How can I tell if my child is watching porn?

I wrote a previous blog about the effects of porn on young children and teenagers.  Following that I’ve been asked to write about how to tell if your child is watching porn – and what to say to them if you find out they are.

Following that I’ve been asked to write about how to tell if your child is watching porn – and what to say to them if you find out they are.

How can I tell if my child is watching porn?

Like the signs that children are using drugs the key is to look for changes in their usual behaviour.  That’s the context to think about the following signs in.

  • Are they spending even more time on their phone at night?
  • Have they started to demand more privacy around using their phone or computer?
  • Have they started taking their phone to the bathroom?
  • Have they started taking longer in the bathroom?
  • Do they quickly hide their phone or switch to their desktop screen when you go into their room?
  • If they are boys have they started to adopt a dismissive or aggressive attitude to girls and women.?
  • Have they started to shun their normal social activities or pastimes for time spent alone?

One common piece of advice, to check their internet history, is less than useful given the widespread availability of private browsers.

How should I talk to them if I find out my child is watching porn?

For children of all ages it’s important to bring your values into the conversation, but also to avoid shame, no matter what you might think.

For pre-pubescent children ask what they saw.  Don’t press for details, but instead ask how what they saw made them feel.  Let them know that what they saw is meant for adults, but that not all adults are okay with it themselves.  Don’t make a huge incident out of it and ask them to let you know if they see it again.

For pubescent children and teenagers there’s the opportunity to discuss sex, and especially the difference between porn and real life.  Try and define porn in a way that doesn’t make sexual intimacy ‘wrong’.  You might even want to move into other areas, like exploitation, respect, or choice. 

Don’t be horrified if you find your child is watching porn.  Children have always tried (and succeeded) to access forbidden material, from “What The Butler Saw” and saucy postcards onwards.  The internet has simply hugely increased their access to a much wider range of material.  Don’t shame or demonise them for that.

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