When was the first time you were introduced to pornography? Whether kids are looking for it or not, the oft-cited statistic is that the first age of exposure is 11 years old. Furthermore, studies show that 1 in 5 mobile searches are for pornography. With more and more preteens having a smartphone in the palm of their hand, it's becoming more important for parents to not only discuss pornography with their kids, but also to do it before any of this happens.
There are three essential things parents must do in order to succeed in offering their children a correct view of healthy sexuality. They must first foster a deep and open relationship with their children. Second, educate themselves on the realities of pornography addiction. And third, teach their children the good side of human sexuality.
Let's face it. Most kids would rather lose all television and Internet privileges than have a chat with their parents about sex and pornography. There really isn't any way to get around the awkwardness of the conversation. The only way to make the best of the situation is to first have an open and honest relationship with your children.
In order for that to happen, your relationship with your children must go beyond the superficial. Both you and your children must feel free to be vulnerable with each other, to talk with each other about sensitive and possibly shameful feelings and experiences. Without this, you may be able to have the discussion, but your child may not feel comfortable discussing it later when he or she actually comes in contact with something inappropriate.
Pornography addiction is a grossly misunderstood ailment. While the answer of many parents and ecclesiastical leaders to struggling teens involves praying more, studying scriptures, keeping busy or exercising more willpower can be helpful, the emotional and physiological needs are largely ignored.
Like most addicts, people turn to pornography in a vain attempt to fulfill or avoid an emotional need. Whether it's an issue of self-esteem, shame, or a traumatic childhood experience that hasn't been properly addressed, teens can seek to self-medicate through the world of fantasy pornography provides. When this happens, chemicals are released in the brain's pleasure centers in high doses, as well as bonding chemicals that caused the teen to get hooked. The brain then creates circuitry to automatically seek that same response whenever life becomes uncomfortable.
It's important, therefore, for parents to understand the true causes and implications of a pornography addiction, not only to help their children understand but also to keep them from feeling shame for not being spiritual or strong enough.
Teach the good, not just the bad
There is such a thing as healthy sexuality, but many kids don't know that, especially when most lessons from parents or at church focus on all the things they're not allowed to do. Pop culture doesn't address healthy sexuality at all, rather it paints all forms of sexuality with one big brush. Thus it is imperative that parents help their children understand the beauty and sacred nature of sexuality between a husband and wife. Kids must understand that sex is not only a means for procreation, but also to be used as an expression of selflessness and deep love. Those bonding chemicals that are released when viewing pornography are meant to strengthen the bond between a loving husband and wife. But if your children never understand the true purpose of sex, how can you expect them to identify the counterfeit?
Children are being exposed to pornography and other unhealthy sexual stimuli earlier and earlier. It doesn't help that pornography is becoming more hardcore in its unnatural character and violence toward women. Is it any wonder that we are hearing more and more stories in the news about sexual assaults by teens and even preteens?
The best defense parents have against this epidemic is a good offense. Being proactive about understanding the scourge their children are facing and giving them the tools and support they need can go a long way toward fighting this new drug. To the question about when you should talk to your children about pornography, the answer is long before you think you need to. While the average age of exposure is 11 years old, many are coming in contact with it before then. This means that the right time is as soon as you think they can understand it.