When your child is hurt, you want to do everything in your power to take away the pain. But how do you help when a child hides that hurt? This is typical behavior for a child who is viewing porn.

signs a child is viewing porn -boy on tablet

Today’s post offers concerned parents 7 reflective questions to help uncover a child’s secret wounds. Plus, we have included a FREE SMART Plan for Parents guide for helping kids who have seen or sought out pornography.

Let’s start by illustrating how common it is for kids to hide stuff from mom or dad —even when they are hurting!

The stoic four-year-old

My husband likes to recount this silly incident that happened in our home several years ago.

“I looked out through the large picture window to see our four-year-old son come around the front of the house with a brick in hand. He looked visibly upset —angry, to be precise. It didn’t take me long to connect the dots. The brick was about to be released in such a way as to demonstrate a full expression of his feelings. Before I could move from my chair he had thrown it with all the force his little muscles could muster.

Only, his trajectory was off. Instead of launching the brick forward (maybe even through the picture window), it went up. Then down very quickly … landing square on his head.

No doubt our son was in a great deal of pain. But his pride kept him from making a peep. In fact, if I hadn’t witnessed it with my own eyes, we may never have discovered the giant goose-egg hidden under his mop of dark hair.”

Too embarrassed to tell

We can laugh at this story now because we know a goose-egg heals almost as quickly as the wounded pride of a four-year-old. Unfortunately, other wounds our kids try to hide have much more serious consequences.

Countless kids find themselves trapped in the habit of using porn. It’s a vicious cycle of cravings, use and shame! Many hardly even know how they got there. And like my son who threw the brick, these kids are too embarrassed to tell a parent they are hurting.

Have you wanted to talk to your kids about pornography, but didn’t know what to say?! I’ve felt that way for quite some time and finally found a solution – Good Pictures Bad Pictures…I highly recommend this book to all people with children. A must have for all parents!  –Amazon Review, March 14, 2014. CLICK HERE to learn more about Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids.

How to recognize the signs a child is viewing porn

Even if we wanted to, it’s impossible to be with our kids every moment they spend online. Instead we need to be alert to warning signs when something is amiss. Depending on your answers to the following 7 questions, you may discover the signs of a child viewing porn. Or you may recognize areas you could improve upon to keep your kids from falling into dangerous habits.

1. What does your child’s browser history look like?

If you have never looked at your child’s browser history, do it now! (One in ten visitors to porn sites are under the age of 10!) Keep in mind your browser’s history rarely tells the whole story. For example, if a child has started looking at porn in secret, they may have Googled how to hide it. That said, an empty browser history is also one of the signs a child is viewing porn …Confused yet?

To help you make better sense of all this, we recommend installing an internet filtering software program such as Covenant Eyes (affiliate link). These programs allow you access to viewing history that has been deleted from your computer’s hard drive.

2. Is your child spending copious amounts of time online, especially at night?

First, we cannot stress enough, NO CHILD NEEDS ACCESS TO THE INTERNET AT NIGHT!!! Again, filtering software programs are an essential tool to help keep kids safe. Find a program that allows you to “pause” the internet at bedtime. Decide on an appropriate schedule and stick to it.

You’ll also want to determine reasonable amounts of screentime for individual family members throughout the day. Consider both homework and entertainment needs. If you notice a child constantly looking for ways to breach the family contract this may be one of the signs a child is viewing porn.

3. Have you noticed your child taking a device into the bathroom?

We’re not saying this is the only reason someone might take a device into the bathroom. However, the inherent privacy (lock on the door and all) does make the bathroom an easy place to look at porn without drawing extra attention.

Recovered porn addict and activist, Gabe Deem says that his mother used to wonder why he suddenly started taking 30-minute showers. The truth is, he wasn’t showering at all! He ran the water as a cover and used the time to look at porn on his laptop.

Establish safe internet practices in your home. Be honest and forthright with your kids. Explain that using devices out in the open is for their continued safety and protection from pornography. Hiding the use of electronics is one of the signs a child is viewing porn.

4. Does your child quickly change the screen when you enter the room?

Unless your child is planning a surprise party for you, then this is a pretty good indication whatever was on the previous screen was inappropriate. You need to investigate further. Switching screens is one of the signs a child is viewing porn.

Sit down with your child and have a heart-to-heart. Ask pointed questions about their online behaviour. “What kind of activities do you do online?” “Do you chat with anyone you’ve never met in person?” “When was the last time you saw pornography?” Try to keep your tone neutral! If the only message your child hears is, “You’re on the computer too much” or “Don’t look at that website,” it will become a point of tension, and your child will likely shut down.

5. Has your child started to exhibit sudden changes in behavior?

This is a big one. Children who have been exposed to pornography often start acting out in a variety of ways. This could include physical outburst such as hitting or punching. Or sudden use of vulgar and demeaning language —especially towards the opposite gender.

Children who have been repeatedly exposed to pornography may even act out sexually. Reports of child on child sexual abuse have risen drastically over the last several years.

None of these behavioral changes should be ignored. Even subtle differences could be one of the signs a child is viewing porn. Talk to your child. Point out what you’ve noticed. Ask them how they are doing. Explain why you are concerned and why the behavior is inappropriate. Don’t be afraid to ask if they’ve had any recent experiences (online or offline) that have left them upset or confused.

6. Has your child begun to withdraw from regular social activities?

One of the signs a child is viewing porn is they are no longer happy participating in activities they used to enjoy. That’s because porn hijacks the brain making the user feel like nothing else is important or exciting. This could mean that interest in sports or hobbies declines, playing with toys or imaginative games becomes dull, and hanging out with friends and family is irritating.

Interestingly, one of the main ingredients to overcome a habit of porn use is to focus on outside interests and improve the relationships that matter most in your life. As children grow their interests may evolve. But they should always have something that inspires them and connects them to other human beings.

7. Do you notice your child is constantly sad, moody or depressed?

Other worrisome signs a child is viewing porn include constant oversleeping, physical exhaustion, or changes in eating habits. These are often cries for help. Do not ignore them! We are not saying that pornography is the only culprit of depression. However children addicted to pornography often describe themselves as feeling numb or void of joy.

When a child searches for porn it’s guaranteed they will find content which is more extreme than they could have ever imagined. Within a few clicks a young child can be introduced to violent and abusive portrayals of sex. They are left feeling shocked, sickened and confused. And yet compelled to search again and again. When they realize what’s happened they feel trapped, desperate and alone.

Breaking the cycle of shame

Fear, embarrassment and shame may keep kids from seeking the help they need. Thinking there is nowhere else to turn, they try to quit on their own. After multiple failed attempts they start to question if it’s possible. And worse —if they are even worth it.

One young woman describes how her porn habit chipped away at her self-image for six years before she sought help.

“I am afraid the addiction is a part of me, a part of what defines me and what makes me ‘me’. Porn has been a part of my life since before I can really remember, I don’t know how to see myself without it” —from Ask an expert: The Porn Effect

Imagine how different her outlook could have been if someone had reached out to her early on. That person could have helped her find a path to healing and recovery long before she had lost focus of her own identity.

Finding answers

If you have a child who’s developed a habit of using porn there is always hope. More than anything your child needs you! However, we also know getting started in this conversation can seem like a daunting task. That’s why we’ve included a link to our SMART Plan for Parents guide.

Get your FREE guide by clicking on the image below:Together we CAN help kids reject pornography!

NOTE: There are affiliate links in the blog post. When you use them to make purchases, we thank you for supporting Protect Young Minds!

 

Marilyn Evans

Marilyn Evans lives east of Toronto with her husband and five sons. Concerned with the ease of access to online pornography, she began searching for ways to address this subject with her own children. Frustrated with the lack of resources and information available to parents at the time she began speaking out about the harms of porn anyone who would listen. After a concerted but somewhat futile effort to gain the attention of her school board Marilyn felt her voice would be better served in the blogosphere. Over the past two years she has written regular articles for Parents Aware, as well as guest posting for Strength to Fight, and recently published an opinion article in Education Canada. She is thrilled to add her voice to the community at Protect Young Minds.


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