Jeanne H.'s 13-year-old stepson has been caught several times over the last year viewing pornography on the computer in his room, and this Circle of Moms member is at a loss. How do you approach such a touchy subject with your teen? she asks.
Jeanne is not the only parent of a tween or teen who is wrestling with this issue. Circle of Moms members are finding that the ease of access to pornographic images and videos through the Internet and mobile devices makes an encounter with it virtually a rite of passage for today's kids. And many say that talking about it with your child can be tricky, especially if you're aiming to nip a habit in the bud.
Here Circle of Moms members share ideas on how to successfully broach the difficult subject of pornography with a tween or teen.
1. Take it in Stride
While many moms are initially shocked by the discovery that their child is viewing porn, they are also reassured by another discovery: that it's really common.
Sherri C. feels that curiosity about pornography is a natural outgrowth of a teen's sexual exploration: “Teenage kids are going to start to become curious and ... sometimes this is how some kids do it."
A mom named Ada agrees. “Chances are [that] however innocent we'd like our children to be, they've probably heard about all sorts of things, using all sorts of language from peers at school... . I think it's dangerous to try and shelter children too much.”
Several moms say it's important to share the message that curiosity is normal with your child; that it can smooth the way for a positive discussion about why you'd prefer he avoid pornography. As Katarina A. explains, “It’s normal for a 12-year-old to be curious about sex, but porn sites and movies are the worst place to learn. Explain to him that his curiosity is normal at his age, but these sites degrade women and may cause young men to develop a lack of respect for girls and women."
Dana P. and her husband took this very approach, telling their son that "curiosity is perfectly normal but that what he was seeing on the computer is not the way we want him to view sex."
2. Explain What Porn Is and Isn't
April P. is one of many members who feels it's critical that parents intervene. A lot of pornography delivers "a twisted perspective on what sex really is," she says, and suggests not only explaining what porn is to your child but also why you disapprove of it. When she caught her own 12-year-old son searching online for hardcore material she felt he was going way beyond stashing "a Victoria's Secret magazine or even a Playboy magazine" under his mattress. "Internet porn can be hard core and it is truly a scary thing," she says.
The definition of porn will vary from family to family, but Tara H. suggests offering this one to your child: "Porn is actors performing to scripts based on various fantasies and fetishes,” in a way that distorts sex. "The majority of women (and men) do not behave that way sexually although there are men and women who do enjoy things that are frequently portrayed in porn," she says.
Rebecca J. also endorses an open and candid approach, explaining "the difference between ‘porn’ and real, meaningful sex." She adds one very important tip: "Don't make him feel ashamed, dirty or that he has done something ‘wrong.'"
3. Monitor Accounts and Internet Access
When Dana P. found her 13-year-old son watching porn on the Internet, she and her husband not only had the talk but also starting using their computer's parental controls: "We put some pretty severe restrictions on his computer usage with the help of parental controls. It hasn't been an issue since then.”
Nelly P. is another member who took this approach, but advises going even further and monitoring your kids' email and social accounts as well:
“Before any of our children, ages 18, 16 14, and 12 years old go on the computer either my husband or myself search their e-mails and only my oldest two have a Facebook account, [which] is also searched. If anything is sent that is not appropriate we delete it before the kids have a chance to look at it," she says.
4. Take the Opportunity to Really Talk About Sex
Approaching your teen about porn provides a great opportunity to put sex and sexual relationships into a broader context, say moms like Mikesha B. She found her son watching Pay-Per-View and says it opened up their communication:
“After the situation we sat him down and explained to him that what he was going through was normal and nothing to feel embarrassed about. It's normal stuff that is part of puberty. We explain to him that while this was a normal thing that young boys go through, he needs to understand that those types of movies and pictures are for adults only, not for children to see. I think having that open communication really helps.”
Emily D. also recommends leveraging the opportunity to discuss sex with your teen, but her approach will not be for all: "Sit them down and make them watch it with you while discussing the video, the people in it, the lack of feelings. Actually converse with them about it and explain a ‘real’ relationship doesn't have sex like that and that sex is special. Hopefully though, watching porn with mom should scare them enough that they don't watch it in your home for a long time.”
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.