How To Respond If Your Teen Is Looking At Porn - Life Works Recovery
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So, you discover your teen is looking at porn and you’re asking “what do I do now?”. It is important to talk about pornography with your teen. However this is a sensitive subject, so it is vital that you handle this conversation with the care and respect it deserves. 

 

Why It Is Important To Talk To Your Teen About Porn

Why do I need to have a talk? Exposure to porn during adolescence can be harmful. Viewing porn can leave teens with the belief of what happens in porn is representative of sex and relationships in real life. Teens can develop concerns about body image due to what is suggested is sexually desirable in porn. Furthermore, the visuals produced in porn can be distressing and even traumatic for young viewers

Because of the potential damage that comes from looking at pornography, it is important as parents to help their children understand the images they see. We do not want our kids to believe that what they see in porn is how sex and relationships work in real life. It’s best for teens to learn about what healthy sexuality is from trustworthy sources like parents. 

 

How To Talk About Porn With Your Teen

Be Calm

The first step is to remain calm. If your teen picks up on your anxiety or discomfort, they may interpret it as judgement then will shut down and the chance of having an open conversation goes away. It is understandable as a parent you would have your own anxiety, fear, or anger about your kid seeing porn. Before having this conversation with your teen, give yourself time to check in with your own feelings and self-regulate. Don’t let your own emotions get in the way of talking about your teen’s emotions.

Ask Questions 

It is important to ask your teen these questions: 1) Tell me about what you saw; 2) How did it make you feel?; 3) How did you find it? These questions are helpful for both the parent and the teen. For the parent it gives you information on what happened, your kid’s feelings and concerns, and how this can be prevented in the future. For the teen, this is helpful because you’re allowing them to explain instead of making assumptions about why they viewed porn. Teens do not always intentionally look up porn, sometimes they stumble across it accidentally or it was shown to them by a peer. By asking these questions, you’re telling your kid “I want to hear what you have to say and what was this experience like for you”. 

Do Not Shame or Punish

It is natural for teens to be curious about sex. Normalize their curiosity and validate why they felt the way that they did when looking at porn.  If you shame your teen for looking at porn, the less likely they will talk to you about it in the future. Punishing teens by taking away their computers, smart phones, or other privileges as consequence for looking at porn for the first time reinforces the belief that what they did was shameful. You should talk without judgement, accusation, or criticism. Thank your teen for being honest and talking openly about their experience with you. 

Educate

Educate does not mean lecture. Lecturing is often off-putting to teens. So whatever take-aways you want to provide your teen, keep them brief and to the point. Some messages you may remind your teen could be “what you see in porn is not real” or “porn is meant to be entertaining not educational”. Give your teen permission to ask you any questions about sex or porn. If you don’t know an answer to one of their questions, be honest with them and admit “I don’t know but I can find out for you”. 

Discuss Boundaries and Safeguards 

It is important to discuss with your teen about what are the boundaries. Talk with them whether it is okay or not to watch porn and what protective measures are in place, such as firewalls or parental locks, to ensure the rules are being followed. The stance on porn watching will vary between households. Whatever you feel is appropriate for your family, it is important for your teen to know what the boundaries are and why they are in place. 

Talking about sex and porn should not be a one-shot conversation. This should be a conversation that is revisited by you and your teen as needed. You may forget things you wanted to say or your teen may have questions later, so it’s okay if you miss something. What’s important is to start an open dialogue so you can stay connected and be a resource for your teen. 

 

When to Seek Professional Help

Sometimes, porn use can develop into a bigger issue. You may seek professional help if you notice any of the following happening to your teen: 

  • Changes in mood or behavior related to porn use 
  • The type of porn they are looking at becomes increasingly intense or extreme
  • Looking at porn is interfering with teen’s responsibilities and interests (school, chores, friendships/relationships, extra-curriculars) 
  • Teen spends a significant amount of their time to looking at porn
  • Secretiveness around computer and smartphone usage, spending time in their room alone
  • Lying to parents and others about the amount and nature of porn use and sexual activities 
  • If your kid reports wishing to stop looking at porn but can’t

Keep in mind these signs are not definitive proof of a porn addiction. Porn addiction is a type of behavioral addiction where a person repeatedly engages in watching porn despite the negative consequences that follow. 

Exposure to pornography is inevitable. You may not be able to control your teen’s exposure to porn but you can control how you can talk about it with them.  

If you’re wondering if your teen’s porn use has reached a concerning level, contact us so we can help. 

 

About the Author

Allie Whistler is a Licensed Professional Counselor Intern at Lifeworks Recovery. Allie specializes in working with adolescent and adult clients struggling with porn and sex addictions. 

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