How comfortable are you explaining to your children about how they got into your tummy? What if your child is too old to buy your sweet explanation about a little seed growing inside you or an angel bringing them to you?
If your child is big enough to understand human anatomy, how much detail can you describe to them about how they were conceived?
An American survey on Exposure to Internet Pornography among Children and Adolescents shows that intentional self-exposure to pornography among children of 10 to 13 years of age is around 8%, and by 14 to 17 years of age this number nearly triples to about 20%. As children 14 and older become developmentally curious about sexuality, they have a much higher chance to develop an interest in pornography.
The problem with allowing your child to be exposed to pornography, whether it is their intention or not, is that the potential dangers are too great to leave the choice in your child’s hands.
The best way to approach the possibility of your child being exposed to pornography is to introduce the uncomfortable subject gradually so it will be more understandable for your younger children, and expand on the information gradually as your child ages.
No matter what your stance is on sex education, it is better for your child to know what to expect and understand what they are seeing than be exposed and unprepared.
1. How children get exposed to pornography
Once your child can access the internet, magazines, and television, it is inevitable that they will come across pornographic content, and it will be impossible to blind them forever to its existence.
You cannot guard them 24/7 and the pornography industry isn’t likely to disappear anytime soon.
Educating your child is important, so they will know how to deal with pornography when they encounter it.
2. What is the risk of childhood exposure to pornography?
A study conducted by JAMA Psychiatry shows that even healthy adults with occasional exposure to pornography showed negative changes in their brain function.
Specifically, exposure to porn can negatively impact brain activity in the areas that control cognitive thinking and self-regulation. This type of damage results in more impulsive and aggressive behavior, as well as an increased tendency toward addiction and depression.
3. What age is appropriate to begin talking about pornography?
If you wait until your child has started exploring pornography on their own without any knowledge about what they are seeing, they will be more susceptible to the harmful messages portrayed in pornography.
According to child specialists, children around the age of 6 show rapid development of mental skills and a much better understanding of abstract concepts and spoken explanations—which makes this a great age to start communicating about what pornography is, why it’s harmful, and how to deal with it.
But even if you haven’t ventured to bring up this topic with older children, it is advisable to open up the conversation as soon as possible.
While it’s important to show your concern over the dangers posed by pornography, it is just as important to show your trust in your child, as well as your understanding of how tempting it might be.
4. How to explain pornography to your children
Step one, Explain that pornography is pictures and videos of people who expose their private body parts. Your child should understand that we cover those parts when we play, eat or go out in public—even when we go swimming. But some people let other people see their private parts.
Step two, explain why we should not expose our private parts. It is like when we take a bath or go to the bathroom. Those are our private parts and they are not meant to be on display.
Step three, explain why some people show their private body parts—this question is bound to come up during the conversation with your child. If showing private parts is wrong then why are the people in pornography doing it?
The simpler and straighter the answer, the better. You might explain how some people do dangerous things to grab the attention of others, like a circus performer putting their head inside of a lion’s mouth or wrestling with a crocodile. They are putting themselves into a dangerous situation in exchange for attention. Sadly, it is interesting even though we know how dangerously silly their actions are. We don’t want to copy them, of course, but even by watching their performance, we encourage them to continue doing something dangerous.
Focus on delivering a message about it is wrong and silly but it is how some people grab others’ attention.
Step four, if your child is still in their pre-teen years, make sure they understand that they don’t need to feel guilty if they do encounter pornography somewhere, but make sure they tell mommy and daddy.
Step five, once your child enters their teenage years and has begun to have an increasing interest in exploring their sexuality, it is time to delve a little deeper into the topic.
It won’t do to simply say pornography is evil and dangerous, so avoid it like the plague. Instead, admit that you understand how it might be tempting and intriguing to them. But also let them know that pornography is not based on healthy or realistic ideas of sexual activity, but performed by actors from an exaggerated script, designed to grab a wide audience.
Let your child know that once they get over the initial shock and fascination of pornography, watching it may seem less harmful than smoking, drugs and alcohol. But it is important for them to realize that the damage caused by pornography is as real and as addictive as smoking or drinking.
While the effects of pornography are obviously not the same as smoking and drugs, the resulting damage is frighteningly similar to the effects of some drugs. Both offer a similar temptation and make them feel good in the short term, but the long-term effects of both are damage to brain function and cognitive behavior. Explain that this makes it harder for people to live a healthy and productive life, by hampering their impulse control and leading to depression.
Your child is bound to encounter pornography sooner or later. As they have more chances to access the internet, pornography will become virtually unavoidable. The most effective way to help your child withstand the dangers of pornography is to prepare them.
Let your child know what they might see in pornography and the best ways to deal with it. Educating your child and showing your trust in them is the best way to protect them from pornography.
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