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What To Do If Your Child Is Viewing Porn: Nightside Interview

What to do when your child views porn

I recently spoke with Ethan Millard and Alex Kirry of KSL’s NewsRadio Nightside Project about what parents can do if they discover that their child is viewing porn.

Pornography is a loaded topic: the easy accessibility of it combined with a curiosity about and interest in bodies and sexuality that children naturally have can lead to problems and questions. We’ve all heard the horror stories of how porn addiction can lead to broken families and destroyed lives. It’s quite a task to speak to your children about these issues and can be even more emotionally daunting if they’re already involved in it in some way. Here are some strategies for how to handle a situation in which your son or daughter is viewing pornography:

Prepare Your Kids

It’s tempting to wish that our children would never come across (let alone seek out) pornography, but that’s simply not the world we live in. Studies show that young people are being exposed to pornography at earlier and earlier ages, so why not sit down and talk to them about it? My kids know that if they stumble upon something inappropriate they have 24 hours to come talk to me about it. I let them know that they’ll never be in trouble and I’ll instead be proud of them for having the courage to come to me.

Don’t Shame or Get Angry

There may be a tendency to lash out, but understand that anger is covering up more vulnerable emotions (like sadness and fear) that you as a parent may be experiencing. Work to keep your temper in check; an angry disposition will not help things and may further alienate your child. Also, recognize how uncomfortable your child is probably already feeling. Don’t compound this by shaming or embarrassing him/her. Let your kids know first and foremost that you love them and want to help them.

Contextualize Sex in Relationships

As you talk about these issues, put sex in the proper context. For example, you might say something like, “the reason you’re curious about these things is because they are preparing you to form a special connection with someone when you’re older.” Explain that one of the reasons pornography is so harmful is because it distorts sex and can harm real-life relationships, and that you don’t want that to happen to your child. Avoid making sexuality a dirty or taboo subject and instead express how it is beautiful and is to be experienced in a close relationship, not by viewing images of strangers.

Porn Use Doesn’t Equal Addiction

In our culture, we sometimes jump to conclusions and assume that everyone who intentionally views porn is an addict. This is very inaccurate and is like saying that anyone who drinks a beer is an alcoholic. There is a great spectrum of usage, and while pornography certainly can have problematic consequences, avoid thinking or saying that a family member is addicted when very likely that is not the case.

About Dr. Julie Hanks, LCSW:
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to KSL TV's Studio 5, and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Facebook & Twitter. Her books The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide are now available.

Comments

Nanette

I like that you’re talking openly about a subject that is taboo in our culture. I like that you specifically mentioned that we should not shame or embarrass. However, I disagree with your assessment that a person who intentionally views pornography is “very likely” not addicted. The effects of pornography on the brain are not similar to alcohol, but more like cocaine or heroin.

Dr. Julie Hanks

Thanks for your comment Nanette, To clarify, as a mental health professional I do not consider all porn viewing to be an “addiction”. This behavior can still be very problematic without being considered an “addiction.” Porn addiction is not a diagnosable DSM mental illness. I made this distinction because people often label any kind of intentional pornography viewing, even if infrequent, as addiction. Recent research findings suggest that the label of “porn addict” may be more detrimental to one’s mental health than the actual viewing of porn.

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