When is the best time to teach your children about pornography? The best place?

protect kids from pornography

Ok, that’s a trick question!

Because talking to kids about pornography isn’t a one-time event. It’s a series of talks – some big, some small, some formal, and some casual.

And everyday experiences, like checking out at a grocery store, can turn into an instant teaching moment.

Why do we miss easy teaching moments?

Parents pass up teaching moments everyday, without realizing it! Many of us are so used to standing by magazines at the check-out aisle, that we have learned to tune them out. We don’t recognize the opportunity to tell our kids, “Hey, when I see a magazine like this, I look away and think of something else.”

As you pay attention to what’s going on around you, great teaching opportunities will quickly turn up. Your kids will thank you for teaching them in real-life situations, because they will know what do when it comes up again and you aren’t there.

Other parents do see the magazine at the check-out aisle, and say a silent prayer that their kids don’t notice it. They think they’re protecting their kids by not pointing out bad pictures. What’s the problem with this? If your kids don’t see it this time, they are going to notice it eventually. Why not jump at this opportunity to learn to manage images they are going to encounter daily?

It might sound like this:

It’s sad there are magazines out there that show too much of someone’s body. It’s confusing to see things like this at the grocery store, when we’ve talked about how dangerous pornography is, right? What can you do when you see a magazine like this?

Let’s look for events in life that can naturally lead to a quick lesson about pornography and healthy sexuality (two topics that go hand-in-hand). Read on to find out how talking to kids about pornography can happen in real life, and prepare them to be the first generation ever to reject porn.

Common Teaching Opportunities Through the Years

Opportunity #1: Story time

The benefits of reading with your children are countless! The American Academy of Pediatrics writes that “reading regularly” with children encourages brain development, parent-child relationships, language, literacy, and social-emotional skills.

Now imagine the power that reading together can have if you introduce a book specifically written to teach kids about pornography, healthy sexuality, or body safety. Make books like these part of your normal reading routine! Give them a permanent home on your children’s bookshelves, and pull them out often.

Think about it – your child will grow up talking with you about sensitive topics like pornography. It doesn’t have to be awkward, especially when they can’t remember a time you didn’t talk about it. Books are a great way to introduce difficult topics to your kids, because they are written with the age of your child in mind.

Here are a couple books to consider for children as young as 3 years old:

Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr.: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds for ages 3-7

Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids for ages 6-11

I Said No! A Kid-to-kid Guide to Keeping Private Parts Private

Say “NO!” and TELL!: Maisie’s Creative View of Personal Safety for Girls

Say “NO!” and TELL!: Daxton’s Creative View of Personal Safety for Boys

We also have a whole post about good books to teach kids about sex!

As your children get older, keep reading with them! The amazing benefits of reading don’t disappear just because your child reads a paperback instead of a board book. Aren’t the tween and teen years a time when parents crave a close relationship with their child?

Just imagine, for a minute, the discussions you could have with your tweens and teens about a thousand different things that come up in fiction and nonfiction books: healthy or unhealthy relationships, bullying, courage, stereotypes, the problems in dystopian societies . . .

Need some good book ideas? Check out this list and see if it meets your teen’s interests and values. Clean Books for Teens (List Updated Regularly)

Opportunity #2: Fun entertainment

Hopefully your kid loves to read, but I’m positive they enjoy other types of entertainment too.

  • Movies
  • TV Shows
  • YouTube Videos
  • Books
  • Video Games
  • Apps
  • Websites
  • Music

Does the following scene sound familiar? Your 9-year-old comes home from school excitedly talking about the new game all his friends are playing. From behind your smile and raised eyebrows, you’re thinking:

“Hooray! Another game I get to exhaustively review for any number of things before I let my son near it!”

As a responsible parent, you do a lot of investigating before approving the entertainment your kids get involved in. Whatever your screening process looks like, find ways to involve your child in the final decision.

Whenever a huge blockbuster movie, music album, or video game comes out, think of it as an opportunity to strike up a conversation about the type of media your family participates in. By including them in the process, they will learn to use important values to make decisions about the media and entertainment they choose.

You might say something like, “Wow, it seems like a lot of your friends have already seen this movie. It sounds interesting. Let’s learn more about it together to see if it fits within our family’s media standards. Remind me, what kinds of things might make it so we won’t see it?”

If you’re concerned about sexualized content in a video game or movie, don’t be afraid to ask direct questions, such as:

  • Are there characters that have little or no clothes on?
  • Why don’t we watch movies that don’t share our values about bodies or sexual behavior?
  • Why is pornography something we are careful about in our family?

Some conversations probably stop after that first question . . . by asking more questions and listening to their answers, you’re helping your child remember and restate the things they have learned about choosing good media.

You might find yourself in a situation where your whole family is watching a new movie together on a Friday night. You start to feel uncomfortable about the direction a scene is headed. The cool thing about at-home videos is you are in charge! Pause the movie and talk with your children about your family values related to the scene. Involve your children in the decision to skip the scene or stop the movie entirely, and help everyone feel that they are better off just watching the good parts.

There are a lot of websites that provide reviews of movies, games, TV shows, etc. for parents. Common Sense Media is one resource I like to use because it has talking points parents can use to start a conversation with their kid.

Here are the talking points for the movie, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, from Common Sense Media’s website. They recommend this show for children ages 7 and older:

TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT

  • Families can talk about Hotel Transylvania 3’s messages. What does the film have to say about love? Family? Diversity?
  • Why are monster movies so popular? Is this monster movie even scary? How does it turn classic monster-movie villains into everyday characters?
  • Who are the role models in the movie? What character strengths do they display? What role does communication play in the story?
  • Did you notice any stereotyping in the movie? How does that affect the impact of the movie’s messages about tolerance and diversity?
  • How does this movie compare to the first two? Do you think there should be any more?

Another great movie review site is Kids In Mind, which provides objective and complete information about a film’s content so that families can decide, based on their own value system, whether they want to watch it.

You might be interested in services that help you bring clean movies home:

Pure Flix is a service that exclusively features wholesome and faith-based media choices from movies & TV shows, to animated shows, educational features and classic Hollywood movies. Choosing a media option like this is a safe bet because there is no room for temptation since
the content is 100% adult content-free and exclusively offers alternatives to services that have a mix of clean and parental advisory worthy content.

VidAngel provides a service to skip or mute things you don’t want to see or hear in movies and TV shows. They also create their own clean movies and comedy.

And don’t forget to point out all the positive movie scenes, songs, YouTube channels, and TV shows that DO align with your family values. We can help kids see that they really do have many things to enjoy!

You can be ready for teaching moments with our free list, 3 Simple Definitions of Pornography Kids Can Understand. Get it at the end of this post!

Opportunity #3: New technology

Another natural (and critical) time to talk about pornography is when your child gets their first cell phone or tablet, your family buys a new smart TV, or you bring home the latest virtual reality system – or any number of other internet-enabled devices! Each system has its own benefits and challenges.

This is the time to talk about how this new tool connects with the whole world and almost everyone in it through the internet.

  • How is it the same or different from other tech tools we use?
  • What could the risks be, and how can we be prepared to handle them well?
  • Remind me about the rules for these devices.
  • What’s a good amount of time to spend on this before taking a break?
  • What are good activities to do on them?
  • What are inappropriate activities?

You can talk about the parental controls you have installed, and why. It doesn’t need to be a secret that your family uses filters and other safety measures to keep your home a safe place.

If a website says it’s blocked, that’s because we have an internet filter. This filter blocks bad stuff, like pornography. Filters don’t always work though. What would you do if videos of naked men or women popped up? Why don’t we watch pornography?

Opportunity #4: Sex education and body safety

Your kids may have lessons at school about sex education or body safety, and these are good times to build on what they heard at school. More importantly, parents have the privilege and duty to start teaching their kids these important life lessons at home, adapted for their children’s age and personality.

Just as discussions about pornography should begin at an early age, so should discussions about healthy sexuality. R. Scott Gornto, a Certified Sex Therapist, says, “Rather than advocating for “The Talk” I suggest that parents have many age-appropriate talks over the course of many years.”

Wondering what to teach? This list from Defend Innocence will give you an idea of possible topics to cover: 10 Topics to Consider Before Talking to Your Child About Healthy Sexuality

Talking to your kids about healthy sexuality can start when they are 3 years old, teaching them the correct names for private body parts, and having discussions about privacy:

Your private parts are the ones on your body that are covered by a swimsuit. No one should touch your private parts. Sometimes, mom or dad may help you wipe after you go potty, or a doctor may need to look at your private parts to make sure they are healthy. But even a doctor doesn’t look at your private parts without mommy or daddy there.

Unfortunately, child-on-child sexual abuse is on the rise because of pornography. As your kid enters kindergarten, continue to talk about body safety:

No other child should touch your private parts or ask to see them. Remember, only you can see your own private parts. What should you do if a child or adult asks to see your private parts? What should you do if a child or adult touches your private parts?

Conversations like these lay the groundwork for teaching your child about healthy sexual relationships. Pornography is not healthy. When school or home sex education comes around, remind your child about the dangers of pornography:

You know, you have learned some new things about sex lately, and how it is natural to be attracted to someone. We’ve talked about how special sex is with someone you love at the right time. We want you to grow up and enjoy a wonderful relationship including sharing that experience of sex. One reason that we stay far away from pornography is because it can make it very hard to have happy relationships.

Related: 7 Things Your Seven-Year-Old Should Know about Love and Sex

Opportunity #5: Advertising

“Jaden, close your eyes! There’s an immodest girl in the commercial!” These are the words my 7-year-old niece said to her little brother at a family party for the Superbowl.

As you begin to teach kids what pornography is, they will call out things that adults have become accustomed to. Your children will be the ones to set the example for you, just as my niece did for me!

Sexualized images sneak into all sorts of everyday advertising, making it seem like a normal part of life over time:

  • TV Commercials
  • Internet
  • Movie Previews
  • Mobile Apps
  • Magazines
  • Billboards/Fliers

In order to turn advertisements into teaching moments, we first have to take off our blinders and start seeing the world through our children’s innocent eyes.

We can teach children to be smart consumers – check out the tips in this quick movie about helping kids resist ads.

Finally, don’t shy away from talking about the picture on the billboard you’re parked by in the drive-through. It’s might seem easier to ignore it and hope your kids are too busy lobbying for a soda to notice. But this is an opportunity you don’t want to miss out on!

Wait a second, is that an appropriate way to be advertising exercise clothes? I didn’t think so either.

As your children get older, you can have more in-depth conversations about advertisements:

So why do you think they would put a shirtless man and a woman in a bikini in a commercial for new tires? Does it get your attention? What happens to your heart when you see a person with little clothes on? How does your body feel? How do they want you to feel about their products?

Be aware of the advertisements that appear on your children’s electronic devices – all those pesky banners, popups and other kinds of clickbait. Sometimes we take for granted things we’ve learned along the way. Your kids may need detailed instructions on how to get rid of ads or avoid them!

Balance formal and informal teaching opportunities

Hopefully, looking for teaching moments will help us be more intentional about talking to kids about pornography. Make conversations about these topics as natural and frequent as possible. You might sit down formally with your child to set rules on a new cell phone. But a week later, while you’re playing catch in the backyard, ask how things are going with the phone.

Find a balance of formal and informal check-ins. This way, when your child does want to tell you something, they don’t feel like they have to re-create a “special meeting.” She can come to you anytime she needs you.

Be on the lookout for teaching opportunities. You can leverage everyday experiences to your advantage! The more often you talk to kids about pornography, the easier it is to keep the conversations going.

Be ready for teaching moments with our free list, 3 Simple Definitions of Pornography Kids Can Understand.

Ashley Beveridge
Ashley is a wife, mother, and licensed school counselor. (Also a sister, daughter, chocolate-lover, and fair-weather skier). During her four years working in an elementary school, she has seen the difference a proactive parent can make in the life of a child. Ashley looks forward to helping parents and all adults feel empowered to protect, teach, and advocate for children.
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