Our children are exposed to more screens than ever, beginning at a very young age. They are bombarded with digital content and exposure to ads, friends, and family members sharing who knows what. Not to mention the sneaky ways tech experts entice viewers to look at inappropriate images. (Check out PARENTING COURSE | Parenting In The Brave New Digital World here!)

The sexual curiosity of many 6 and 7-year-olds is getting awakened earlier than you ever imagined. So whether porn pops up on their screen or a friend or family member shares something, you want to be ready to have the “porn talk” with your kids.

Talking with your young child about pornography doesn’t have to be terrifying. In fact, before the teen years, you have some advantages. 

1. At this age, the parent/child relationship is often still the most important influence for your child. 

2. Young school-aged children are probably more open about what they’ve seen, done, heard, or said, especially when they feel supported by their parents. Yes, some kids lie. However, a 15-year-old’s efforts to hide something are very different from a 7-year-old’s. 

3. Parents have more control over where they go, who they spend time with, and what they do. (When kids split time between parents, this can be challenging. But, if parents work together, they can both be more aware.)

Keep these things in mind as you consider how to talk to and protect your child. Perhaps they’ve already been exposed to porn. Or maybe you have a reason to think you should talk about what porn is with them. If you find out your child has seen stuff you don’t want them to see, try not to show them you’re overwhelmed.

Remember, they’re still young. Still forming right and wrong mentally. Learning the world outside of their bubble. Your child’s life isn’t ruined. 

What Not To Do:

  1. Don’t fly off the deep end. It’s disappointing when your young child has been robbed of a certain innocence. But if they’ve seen it, they can’t “unsee” it. If you’re overly emotional, it will make it harder for them to talk to you in the future. 
  2. Don’t dive super deep into the details. The goal is to help your child do the right thing if they see inappropriate content. 
  3. Don’t solely rely on parental controls on devices. Your parent-child relationship plays the biggest role in dealing with this issue and reducing the risk of exposure. 

Language

Don’t assume your child knows what the word pornography means. It may not mean what they think it means. How does your child identify inappropriate content? 

Try asking:

  • “Have you seen pictures or videos that you don’t feel comfortable looking at with me?” 
  • “Are there sometimes pictures on your screen of people without their clothes on?” 
  • “Has anyone shown you pics of things that made you feel weird or uncomfortable?” 
  • “Have you looked at stuff you don’t think we’d want you to see?” 

The word porn may not trigger the type of awareness for kids that it would for you. They will, however, know when they’ve seen something that’s not OK to you. 

Find out what they’ve seen and where.

Look at the internet browser, YouTube history, and some of the video games they play. Gently ask questions to gather info. Ask to see what they look at with friends. 

Set the standard of what’s OK and what’s not.

A 15 or 16-year-old clearly knows what they’re doing when looking at porn. A 5 or 6-year-old is learning about the outside world. You have to set the standard for appropriate and responsible technology use. You may say, “It’s not OK for you to look at anything online that we can’t look at together. That includes people who aren’t wearing clothes or who are doing things that only adults should be doing.” 

Try, “Anytime we go to someone’s house, doesn’t everyone have their clothes on? It should be the same way when you’re looking at a screen. Everyone should be dressed.”

Clearly say what you expect.

Ask your child to tell you (and the adult in charge) if someone shows them something inappropriate. Tell them it’s important to be honest with you, even if someone asks them to keep secrets or threatens them concerning what they are doing or showing him. 

Be a safe person he or she can come to without fear of getting in trouble, and don’t be shocked by what they show you. You want to encourage them and make it easy for them to talk to you. On the other hand, let them know they will get in trouble if they see something wrong and hide it. Make sure they understand the difference.

Standards and expectations don’t work without consequences.

If your child continues to view inappropriate content and fails to meet the standards and expectations you’ve set (see above), be consistent with consequences. Maybe they lose screen time. It may mean no sweets or an earlier bedtime for several days.

If the consequences don’t work, consulting a professional may help. If your child insists on looking at porn, something else may be going on.

Often the key to steering your child is the approach. Your kids need you to be gentle and supportive. Look for ways to appreciate and reward their good decisions. This will lay the groundwork for being an ally as they move into the teen years and beyond.

Other helpful blogs: 

When to Talk to Your Kids About Sex

Conversation Starters for Kids and Parents

How To Talk To Your Teen About Pornography

Boys and Porn

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