Over the past few weeks, we’ve taken a hard look at the issue of getting “sober” from a pornography addiction, and one thing that I think any of us who have struggled with a pornography addiction can agree on is that getting “sober” can be tough work. When we’re dealing with our children, helping them in their walk towards sobriety can seem even more challenging than overcoming our own. We need to do our part to help them develop in an age-appropriate fashion in all respects, but tackling appropriate sexual development makes many parents shut down.
One parent I was counseling was in a situation that I hear about far too often: she discovered that her five-year-old son had been waking up in the middle of the night to look at pornography for several months. Even though she and her husband later installed parental controls and filters on their Internet-enabled devices, the school found their son trying to access pornography, and he was able to access pornography at several friends and family member’s homes until they realized how grave the situation was.
All of us went through a stint of sexual development around the age of five—we became curious and aware of our body parts. Many children play “doctor” or engage in some exploration of own bodies. Most of this is part of a child’s natural sexual development and is harmless; when a child accesses pornography, it interrupts this natural development.
If your child has had repeated exposure to pornography and is continuing to try to access pornography, it would be my recommendation to get professional help. In addition to considering counseling for your child, it will be important for you to keep the conversation going about healthy sexuality with your son or daughter. Check up on them regularly, and watch out for teachable moments. Make sure that all Internet-enabled devices are protected – with filters, accountability software and parental controls. Consider limiting the type of media and magazines your children have access to, and try your best to model good behavior to your children.
As your children grow, be honest with them. Help them to understand the harms of pornography. Talk to them about what relationships are and what marriage is about. Help them understand accountability and the need for honest friendships. We have a number of resources that can help you have an ongoing conversation with your children and which will help you understand the warning signs of a sex addiction and the harms of pornography.
Although overcoming a pornography or sex addiction is tough, it is possible. I have worked with many kids and adults who, with God’s help, have been able to walk in freedom from their addictions.