When we have kids, we know that we will inevitably have to have the birds and the bees talk. As they grow, they become curious and it is up to us to answer their questions and educate them before their 7 year old neighbor friend does. As awkward as it may feel, I think this talk is a piece of cake. Simple facts and honesty keep it simple and honor the child.
But what about the other “talk.” The “talk” that I was completely blindsided by. To say I was unprepared is a complete understatement! Internet pornography. If you are anything like me, you probably think, “not my kid.” Don’t get me wrong, I know there is some crazy stuff out there. But, being completely naive, I thought that my children wouldn’t find it. Or look for it. Let me tell you right now… they will. And it can certainly happen sooner than you think.
Most children will be exposed to pornography as early as 8 years old, but more commonly 10-11 years old. WHAT???? My 10 year old still plays with Legos and sleeps with a blankie (don’t tell him I told you the blankie part). How does this even happen?! Most of the time, accidentally. A simple search for My Little Pony brings up YouTube videos that aren’t the cartoon that you are thinking of! In the case of my oldest son, he was researching water systems on our lovely planet and YouTube recommended videos that may be related – but weren’t, AT ALL! Or your child may view it on a friend’s device at school, since it seems that EVERY kid has a device that can easily access the internet these days. I may have control of my child’s device, but I don’t have control of friend’s devices. So, is that what we do? Just shield our children from internet pornography by controlling their devices, or do we have a conversation about it because, it is out there – and always will be. I think it is a bit of both.
Can I tell you what NOT to do? I am going to open the kimono here and share with you MY mistakes. I call them mistakes, but they were more a result of not being prepared. You see, when my oldest son was doing research for a school project, he found some YouTube videos that were most certainly NOT his research topic. When I walked by the den and saw what he was watching, I had an unfortunate response. My surprise surprised him and he immediately started to try to close windows in a hurry so that I wouldn’t see any more. I knew right in that moment, I shouldn’t have reacted as I did.
Here’s the thing. We use OpenDNS to filter our internet into our home and devices. We have for a long time. But Open DNS does not filter YouTube. And YouTube’s filters suck. So, as much as I wanted to prevent my children from seeing material that is too mature for their sweet innocent eyes, I am realizing I can’t. I can keep my OpenDNS filter, prohibit YouTube on the homework computer, remove Safari from their iPods, but it isn’t enough. There needs to be a conversation here. A “talk.” And having been completely blindsided by this, what do we even say?
Thinking back to that conversation we had that evening, what I remember most is asking him if he had any questions about what he saw. I was praying that he did because I was going to use those questions to guide our conversation! When he asked me, “Why do people even do that for people to see?” I talked about how they are actors and it isn’t a true representation of a loving relationship. I was able to talk about how it is natural to be curious about sex, but what he witnessed wasn’t a good representation of a real relationship. I want him to feel comfortable asking us questions about anything he saw. I just laughed out loud – I don’t think I would EVER feel comfortable asking my parents questions about pornography. HA! I just pray that my sons at least feel comfortable talking to their dad. Bottom line is that children are going to see things that are confusing to them and they need to be able to talk to us about it. And when I freaked out in that moment, I set the stage for him to feel judged or punished by me – and that was never my intent.
I don’t care how old your children are, come up with a plan NOW. This is something that will eventually happen to your child. But PLEASE don’t wait to talk to your children about it. These conversations need to happen BEFORE your child accidentally (or purposefully) stumbles across porn. Be frank and direct with your kiddos. Our culture presents MANY opportunities for discussion about modesty, sexuality, and relationships – just look at TV, movies and even video games. All of these topics can be talked about with your children within the context of your family views and beliefs. Just do it. And keep those conversations coming. Because as our children age, the conversation changes a bit. And they need to know that you are the trusted source for information.