In the decades before the Internet, kids might've found a Playboy or Playgirl magazine hidden in a parents' drawer, but the world of pornography was otherwise more underground. It is probably safe to say that sheltering kids from pornography today is much more complicated. These days, kids who spend any time on the Internet can all too easily find porn, whether intentionally or not. When this happens, what should parents do?
The Birds & the Bees
While most Circle of Moms members agree that curiosity about sex is normal, they feel that pornography isn't so much about sex as it is about power, subjugation and exploitation. And no mom wants her child learning about "the birds and the bees" from a porn video. As Circle of Moms member Little M. notes, finding out that your child is viewing porn is one indication that it's time for that conversation.
However, that "conversation" is hard to have cold. It's much easier if you've laid the groundwork all along by talking frankly to your kids about bodies and boundaries. Creating an ongoing conversation about sex and related issues ideally starts when kids are young, as this sets up an open channel for communication. (Related: When Should You Talk to Your Child About (Gulp) Sex? and 7 Great Books that Explain the Birds & the Bees.)
If your kids are not afraid or embarrassed to talk to bring you their questions about sex, they are much more likely to be transparent when the subject of pornography comes up. But even with that transparency, knowing that your child is viewing porn can be difficult in the age of the Internet.
How Can You Tell Your Child is Viewing Porn?
If you're comfortable searching your child's browser history, you can easily find out what she or he has been looking at — unless your child knows how to erase that history. Another approach, championed by several Circle of Moms members, including JuLeah W. and a mom who goes by "S," is to set boundaries around your child's computer usage. JuLeah's kids can only use computers in public spaces at home. This way she can keep an eye on what they're doing without being obvious about it. "S" does not allow her daughter to be on the computer at all unless she's around to supervise. And moms who use software programs to filter out age-inappropriate content and websites say that parental Internet controls are a must.
Even though I advocate developing trust so that your child doesn't sneak around looking for porn, several moms make the important point that porn is so prevalent online that even kids who are not looking for it can stumble onto it accidentally.
What Kids Should Know About Porn
No matter what your approach to your online controls, sooner or later you may have to talk directly with your child about pornography. Laying the groundwork mentioned above will make it easier to have this conversation when your child shows that he or she is ready or in need.
But what to say? Jen T. aptly points out that what we really want our kids to know is that real sex bears very little relation to pornography. Much Internet pornography has the potential to distort kids' views on what sex is and on what it's for. While some Circle of Moms members limit that definition to procreation, the vast majority think various kinds of sex between consenting adults is healthy, and that the fantasy scenes played out in pornography have little to do with that reality.
Pornography is a challenging subject to discuss with kids, no doubt about it. But I strongly believe that you can remove a lot of its allure — and relieve a lot of your own anxiety — by explaining what it's really about and teaching kids to take responsibility for their own well-being.
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.