspective on the subject. It may even be okay to allow them to indulge in it just a little to satisfy curiosity and so it does not have the lure of forbidden fruit.

Also, in not talking about this subject and showing shame when it comes up accidentally, we are scaring our kids into indulging in it in secret without alerting our kids to one of the biggest dangers of porn on the internet – which are the chat forums on porn sites. The dangers of placing sensitive and private information and compromising images and videos in the hands of strangers on the internet cannot be stressed enough. Some of these chat interfaces may be able to automatically turn on your webcam without your knowledge and film you. Unsafe sites could be riddled with virus that gather data from your computer without your knowledge.

Another danger of porn is addiction, which is also best avoided by having an open and honest conversation about it. A lot of porn tends to degrade women, but there are options such as feminist porn too. There is no denying that most porn does denigrate women and that can have an adverse affect on kids already dealing with a patriarchal society. But that is why it is so important to put it in perspective rather than just hoping your kids are not watching or reading it. Talking about what is actually wrong with porn, rather than shaming kids for being curious about it, is far more productive.

Fantasy Vs. Reality

It is also important to distinguish porn from sexual fantasies that teens imagine or dream and may feel guilty about. We need to help teens understand the difference between their fantasies and how they should interact with the opposite sex in reality, just like when they are kids we explain to them why they cant take off from roof tops like superman.

It is for us to teach them the difference between involuntary urges, feelings and dreams driven by hormones and actions that can be consciously controlled. While one need not feel terribly guilty about urges, one must exercise self control in one’s words, actions and interactions, because those affect other people.

For instance, in a moment of anger you may wish to do awful things to someone, but you have enough self control to not actually do it, and it doesn’t define you, because when you cool off a few minutes later you know what you thought was wrong. Similarly, hormones may result in dreams and urges. It is important teach our kids not to feel guilty about them as long as they have the self control not to act on them and as long as that is not their usual way of thinking. Because this kind of guilt can make them think they are bad people and so they might as well just do the bad things as well.

Part of this will be automatic if we raise our kids to value gender neutrality and respect people irrespective of their gender, religion, ethnicity or nationality from infancy. But teenage years are confusing and it is best to address sensitive issues like porn without shame, blame or guilt, through open conversation.

First published here.

Top image via Pixabay

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