5 Top Questions About Teaching Children and Teens

1. What if talking about pornography makes my child curious and they go look for it?

Children are already naturally curious about their bodies, love, and sexuality. As they see and hear about these things from friends and the media, they will want to know more – and the array of Internet-connected devices available has made it very easy to search for these fascinating subjects. Friends will share what they have found, too. You know you don’t want them seeing the explicit sexual content that can be found online.

Children cannot be expected to avoid something they have not been warned of. The irony is, to protect your children’s innocence you must warn them of the danger of pornography.

You don’t want to give kids just enough information to create curiosity without all the knowledge they need to be completely prepared to reject pornography. The solution is to teach children about this danger so thoroughly that they understand how to recognize it, why it is harmful, how to avoid it, and what to do if they see it.

Exposure to pornography can lead to a lifetime of problems that can diminish children’s opportunities for happiness in life. By teaching early, you can prepare your kids to make choices that will keep them free from pornography.

2. What age is the right time to start talking about pornography with my kids?

Most young people will see pornography at some point, and certainly all will see the increasingly sexualized media displayed in our society. They can still grow up free from the harmful effects of viewing pornography if they are prepared, especially if they are taught early, long before they are considered to be at risk.

Even at a young age, talking about pornography can go along with what you are teaching children about subjects like their bodies, privacy, and loving relationships. You can teach children as young as 3 or 4 years old that if they ever see pictures or videos of people without their clothes on, they should get away from it and tell mom or dad right away. When you explain the “good touch/bad touch” rules, let them know that the rules apply to what they see as well as what they do. If they see images showing “bad touch” they should get away and tell you about it.

How do you know when children are old enough for more information? When they are playing at friends’ homes, attend school, or go to activities such as sports practices, they will hear things from other children and media that are inaccurate. This is the time for you to be their first source of correct information. As children grow and their understanding of bodies and sexuality expands, you can explain what pornography is, why it is harmful, and what they should do if they see it.

3. How do I start a conversation about pornography?

What are the biggest reasons you hesitate to talk to your kids? Sharing your concerns can be a great conversation starter. Tell them you are worried that they may go looking for pornography, that you don’t feel like an expert, that you would rather they didn’t have to know about such a disturbing subject, or that you wish you had done a better job talking about it in the past.

Talk about how common it is today for kids to see pornography and ask if that has happened to them. Ask if they have seen things they wish they hadn’t. Share experiences of your growing-up years and what you wish you had known or done differently. Use a news story, movie, music or other media to introduce the subject naturally.

The most important things are to be calm, respectful, and to avoid creating shame. Studies show that most teens wish their parents would talk to them more about sexual issues. You can help them be prepared for some of the most challenging issues they will face in their world.

4. What are the most important things for our family to do to prevent pornography problems?

The bottom line is what young people choose to do when they are confronted with pornography. They will be safe if they can react quickly by immediately turning away from the source of pornography and telling a parent or trusted adult as soon as they can.

To be ready to respond, children and teens need to know what pornography is, why it is harmful, and what they should do if they see it.

You might want to make the Ten-Minute Rule a tradition in your home. Teach children to talk to you within 10 minutes, or as soon as they can, if they see pornography. Telling someone else helps release the secrecy and shame that can create pornography problems. Reassure them they will never be in trouble for telling you, and be clear it is never too late to talk about something that happened in the past.

Adults can help kids and teens get back on track when they have seen pornography by talking calmly about the experience. Help them understand it is natural to have both good and bad feelings, and to have the images return in our thoughts. Talk about how they can manage the situation better next time. Follow up regularly over time to see how they are doing, and praise them when they make good decisions.

5. How can parental controls help our family?

Most young people will see pornography at some point. Children may accidentally stumble upon pornography online, or they may get the idea to search for it from friends. Kids today don’t use encyclopedias, they search online to learn about things they have overheard. One study found that the fourth most common search term by children was “sex”, and “porn” was sixth. Without parental controls in place, children following their natural curiosity can be ambushed with disturbing explicit pornography that can have devastating effects.

Parental controls on Internet-enabled devices are an important part of defending your family from destructive pornography. Although no program can prevent all access to sexual content, it can significantly limit the risk and frequency of exposure – like washing our hands will keep us healthier, even though we cannot eliminate exposure to all germs. They key is to find a balance between being proactively responsible by using available parental controls without developing a false sense of security.

Most parental control software can filter explicit content, monitor how your family is using the Internet, and limit what times they can access the Internet in your home. Parents can allow children to enjoy variety of devices, apps, websites, and games, but it comes with the responsibility to stay up-to-date on Internet safety. The biggest social media providers such as Google, YouTube, and Facebook have suggestions to keep kids safer online.

An Internet safety pledge can help you establish rules to help your family enjoy the benefits of the Internet without being harmed by dangerous content, contact, and conduct.