What to do if you catch your child watching porn

Today was a really sad day for me.

I saw a little girl who had been viewing pornography for over a year without her parent’s knowledge.  She was 7 years old and she wanted to be a teenager so she could have boobies and a boyfriend. Her mother and father were hit with the reality that things were not right a week earlier.

I also saw a 15 year old girl who had been frequently visiting pornography sites (viewing videos and pictures) up to 5 times a day on her school laptop. She was viewing a variety of live bestiality and gay pornography that they didn’t even know existed. She has been seeing me for over 3 months.

This blog post is specifically written for parents who have just discovered their child or teenager is viewing pornography regularly.  Put yourself in their shoes for a minute.  How would you feel if your daughter or son was in this position?  What would you do next?

Here are the top four questions parents in this position ask me:

Should I be feeling this sad?
How could I not have known?
What did I do wrong?
Is this going to affect them for life?
What do I do now?

Should I be feeling this sad?

It is completely normal to feel shock, disappointment, personal guilt, anxiety and grief.  I just want to validate that these emotions are appropriate.  One of the biggest challenges you will have is keeping strong.

How could I not have known?

Simply put, you don’t see what you aren’t looking for.  There are so many assumptions that guide what we ‘see’ or ‘don’t see’ in our young people’s lives. You might have assumed your child could be trusted. You might have assumed they knew better. You might have assumed that pornography was a male issue and wouldn’t reach your daughter. Our assumptions guide our parenting decisions.

What did I do wrong?

A part of a parent’s responsibility is to protect their children so it is understandable that parents feel responsible and guilty when things go wrong.  However, when it comes to the internet there is so much that parents can’t control. Our children are given an iPad at school in year 5 – 7, which opens a whole world to children.  We can’t eliminate the risk altogether, or change the past.

The more time you spend in regret and guilt the less time you will spend productively engaging as a parent today.  Your biggest challenge will be regaining your confidence so you can parent this area of your child’s life. How you respond now is far more critical that what has happened.

Is this going to affect them for life?

Most parents who discover their teenagers are accessing pornography say, “My child or teenager has a pornography addiction.”  These are strong words. I prefer you to say, “My teenager has had prolonged exposure to pornography and we are yet to see its impact on them.” Remember that the teenage brain is impressionable yet mouldable. Nothing is set in concrete.  What is a habit now, can be reversed.

What do I do now?

Get some professional help. Please! This is one issue I plea with parents not to try and deal with ‘in house’, especially if you feel you are struggling to come to terms with it yourself.  When a teen has been hiding a habit like this it impacts your entire relationship with them.  The issues is always broader than pornography.  Pornography addictions find a permanent residence in shame, guilt, lies and hiding.  The more the issues is brought out in the open the better chance they will have to break the habit.

THANK YOU to everyone who has been passing these blog posts on, and for all your kind emails about their impact on your family.  If you have a topic you would like me to blog about email me at reception@youthexcel.com.au  and I will respond to it as soon as I can.

If you would like to book me to speak at your school or community event email reception@youthexcel.com.au.

MOST IMPORTANTLY if your teenager needs support from a psychologist, counsellor or mentor Youth Excel would love to help. You can contact me at reception@youthexcel.com.au.

What Teenage Girls Don’t Tell their Parents is available at www.michellemitchell.org for $24.95 plus postage.

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