Police see the tragic fallout of pornography everyday as they investigate sex crimes against children. But what happens when one of their own children are caught looking at porn? In this post a police mom shares a secret weapon to protect kids from porn. By teaching her 10-year-old son to empathize, she created a convincing rationale to overcome his compulsion to look again.

Female Police Officer —Protect Kids from Porn

Can your kid empathize? If so, you can use that empathy to help them reject porn! In the arsenal of weapons against the enticement of porn, parents might overlook the humble quality of empathy. But it’s a potent way to fortify kids to look away from porn, even after they’ve sought it out.

Police mom finds son looking at porn

Recently I spoke with a mom who works for a police department in community outreach. She is well aware of the dangers of the internet and works to educate parents so they can keep their kids safe.

This mom has a son who was 10 years old when she found him seeking out internet porn.

Of course she was disheartened and worried. But she didn’t freak out. Instead she used the power of empathy.

She had a frank discussion about the videos he had seen and how the women were treated in them. And then she asked without shaming, “How would you feel if I were being treated that way? Or your sister?”

Her son broke down crying.

Her questions had personalized the porn. These women might be moms…or sisters. They were certainly daughters. And they were real humans who were being treated with disrespect and degradation.

Even a child can understand that everyone wants to be treated with kindness and no one wants to be treated like most women are treated in pornography. (Remember the stat —88% of porn scenes contain physical violence.)

Porn reduces empathy

According to Dr. Jill C. Manning, author of What’s the Big Deal About Pornography? A Guide for the Internet Generation,

“Pornography encourages people to be less respectful towards others because it treats people like objects who simply exist to satisfy another person’s sexual urges or desires….When people begin to objectify other humans, we lose part of our humanity and diminish our divine ability to love and care for others” (pages 42-43).

And there’s science to back this up. Meta studies done in 2016 show that men who consume porn are more likely to perpetrate sexual aggression (code words for “rape”) on women. In other words, porn decreases empathy. It’s easier to use and exploit another person if you care nothing for their feelings.

Fight the New Drug reports:

“A large portion of the porn consumed by millions of people every day is reinforcing the message that humiliation and violence are normal parts of what sex is supposed to be. It’s wiring the minds and expectations of the upcoming generation, making it harder for many young people to prepare for loving, nurturing relationships…”

Explain empathy early to protect kids from porn

Actor Mark Ruffalo does a great job helping young kids understand empathy in this Sesame Street clip:

And here’s the amazing Brene Brown describing empathy (and contrasting it with sympathy). Empathy leads to increased connection —and connection is a powerful antidote against addiction!

3 ways to use empathy as a secret weapon to protect kids from porn

Empathy for actors. Empathy can be a secret weapon to protect kids from porn when parents encourage children to talk about their feelings. This helps kids recognize that others have feelings, too. Even the actors portrayed (and hurt) in porn videos.

Be sure to download our Emotional Care Tags activity at the end of this post. It’s a creative way to help kids respond in a healthy way to negative emotions.

An eight year old girl who was pulled into months of viewing porn on her device was brought to counseling after her parents found out. One of the first things the therapist did was to teach her to empathize and see the actors as people with feelings. That led this little girl to see how horribly and inhumanely the actors in pornography are treated. It helped her to want to stop viewing those videos.

Parent tip: Start talking to kids early about the value of the opposite gender and how to show respect for differences.

Empathy for peers. Empathy can be a secret weapon to protect kids from porn even when their peers have been pulled into viewing inappropriate content. As parents talk openly about how pornography acts like a magnet to the brain kids will appreciate better why some of their friends can’t seem to leave it alone.

They can be persuaded that their peers need an  example of someone who does not participate in or vote for exploitation of another human being. They may even help their friends learn to reject pornography while protecting themselves.

Empathy for themselves.  And finally, empathy can be a secret weapon to protect kids from porn when kids learn to have empathy for themselves. In Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr., kids are assured, “But even if you see a bad picture, that doesn’t make you a bad kid.”

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. CLICK HERE to learn more about Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids.

3 steps to increase empathy in kids

Model empathy in your interactions with your kids. My mom did this for me. Once I got fired from a part-time job at college. When I called to tell her the bad news (I felt so humiliated!), she didn’t lecture me or even express disappointment in me. She simply said, “Oh honey, I know how you feel! I got fired once, too!” What a gift of empathy.

Provide opportunities to serve others. When kids are encouraged to think outside of themselves they start seeing that other people have needs and want to meet those needs. This builds empathy and helps protect kids from porn.

I never get tired of the story of Zack who decided to raise money to help provide wheelchairs for others with mobility challenges. Check out his  video and share it with your own kids!

Don’t try to make everything better. Sometimes we just have to sit with people while they’re feeling pain. The same with our kids. When we don’t try to distract a child away from feeling bad (Here! Have a cookie! You’ll feel better!), but instead help them cope we send a message that they are strong enough to handle the difficulties life throws at them.

Finding an antidote to porn’s poison

If your child is activity seeking out porn, we empathize with you too! Don’t give up. Don’t lose heart. A parent’s love can be a powerful antidote. It’s important to note that often the most potent secret weapon to protect kids from porn is a low-tech human one. The humble quality of empathy can diffuse the rank objectification that pornography spews at our kids. Teach kids to empathize (to connect emotionally) with those who are exploited by pornography and give them a poignant reason to look away next time they’re exposed.

Bonus: Emotional Care Tag Template

Looking for a creative way to develop empathy in your child? A great place to start is by helping them understand their own feelings. Emotional CARE TAGs give kids a positive way to acknowledge negative behaviors, identifying emotional triggers and find healthy responses to their own needs. Download our FREE Emotional Care Tag template today. Click on the image below:

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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