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Guest Post by Starr Cliff
This is a post about when your children see porn on the Internet or receive text messages on their phones of people they may or may not know, naked. Let’s be honest with ourselves and plan for “when” not “if” this happens to our kids. Let’s also acknowledge that this is not just an issue to discuss with our boys! This is a ongoing necessary discussion with all our children. And unfortunately a discussion that must start earlier rather than later as kids are being exposed to porn in their early elementary school years.
I know we have to talk about it. So I take a deep breath, and I say to my children (at the dinner table no less) that when they receive a picture on their phone of someone naked, they need to tell me or their Dad. I tell them chances are likely that it will happen, and when it does they are not in trouble, nor have they done anything wrong. But they do need to tell us. We can talk about it, and help make a plan to limit it from happening again.
I tell them that if they happen to know the person in the pictures, that they might be afraid to tell us. I explain that a fear reaction is completely normal. I tell them that they might worry that I will judge the person who sent it or the person in the picture. They might be worried that that person will be in trouble or that they can’t be friends with them anymore. I tell them that this isn’t true – that in this house we do NOT believe in shame or condemnation. We will NOT love their friend any less, but we will try to help them by loving their friend well. Loving them well means speaking up and getting an adult in their life involved in the situation. So I tell my kids to feel that fear of telling us, know it’s a normal, and tell us anyway in spite of the fear. They can be brave!
I tell my kids that when they land somewhere on the Internet that isn’t appropriate (here we talk in detail about what “appropriate” means in our house on an age appropriate level), that whether they got to that site sorta-kinda-accidentally-on purpose, or truly by accident, or truly on purpose, they need to talk to us about it. Again, just like with their friends, no shame or condemnation! We just need to help make a plan to limit it from happening again.
This is the time to remind them why that kind of imagery isn’t best for them. If you need help with this part of the conversation, here’s some GREAT books on this subject. One is “Good Pictures, Bad Pictures” that can be read to any child 8-12 yrs. old about how addiction and the brain works in these situations. There’s also “5 Things Every Parent Need to Know about Their Kids & Sex” which will help prepare you for these conversations.
Despite our best efforts, we CAN’T filter everything…
In our home, we use the Circle by Disney to monitor and filter our internet and devices. We even use the CircleGo service to filter the devices when they are outside our home. But in spite of the best of filters on our computers, my 9 year old daughter did an image search recently for something totally innocuous and something mildly trashy (is that a category?) got through. As I was talking to the kids at the table recently on these topics – of fear and shame and openness and forgiveness – she teared up, told us what she saw, and then said “I feel so, so much better. I don’t know why I kept it a secret.”
I know why. Because shame. Shame tells us we must keep silent. If we’re at fault or NOT at fault…shame doesn’t care. Shame is NOT a valuable parenting tool. If our kids are feeling it, we have to give them tools to get free from shame. It starts with being a safe place for them to unload their burdens.
The good news is that you get to give those burdens right back to Jesus, and He is strong enough to carry them.
I love the lyrics to this incredible song that say “Come out of hiding, you’re safe here with me…” Isn’t that a beautiful lyric? I so want to model that place of safety for my children. Where they can come out of the darkness of confusing and scary situations like seeing images they aren’t ready for yet, and just be loved. Comforted. Forgiven if needed, time and time again.
Talk to your kids about this! Be a safe place!
*I feel like I should just add here that I’m no prude. I’m a big fan of sex. But I want my children to know the difference between what is good and pure, and what is a cheap counterfeit. And friends there is just so, so much counterfeit available. They won’t know that the counterfeit is a cheap fake if we don’t tell them.
**If you are one of those “there’s nothing wrong with porn” and “boys will be boys” sorta parents who have thrown up their hands on the matter, I would implore you to check out this website and reconsider. It’s not okay for our children to see these things. It damages them in real ways. Let’s all do a better job.
I so hope this post isn’t just adding to the noise and increasing the fear that mamas already feel about this stuff. My heart is that it’s helpful, and gives you a starting place to begin these needed discussions.
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is FAITHFUL, and He will NOT let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the WAY of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
I Corinthians 10:13
God, I know my child will be tempted over and over again by technology. I ask that you provide their strength and their way of escape. May our home provide a safe welcoming place for them to process & share those temptations. May your love and grace pour through me as I help them navigate these temptations. Guard their hearts and help them keep their eyes focused on You! AMEN
A few other great articles about this subject: