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  • Is Viewing Porn Normal for Kids?

    Dawn Davenport

    5
    When should parents start to worry about a child viewing porn

    At what point does viewing porn cross over from normal curiosity to abnormal. When should parents worry?

    One of our own needs some parent to parent advice. When do you worry about your child viewing porn?

    I have 6 grown children and then adopted a 7 year old from the Philippines. She is now 12. I have a serious problem that I have never had with my other children. Starting when she was 8, I caught her looking at porn on the computer. I have tried everything to stop her – taken away the computer, watching her like a hawk, punish her, etc., but every time she gets on the computer, I check the history and she’s back to viewing porn. She’s now 12, and I just caught her doing it again, this time from my phone. What do I do? Nothing I have tried worked and she makes me think at 12 she is starting to be addicted to porn or is viewing porn normal for kids. I need your help, please.

    I am not a psychologist or therapist or doctor so I can only give you my opinion as a mom. And for the record, let me say up front that I think you should consult with a therapist.

    Parenting in the Age of Internet Porn

    I think today’s parents face far more of an issue with our children and porn than previous generations because of the internet. It used to be a well worn copy of Playboy, Playgirl or Hustler being passed around, but now the sheer amount and variety of porn that is “just a click away” is staggering.

    I think adolescents have a natural and normal curiosity in sex. I remember sneaking over to the National Geographics at the library when I was a young teen to look at the pictures. I only had one sister and was really curious what a naked male looked like. I didn’t have access to anything better, until… I started babysitting for a family who had The Joy of Sex right on their living room bookshelf. Yes, it was on a high shelf, off to the side, but still… Their kids were bratty and they didn’t pay well, but I continued to babysit for them until I had finished the book (and truth be told, reread a few chapters).

    But the ready availability of porn today scares me. I think it is setting our kids up for unrealistic ideas of what sex within a loving relationship is supposed to be. But all this is in the context of a child who is approaching or past puberty, and has a normal curiosity.

    I Would Be Worried

    Like you, I too would be worried about your daughter. I think eight is young to be interested in sexual images. It also sounds like your daughter’s interest is beyond natural curiosity since it seems she is obsessed with finding these images despite your best effort to prevent her. I am worried that your daughter may have been sexually abused in her past.

    Children Without Parents are So Darn Vulnerable

    The sad reality is that sexual abuse is not uncommon in children past infancy available for adoption because they did not have a parent to protect them from the evil that exists in this world – including pedophiles. It is also not uncommon for pedophiles to gravitate to places where children are vulnerable, and children in orphanages are certainly the most vulnerable.

    I am not trying to scare you. This is nothing to panic over, and it does not mean she is damaged beyond repair. It does mean that you need to immediately get her help with a therapist that has experience with victims of childhood sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is so damaging and confusing for children, and if your daughter was abused in this way, she needs help understanding and processing this abuse.

    Where to Find Help?

    • Contact your local Department of Family Services (or whatever the agency is called in your state that works with foster children) and ask what therapist they would recommend.
    • Parenting a Child Who Has Been Sexually Abused: A Guide for Foster and Adoptive Parents available from the great folks at Child Welfare Information Gateway.
    • Listen to this really terrific Creating a Family show on Parenting a Child Who Has Been Sexually Abused. Our guest expert is Dr. Joshua Sparrow, Assistant Professor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Director of Special Initiatives at the Brazelton Touchpoints Center at Children’s Hospital. He also has a monthly column on child development in the New York Times. It’s 1 hour and you can listen on your phone, tablet, iPod, or computer.

    Have you experienced anything like this? (You can post anonymously.) Even if you haven’t experienced this situation, please share your suggestions for this mom.

     

    Image credit: Graham Holliday

    25/06/2014 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 5 Comments



    5 Responses to Is Viewing Porn Normal for Kids?

    1. R.R. says:

      I have discussed this with my partner and we wanted to share our thoughts. Here they are:

      – yes to the idea of therapy! That would be essential.

      – if this behavior stems from a traumatic event she needs to be kept safe from re-stimulation. This re-stimulation could be re-traumatizing her. A therapist may use EMDR or other re-patterning techniques to mitigate any potential PTSD, and this will need some time and space so as to not sabotage any progress in healing. She does need to know that she is being kept safe (explicitly out loud in a conversation), and that safe means no access to pornography.

      – we absolutely didn’t want to make any assumptions about this particular child or this family’s story but it is important to note that there is a very real and current issue with child sex trafficking in the Philippines. Some of it happens with very young children and commonly happens via video/internet chat. If she has been exposed to these practices, this would be an example of trauma that needs to be dealt with on a therapeutic level. (I have family from the Philippines and this topic has come up in our conversations.)

      – On a more benign level, in the case of accidental exposure, if she had stumbled upon pornography, we wondered if this could actually take the form of trauma itself, thus a catalyst for the subsequent events.

      – actually, Internet is not safe for unlimited access for ANY child as young as 12. She, especially, needs her internet and computer time to be strictly supervised and limited for awhile. This includes smartphones and computers, and these must be parent-protected and/or passworded. This is both to keep her safe and to make her FEEL safe, so that she can’t sabotage herself either.

      – if this behavior stems only from a strong and innate curiosity about sex that seems normal (not born from trauma), It is normal for people to have sexual feelings at a young age such as 8. I myself was extremely curious at that age and went though great lengths to learn more and view explicit images. I had no history of trauma and grew to be a sexually healthy adult, likely because when I was caught in the act, I was not shamed but redirected by my parents to non-pornographic more educational and/or age appropriate texts.
      This child’s curiosity absolutely needs to be productively redirected. There are supportive resources – (age)appropriate literature/books about sexuality that she can read… Also essential: conversations (awkward as they may be) in which she feels free to ask questions, talk about fears, feelings, and/or share past experiences. Explicit conversations need to be had about sexuality – even her own sexuality (in a positive and not judgmental way) that also address why porn is not a healthy or realistic way to build her own sexuality.

      – no one can be kept away from pornography altogether. She will encounter sex and even pornography in her life down the line but she needs a break from it now. Whether or not this stems from trauma, she needs time away from it so she can grow into her own organic feelings on the subject of sexuality. Not the prescriptive and manipulative way pornography falsely presents sexuality. And Not under the burden of shame that these illicit porn watching sessions have fallen. She needs time develop her own realistic and wonderful hope for what this part of her identity and life will be like.

    2. This is so scary – I agree that consulting a therapist is of paramount importance. I think that interest in sex and sexual images are natural – but I would expect this interest to coincide with puberty.

      If nothing else, getting an external viewpoint from a professional can help you learn to open dialogue in an age-approrpriate and comfortable way.

      Parenting in the age of technology is not without its challenges, that’s for sure. Even if this is nothing but curiosity, it is difficult to navigate how to handle these sensitive situations nowadays!

      • Northern Star, I know that every era has their parenting challenges, but I completely agree with you that one of the biggest of our generation’s parenting challenges is how to handle the internet.

    3. cb says:

      Here is a site that talks about the above subject:

      http://www.safekids.com/2011/12/17/so-your-kid-is-looking-at-pornography-now-what/

      Just one thing, althought the following is understandable:

      “I have tried everything to stop her–taken away the computer, watching her like a hawk, punish her, etc.”

      it might also be making things worse. As thee article says:

      “Engage but don’t overreact

      The first answer is not to freak out. Take a deep breath and spend some time thinking about the situation before you do anything. If possible, talk it over with the child’s other parent before confronting the child.

      Don’t overreact. How you respond to the situation can have more of an effect than the exposure itself, according to Richard Toft, a child psychologist in Palo Alto, California.

      “Parents,” said Dr. Toft, “need to approach porn the same way they approach any issue about their child’s sexuality. There are laws involved, there is responsibility involved, and there is a life long impact of everything they do whether they want to admit it or not.” Dr. Toft added, “Parents are going to do best if they do not consider porn isolated from sexuality. They need to address their moral feelings about sex, and porn is part of that. It is also best addressed ahead of time not after the fact.” He added, “A parent’s reaction can have a tremendous impact, and you could make it traumatic by ranting, raving and threatening reprisals.”‘”

      I remember one year in the mid 70s, our family went to my mum’s inner city preschool fete (she ran the preschool) and my 10 year old brother bought some “magazines” from one of stall (yes, I know, I’m not sure what place “Playboy” has at a school fete!). I had a quick look and then he took them down to the communal cubbyhouse to share with his friends.

      My older abrother bought a “potboiler” that had quite explicit sex scenes and I wrote them all out and showed them to my friends (I was about 11). One thing I did learn from this potboiler is that today’s men just can’t get the same thrills out of their car doors as men in the 70s and that it is not a good idea to be in a car accident when “attached” to car doors lol.

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