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Q:There have been 2 instances in the last year that my
8-year-old son has viewed pornography videos online. Once was on his ipod,
while he was searching titles of football players—that led to porn videos on
YouTube. I confronted him about the videos and told him they were inappropriate
and not for his age. I asked if he had any questions, and he said no. I did
punish him (no ipod or video games). I then thought I put a lock on
everything.  He was caught again by the babysitter while he was playing
game online—he searched “Bing” for sex videos. I confronted him again and told
him that we were very disappointed in his behavior and that the videos are not
age appropriate. I also punished him again, but I’m unsure what
conversation I should have with him next.

What Did He See? Marlton, NJ
A: Dear What,

It can be alarming to have a young child come across—and
then seek out—such adult content. But first know that your son’s curiosity is normal.
It’s similar to the tendency for young children to watch a movie that scares
them over and over again. Many kids will watch disturbing scenes repeatedly
because they are emotionally affected by the content, so they seek to
understand and master it.

You’re right that children are not equipped to make sense of
pornography. They lack the development and life experience that can help them
make sense of why these videos are made—and how they differ from real life. To
help your son make sense of what he saw, and to prevent him from thinking that
he is bad for having seen these videos, try the following:

  • Keep in
    mind that your son is probably curious because he saw something that he didn’t
    understand.
    As humans, we cope with challenging material by trying to make
    sense out of and control it in some way. Don’t jump to worst-case-scenario conclusions;
    instead, know that your son stumbled on something he couldn’t quite grasp and
    is now trying to get back to it in order to make sense of it.
  • Give him
    a different way to learn about sex, rather than punishing him.
    For one
    thing, punishment probably won’t stop him from looking at pornography—it might
    even make it more attractive as the “forbidden fruit” – and it will close down
    communication with you, he’ll just watch the videos in places he knows he won’t
    be caught. The biggest problem with easy-to-access online porn is that it shows
    children sex as a commodity, something anyone can buy and sell, rather than
    intimate connection and communication between loving, trusting adults. Offer
    him books or other resources that are designed to help kids his age learn about
    healthy relationships and sex. By giving him more human, age-optimal resources
    to satisfy his natural curiosity, you can help him form a more positive
    understanding of sex and sexuality. To begin, you may want to try:
    KidsHealth – resources for parents about how to talk to kids about sex.
    tulsakids – developmentally appropriate books to help you talk to your kids
    about sex
    WIRED GeekMom – Sex Ed Books for kids
    A Mighty Girl – developmentally appropriate books about sex and sexuality
    for all kids (not just girls)
  • Talk to
    your son frankly about what he saw, demonstrating that you are neither
    embarrassed nor judgmental about his curiosity about sex.
    By letting him
    know that your concerns are not that porn is evil, but that it will hurt him,
    diminishing a very special human experience, you will model your comfort talking
    about uncomfortable subjects, from sex to drugs to ?, that he will confront
    in adolescence. You are showing, rather than just telling him, that he can
    come to you without shame to discuss anything that may confuse or upset him.

Remember, there’s almost nothing that we can keep our
children from doing, so as parents, we need to teach them to keep themselves from doing things that are
harmful to them. The best advice I can offer is to make sure that your son
knows you are always available to him as a safe and loving source of advice
and support.

Enjoy your media and use them wisely,
The Mediatrician®

6 Responses to “I caught my 8-year-old watching porn, what should I do?”

  1. Rosa

    I caught my son, on several occasions watching girls twerking with thongs and just being vulgar. I took all the electronics away and screamed my head off, and I know that’s not right, but it’s so upsetting bc i tell him and ask him what he is doing and he is still doing it behind my back. Is this a concern for therapy? Please help.

    Reply
  2. Karen Nevo

    And what if it is your personal and political belief that pornography IS evil?

    Reply
  3. Concerned mom in Texas of three young boys

    Karen, I agree. In what we believe we see pornography as evil and as a strong hold on a persons mind. I concern is what did he actually see. The fear is of the unknown. In a sense I feel defeated because I try my best to protect them from the poor morals of this age.

    Reply
  4. Abror

    Even porn actors as well as ptoducers are all criminals… They should be considered biggest as criminals and put them in jail for life.. They are not bringing any benifit to anyone. Why Gov doesnt ban them from producing and publishing them?

    Reply
  5. Janet

    I caught my. 8 yr old daughter watching sex videos it was alarming and scary at the same time.
    What should o do?

    Reply

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