Help! My Child has Seen Porn! What do I do Now?

These days there is so much porn online it’s almost easier for a child to stumble across it than to search for it on purpose.

If your child has any access to technology – at home, at school, a friend – they are going to see porn. Not if. When. It has a way of finding kids, and often, after an accidental encounter, they begin looking for it intentionally.

That is the nature of porn.

Our job as parents is to try and delay the exposure as long as possible and prepare our kids for it.

Finding out that your child has seen porn is an awful experience. It leaves you wishing you could turn the clock back and erase what your child has seen.

You may discover that your child has been viewing porn in secret, or your child may tell you that they accidentally saw it. Either way, you are going to feel a mix of feelings – shock, anger, shame, or sadness.  

What should you do if you discover your child has seen porn?

The website Protect Young Minds shares a 5 step plan for dealing with porn exposure:

SMART

S – stay calm

M – make a plan

A – assist your kids to sort out confusing feelings

R – regularly check in with your kids

T – train your entire family

Let’s take a closer look at this plan.

Stay Calm.

Freaking out is going to make your child feel unsafe and likely to clam up and not talk about it. It’s happened and nothing can change the fact that your child has seen porn. Anger and scolding will create isolation from your child and make you feel more disconnected. If viewing porn has already become a habit it won’t be easy to just stop because you are angry or scolding them.  

After discovering your child’s exposure to porn, delay reacting so that you don’t do or say the wrong thing. Take time to deal with your own emotions before talking to your child. You may feel guilty because you couldn’t or didn’t protect them.

You may feel really angry at your child for viewing porn but remember porn is the enemy, not your child. Your child is going to need your support as you work through this together.  

Make a Plan.

Once you’re over the shock of discovering your child has viewed porn, do the next thing: make a plan. This is going to be a battle and every battle needs a plan.

Part of your planning should include what information you want to discover, how you are going to deal with the source of the pornography exposure, and how you can involve your child in mutual solutions.

Questions to ask your child:

  • How did he find porn? Did someone show it to him?
  • Where did it happen?
  • Which devices has he used to view it?
  • How often did he view it?
  • What did he see?
  • How did he feel when he saw it? (Shocked, curious, scared, uncomfortable? Most kids will feel a mix of curiosity and revulsion.)
  • Did he masturbate when he was viewing it? (Masturbating takes porn viewing to a higher level of involvement. It builds and strengthens a neurological pathway in the brain.)

You don’t have to get all these questions answered in one session. Be patient. Reassure your child. Let them know they are not in trouble. Avoid punishment. If they told you about their porn exposure, thank them for their honesty. Create a safe place for your child to open up more.

The most important thing right now is to maintain a close relationship with your child and provide a safe environment for them to talk to you and ask questions.

Help your Kids Sort out Confusing Feelings.

Pornography evokes two conflicting feelings at the same time: 1) a pleasurable physical response, and 2) repulsed, horrified, and upset.

Talk openly about how pornography makes your child feel.

 Recognise that porn arouses sexual feelings which feel good. Acknowledging this helps your child avoid shame for having such feelings.

It’s also important to talk about how porn makes your child feel emotionally. The sense of guilt and shame combined with the pleasurable physical feelings will leave them feeling confused – their body feels good, but their emotions feel bad. Explain how pornography does this. Explain how it affects the brain. Your child is not bad, dirty, or perverted for having a physiological response to porn. Arousal is the natural reaction of the body to viewing explicit material.

Explain that there is an appropriate time to experience sexual feelings. Teach them that both their bodies and their emotions can feel good when they grow up and find someone they love and trust. Sexual feelings are good and normal and designed to hold two people together in marriage.  

Helping kids sort out and understand their feelings about what they have seen is critical in empowering them to reject pornography.

If your child has seen violent pornography you should explain that real sex is not about hurting another person, but about showing kindness and affection to someone they love.

Don’t shame your child.

It’s important to separate your child’s choices from his identity. He is not evil, or a liar, or deceitful; he is making wrong choices. Try and reduce his shame because he will be feeling it.

During this time, assure your child that they are free to ask any questions they like. Don’t act shocked or disgusted by what your child tells you.

Give your child physical affection.

Safe nurturing touch helps support healthy physical and emotional development. Hugs, snuggles on the couch, or playful wrestling will all help to restore a sense of normality to you both.

Regularly Check in with Your Kids.

It’s not enough to have only one conversation about pornography and internet safety. Kids need additional age-appropriate information and continual encouragement to reject porn when their peers may be making other choices.

Remind your kids that you are open to talking with them about the challenges they face on social media and the internet.

Make conversations about porn and internet safety an ongoing part of your parenting. Tell your kids you are open to answer any questions they may have and that you want them to ask you. Talk about sex and why people have it. Talk about how porn portrays a wrong view of sex. Talk about consent and respect.

As your kids approach the teen years, make sure you have regular talk times with them that are natural and unforced. (Read 3 Ways to Get Your Teenager to Talk to You)

According to Dr. Patricia M. Greenfield, a researcher in the area of sexual media at UCLA, the most important factor in reducing porn usage among teens is a warm and communicative parent-child relationship.[i]

Train your entire family.

Getting your whole family involved in the battle against porn will create strength in your child because they have support. There is no need to reveal porn use to your other children, but get everyone on board.

Teach healthy responses to negative emotions.

When a child is bored, lonely, angry, stressed, sad, or tired, porn will be more of a temptation because it helps distract him from these emotions.  

Helping your kids deal with strong emotions in a healthy way will help prevent them from looking for an escape in porn. (Read How to Help Kids Process Strong Emotions without Shutting them Down)

Develop media standards as a family.

Help your kids identify clear reasons to avoid pornography. Help them install an internal filter in their own brain.

Get your kids to buy into the idea of digital filters. Putting restrictions on their devices will be no good unless they are on board with the help the filter provides. Most kids know how to bypass those filters and restrictions.

Most filters can only filter a small part of the internet. When you access the internet through an app, a filter can’t do anything. Once inside the app, kids can use in-app browsers to go wherever they want on the internet.

If your kids have not bought into the idea of digital filters, they will easily bypass them and find a way to look at porn.

Talk about how to solve the problem together.

Should they avoid certain friends or situations? Should you restrict their access to technology or update the security on their devices? Should you keep their device in a public place? Have regular conversations about how they are doing and what they are viewing.

Exposure to porn happened in my home and my advice to parents is:

  • Don’t think it won’t happen to you.
  • Talk about porn openly and early.
  • Prepare your kids to reject it.

Pretending porn doesn’t exist or hoping exposure to it won’t happen in your home is not good enough. Be vigilant and train your kids to deal with it when it does happen.

Additional reading:

Why Good Kids Get Pulled into Porn

A 5-Step Plan for Protecting Special Kids (Autism)

What has your experience been with porn and your kids? Are you preparing your kids to deal with it when they do see it?  


[i] Taken from the book Equipped, Covenant Eyes.

About The Author

Jennifer Lovemore

Jennifer has diplomas in relationship counselling and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), is a certified SYMBIS facilitator, and is certified in TPM (Transformation Prayer Minsitry). She lives in South Africa, has three grown children, and is married to her best friend – Richard.

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