Episode 46 – Caught kid watching porn
“Dear Torie, I am so upset. I just walked in on my 9 year old son. He was looking at our lap top and shut it as soon as I came in the room. I asked him what he was looking at and he said “nothing”. When I looked up the browsing history it was very clear he was watching porn. Not just any porn either, but 3-way super inappropriate born. I am so upset that this is first introduction to understanding what sex is. I know he will never be able to un-see the images he saw. How am I supposed to tell him about how sex is a special thing that happens between two people who really love each other? I want him to have a healthy sexual attitude but am mortified that this was his introduction to it. I feel like his innocence has been ruined.” Tama
Parent Educator Answer:
I have been teaching classes on how to talk to kids about sex since the 1990’s. It’s amazing how much has changed around this topic when sex itself has not changed at all.
The frequency with which kids seeing online porn is probably the most significant and disturbing change to have occurred. Sometimes, kids seek it out, sometimes they stumble upon it by accident, other times friends share it with them. Either way, it can be hard for a parent to know what to say and how to handle it.
In this situation, there are a few points I suggest you address with your 9 year old son.
1. Acknowledge his curiosity.
When our kids ask us questions we don’t know the answer to, it’s pretty easy for them to “Google it” or “Ask Siri”. “What’s the capitol of Bulgaria?” “Ask Alexa”. “What’s the weather going to be like on vacation? “Look it up”. So it’s no surprise when kids hear something about sex at recess, they take to the internet to find the answer. We know he was the one searching out sexual content because of the search history.
Letting your son know that it’s really normal at age 9 to be curious about the human body (especially the opposite sex) and how it works would help put him at ease. Tell him it would have been ok for him to come to you with his questions and that you are going to buy him some books with factual, age-appropriate information and answer any questions he might have. The message you want to communicate is there is nothing wrong with being curious about sex.
I have an online sex education class called “Time for the Talk” that is designed for parents to watch with their 9-12 year old son or daughter. You can purchase this class at www.TimeforTheTalk.com and also receive a list of books I recommend for different ages.
2. Make a house rule about porn.
Tell your child that there is something called pornography that he stumbled upon, that is different than what real people do in the privacy of their bedrooms. “Media sex” is fake. It’s designed to be shocking and exaggerated as a way to make money. It is very different than the kind of sex real people have who are in intimate relationship with one another.
Let him know that it is against the law to show pornography to a minor.
You can tell your child,
“Allowing pornography to be viewed in our house by you or any other minor is punishable under federal law. Therefore, your Dad and I will not allow pornography to be viewed in our house. We understand that you can find all sorts of inappropriate content online and we hope you will make good decisions going forward. If we find out that you have been watching it here (or with friends), we will further restrict your internet access in order to keep you safe.”
3. Tell him to follow his instincts.
Instincts are designed to keep us safe. Tell him,
“When I walked into the room, you immediately jumped up and shut the computer. These were your instincts telling you that what you were watching was not appropriate. If it had been something interesting in a healthy way or funny in a healthy way, you would have said, “Mom, come here, you gotta see this!” Instead you shut it down like it was on fire and ran away as fast as you could. Your higher self knew you shouldn’t have been watching this and I want to encourage you to learn to listen to these instincts.”
Life Coaching Answer:
What gets in our way from being able to have this conversation? Nerves! It’s uncomfortable to talk about these subjects when we didn’t get great modeling from our parents! Most of us didn’t have an example set for us that we want to emulate, nor did we have the issue of online porn to contend with. If we had seen our parents handle it a way that felt comfortable, it would be much easier for us to know what to do.
Many parents get worried about doing it wrong. We don’t know what to say or how to say it, so we end up just saying nothing at all. We get afraid that we will make it worse or cause our kid to react in an awkward way. It’s this fear that keeps us giving our kids the information they need to navigate this modern world.
Sex education at age 9 is mostly about science, health and respect for the body.
Kids are smart, they know food goes into stomachs and gets pooped out. When we tell them babies grow in moms stomachs, it doesn’t make sense to them. I believe 9-12 year olds deserve to know all about reproductive anatomy and physiology, puberty, and how babies are made, in a way that helps them appreciate and respect the human body for how magnificent it is. Even if your child hasn’t started puberty yet themselves, their friends may be and they will want to make sense of the changes that are happening around them.
If your kid hears other kids talking at a sleepover, you want him to come home and ask YOU, not google, for more information. You want your child to be able to hear gossip and think, “I don’t need to listen to you, my parents already told me what I need to know. I’ve got books and all the information I need at home.”
Rather than trying to have the perfect conversation at the perfect time, aim for authentic instead. It’s ok to say to your kids “My parents didn’t talk to me about sex or online porn so I might get nervous or embarrassed. Hang in there with me while I fumble over my words. It’s important to me that you know the truth, even if I’m a bit cringy.”
There will come a time in the future when we want our children to have an intimate, possibly embarrassing conversation with their partner. We want our kids to be capable of discussing things like birth control, monogamy, and condoms with their future partners. When we model for them, feeling embarrassed and saying it anyway, we teach them the importance of intimate relationships. With today’s culture of online porn and casual “hook ups”, it’s great for kids to experience the benefit of emotionally intimate relationships, starting with these important but embarrassing conversations with parents.
Supermom Kryptonite – Expecting your teen to misbehave
Do you want your teens to watch porn, have sex, drink and do drugs?
There is one sure fire way to get your kids to do these frowned upon activities and I see parents doing it all the time. All you have to think and say is, “I know they are going to do it anyways,”
When parents have this belief, “I know they are going to do it anyway.” They subconsciously send the message to their kids, that “this is what you are SUPPOSED to do.” In education we have this saying, “Children rise to your expectations”. When a parent expects their child to drink, experiment with drugs, have sex or watch porn, that’s exactly what happens. This expectation keeps parents from giving information about the risks and consequences, or advising them not to do it. It also doesn’t give room for the teens opinion to come into play. He might be scared or disinterested but feel like he is doing it wrong if he doesn’t live up to his parent’s expectations.
It may be that you want your child to fit in and be popular and you think that’s the only way it’s going to happen. Figure out how you WANT your teen to behave and start expecting that behavior. Do you want your child to be tempted but make healthy choices instead? Tell him you expect him to do that. Do you want your child to have friends and romantic partners that have her best interest at heart? Tell her you expect her to find that.
Expect your child to listen and obey your rules around online porn. If he doesn’t, then take extra precautions and limit his access to technology, but always make sure your expectations are aligned with what you hope to see.
Supermom Power Boost: Teaching your kids about instincts and intuition
We are born with instincts designed to help us keep us safe. An instinct is a physiological response in the body. When a giant spider surprisingly lands in your hair, you jump, scream and flail. Nobody taught you to do this, it’s just an instinctual reaction.
Intuition is the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning. Or, a feeling that guides a person to act a certain way without fully understanding why.
Over time both of these senses evolve, picking up more information about what is normal and what isn’t.
I like to find examples of listening to instincts and intuition that don’t scare kids.
I went to vacation on the French Island of Martinique. It was a tropical paradise: warm and beautiful with crystal clear waters. As soon as I stepped into the warm sunshine, my instincts had me take off my long sleeved shirt and walk to the water in my bikini.
Once in the water, I realized many of the other women were swimming and sunbathing with their tops off. One of these women came up and started talking to me. I felt so uncomfortable! My intuitive alarm bells were going off telling me this was not normal! It was a physical feeling in the body of “uh oh” “weird” “wrong” but my brain told me to ignore it, look into her eyes and be polite.
After two days of seeing women without tops on, it felt totally normal to me. No more alarm bells going off, my intuition wasn’t telling me something was wrong.
Your son’s intuition was telling him that what he was watching was wrong. Pointing that out to him will help him learn to trust himself and his gut, keeping him safe in the future. If he was continually exposed to online porn, like I was with the boobies, the alarm bells would stop going off and he would lose this sensitivity to knowing right from wrong.
Teaching your kids to trust their instincts and intuition can be a huge energy boost for mom because you realize it’s not all up to YOU to keep your kids safe. They have a built in mechanism designed for this purpose and are WAY better at listening to it than adults are!
When I was a new mom, I hated the words instincts and intuition. “Trust your gut” or “Listen to your maternal instincts” were so annoying because I had so much fear, anxiety and worry swimming around my brain that I couldn’t access the physical sensations in my body. Kids are much more connected with their bodies and haven’t developed the social skills to talk themselves out of what they know to be true.
Look for opportunities when your child listens to his intuition and point it out to him. Help him get familiar with this built in ability he has. Kids will often use words like “weird” “wrong” “funny” “uh-oh” or “cringy” to describe the feeling that something is off and their instincts have picked up on it.
Quote of the Day:
“You have the gift of a brilliant internal guardian that stands ready to warn you of hazards and guide you through risky situations.”
― Gavin De Becker, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence