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Moms Talk: What Should You Do If Your Child is Exposed to Pornography?

Last week, we asked if kids were growing up too fast. This week, Moms Councilmember Angela Atkinson asks "How would you deal with learning that your children's friend had exposed them to pornography?"

I don’t know about you, but I have to admit that I secretly hoped I’d be able to shelter my kids from certain things, at least until they were old enough to understand. Unfortunately, back in my new mom days, I didn’t realize how much influence other kids could have as they got older.

For example, my oldest son, who is in middle school in the Hazelwood School District, recently confided that a friend at school had shown him pornographic photos on his phone. Naturally, I immediately wanted to call his friend’s mother and tell her what he’d done, but my son assured me that she already knew and had taken away his phone.

While we have had the whole “birds and bees” talk, this was something I didn’t expect to deal with so soon. So, after putting aside my desire to take my son out of school and shelter him forever, I took a deep breath and started a new discussion.

I told him that while pornography might be visually stimulating, it is nothing like “real sex.” I explained that the men and women involved were paid to do what they did. I reiterated that sex is something that you should only do with someone you love, and I revisited the topic of sexually transmitted diseases, which we had covered during our “birds and bees” discussion a few years back.

I even reminded him that having babies is no picnic, and pointed out how little sleep I got when his baby sister was born three years ago. I went so far as to tell him that girls at his age could not really enjoy intercourse as their bodies aren’t mature enough yet. He said that he understood, and after a brief recap of our discussion, we moved on to a less uncomfortable topic.

I realize that I can’t control everything he sees or hears, but I sometimes wish I could.

This brings me to this week’s question. Should parents pre-emptively educate their children about things like pornography in order to give them a frame of reference when they are exposed, or should we wait until they're exposed before we address the issue?

Candace Jarrett April 16, 2011 at 01:52 PM
Angela, this is a tough subject. Reading your column, I realize as a mom newbie I am no where near ready to deal with this subject. Talking and communication are definitely two key words to a solution. I will say that. I'm sure he felt confused, excited and ashamed about the fact that he saw it, just as you felt the same emotions about him seeing it as well. All I can say is that photo of him in his younger days is adorable and I hate the thought of someone tainting that mind. : (
Angela Atkinson (Editor) April 19, 2011 at 02:36 PM
Thanks Candace, and you're right--this is a tough one! Even though I've been doing the mom thing for 13 years now (almost 14), I still don't know exactly how to deal with it. I think the best thing I can do is just keep those lines of communication open and let him feel comfortable telling me things, like you said. It would be easy to get upset and scare him away. The tough part is staying calm and receptive no matter what he says. And remembering to breathe!
Helena Hewlett April 20, 2011 at 02:14 AM
Oh boy. This is such a scary topic for me, having two boys of my own. I've often thought about the topic, and wondered how I would handle it. I'm not sure what I would have done in your situation, I almost think I would have called the mother, but that brings up a weird confrontation type of thing, so it's awkward. My boys are only (almost 3) and 9 months, so I won't have to worry about this for awhile, but you have brought up such an important point that this comes up so much earlier than expected. And how do we possibly plan for it?? I think it's a good idea to tell our children about what pornography is before they are exposed to it, because odds are...whether we like it or not...and no matter how much we try to protect them from it. I have already thought about things like filtering software on our home computers, etc., but that is only here in our own home. It doesn't protect my children from images in their friends' homes, at school, etc. So I do think preparing them is a great idea and just letting them know what it is (even though it might be an awkward conversation) will be much less awkward than having one later on. Good luck it continuing to deal with these sorts of situations!!

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