My kids say they haven't seen porn; should I believe them?Every parent wants to believe their kids are honest. However, sometimes kids hide the truth from their parents. Keep reading for some stats, warning signs and advice for getting the truth from your kids.

Sobering Stats

Here are some sobering statistics every parent should carefully consider:

  • 71% of teens hide online behavior from their parents
  • 90% of boys and 60% of girls were exposed to pornography before the age of 18
  • 32% of boys and 18% of girls have seen bestiality online
  • 39% of boys and 23% of girls have seen sexual bondage online
  • 83% of boys and 57% of girls have seen group sex online
  • 69% of boys and 55% of girls have seen same-sex intercourse online
  • 11 is the average age for viewing Internet pornography

Some Kids Won’t Admit Their Exposure to Porn

SALIFELINE Protecting Families

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Read this eye-opening story from S.A. Lifeline’s Protecting Families From the Harmful Effects of Pornography (p. 85).

A devoted mother of two boys (ages 12 and 10) and a daughter (age 8), came home from a church meeting with a handout on how to talk to kids about pornography. She was a full-time mom and felt quite certain that her kids had “had no exposure to pornographic materials.”

After explaining some of the basics, she asked her children if they had ever seen pornography. Immediately her 12 year old spoke up about a time “when a picture popped up on the computer screen and how this image kept flashing in his memory and he didn’t know how to stop it.”

Then she asked her 10-year-old son if he’d seen any pornography. He said “No,” but his little sister ratted him out. “What about the time I walked into the living room and you and your friend were on the computer looking for pictures of naked women?”

Obviously, some kids tell the truth more easily than others.

jeff fordJeffrey J. Ford, a licensed therapist who treats pornography addiction, states in his article Creating a Safe Place to Talk About Dangerous Things that, “much of the time initial disclosure begins the process of getting the whole story, and is rarely the whole story!” Ford advises parents that a child “will open up about things in stages and rarely discloses something all at once.”

Warning Signs

Here’s some advice from uknowkids.com’s recent article Is My Child Watching Pornography Online?

  • Is your child very curious about sexuality for a very young age? Do they seem fascinated by the thought of sex and their genitals?
  • Has your child showed any early signs of sexual activity? Do you have reason to believe that they have indulged in sexual contact before?
  • Are there charges popping up on your credit card that you have no clue where they came from? Is your child constantly asking to borrow your credit card, but never gives you a straight answer on why they need it? (Here at PPK, we’re not sure why any parent would hand over a credit card to a child!)
  • Have you noticed that now your computer has been getting a lot of pop-ups and that you are receiving an alarming amount of inappropriate e-mails?
  • Do you feel your child is going through any obvious changes in behavior? Are they acting way more defensive or secretive lately?

If you start seeing any of these warning signs, this should be a red flag to you that something’s going on with your child.

Young dad and son

Our Advice

  • Continue to have brief, regular conversations. Ford advises that it’s “helpful to remember that our children will not learn everything at once, and we don’t need to cover everything at once either…Parents must have many conversations about pornography which provide an opportunity to clarify values and beliefs, express opinions, instill truths about sexuality, and answer questions that their child will have.”
  • Present the evidence. If you suspect your child has been viewing pornography and have some evidence to prove it (a list of search terms or url’s and times/dates), present it and say, “It looks like someone has been searching for porn on this device and I believe it may have been you. We know this is hard for you, but we’re going to get through this together. It’s hard to admit to using porn, but the first thing we’re going to do is to try and make sure you can’t access any more of it.”After that, the parents can begin to share information about how harmful porn can be. It is not necessary for the child to admit right away–or ever– that he or she has been into porn. The child may never admit to it, but parents can still move forward. If during sharing information the child keeps denying, just continue to give information over the course of time. If honesty becomes a big issue, it distracts away from the real issue and can turn into a battle of wills, which will only keep the child lying.
  • Stay calm. Kids will avoid talking or asking questions if they perceive their parents are anxious or upset.
  • Create a safe place to talk about pornography. Instead of lecturing about how bad it is, ask what your child thinks and feels about pornography. Especially with older kids, don’t react with judgment if they are more accepting of pornography than you are. Over time, work to help them see the damaging effects of pornography.
Kristen Jenson
Kristen A. Jenson is the founder of Protect Young Minds and author of Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids. Kristen enjoys speaking, writing and anything else that will help empower kids to reject pornography. Kristen earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, and a master’s degree in Organizational Communication. Kristen currently lives with her husband in Washington State, where she enjoys growing a vegetable garden, watching Masterpiece Theater, and taking long walks with friends who tolerate her incessant talking about you know what. Above all else, her husband and three children are her greatest treasures.
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