When the parents that I work with first discover that their son or daughter has been viewing pornography, their initial reaction is driven by emotion: they feel confused, ashamed, saddened and often struggle with denial.  They simply don’t want to believe that their little boy or girl could ever possibly want to look at such graphic, sexual content.  As a result, many parents decide to say nothing, sit back and wait for the next shoe to drop.  They pretend that nothing ever happened and write their son or daughter’s use of pornography off as a “one time event” or a mistake that they can’t conceive of their child ever doing again.

Unfortunately, due to the highly addictive qualities of pornography, it’s likely that if you discover your child viewing pornographic images once that they’ve probably looked at it before or will look at it soon again.  Parents must understand that their sons and daughters are sexual beings, with real, legitimate questions about their bodies and sexuality.  It’s perfectly natural for them to be curious and to have questions and desires about sex as they approach and move through puberty.  If you aren’t engaging with them on these issues and acknowledging that you have a critical role to play in their healthy sexual development, then your son or daughter will take their cues from the shows on TV or from the porn they find online. 

When we discover that our kids are struggling with pornography, it’s important to leave our own shame, guilt and anger at the door; how you first engage with your kids on this issue will set the tone for future conversations.  Do you want your child to struggle with a pornography addiction?  If the answer is “no”, then it’s important that you are willing to take steps with them on the path towards sobriety, and despite your impulse to pretend that everything is OK or that your child isn’t struggling, opening dialogue and getting the struggle out in the open is a key step towards healing. 

A lot of parents ask me whether it’s weird or hard to talk about sex addictions, lust and sexual struggles with their children, and I often tell them that, yes, talking about these issues with their kids isn’t going to be easy.  But with time, the conversations will become easier and easier; the biggest hurdle is to keep the conversation going, but once you do, you’ll often find that your kids are eager for advice and help—especially if you are able to keep from blaming and shaming your child.

I was recently talking with a thirteen-year-old boy who had this to share:

“My mom and dad walked in on me last year masturbating to porn.  I thought my life was going to be over.  I’ve never been so embarrassed and upset in my life.  That night, they didn’t say anything, and at first, I was really hoping that they would never say anything.   I asked God to help me and promised Him that I would never look at it again as long as I didn’t have to talk to my parents about it.  Then, the next day, my parents sat me down, and I knew what was coming.  They were actually really nice about it.  They said they were sorry for not using filters on the computer and for leaving me to figure things out on my own.  They also said that they were really sorry that I had to see those images and they started to talk about how porn can actually be pretty bad and lead to other problems.  After that first talk, my dad set up a time for us to have breakfast together before school, one morning a week.  He didn’t always ask me about porn and we didn’t always talk about sex, but sometimes he did.  He asked me how I was doing and how I was struggling, and he shared about what was hard for him growing up and some of what was hard for him now.  I really looked forward to those conversations.  My dad helped me learn about being pure and he told me what sex was really about.  If I’m having a hard time, I know I can talk to him and he can help me figure it out.  Now, I actually thank God that my parents talked to me about looking at porn.”

If you need help in getting the conversation going, I would strongly encourage you to check out our resources, like “The Talk” and our guidebooks on pornography and kids.  Also remember, prevention is the best approach–so, no matter the age of your child, consider installing a filter and parental controls on ALL of your Internet-enabled devices (like our X3watchPRO or SafeEyes)