What to Do When a Child Has Been Exposed to Pornography

A father asked if he and his 10-year-old son could meet with me.

We sat down in a private place and the father became emotional as he said to me, "I wanted to ask for help.  This past week, I walked into my son's room and found him looking at pornography on his iPad.

The son admitted that it was true.  He had been looking at pornography on a regular basis for several months.  Another child at school had told him about some porn sites to check out.

The father and son looked at me with tears in their eyes.  The father aked what they should do? 

If the truth were known, this same story could be told thousands, if not millions of times.  Some children look up pornography, others accidentally stumble upon it through pop up ads or clicking on a link they didn't know about.

Today's kids are facing an onslaught of pornography.  In previous generations, people had to go out of their way to view porn.  But now with tablets, smart phones, smart tv's and other devices, porn is just one click away.  Even with safety measures in place, there is such a tsunami of porn, that most kids will see it at some point.

The average age children are exposed to porn is 8-years-old.  Another study found that 47% of children with email addresses receive porn spam every day.  The largest and fastest growing group of internet porn consumers is youth age 12-17.  By the time they graduate high school, nearly 100% of kids will have viewed some type of porn.

I guarantee you there are families struggling with this in your church and community.  What can you do to help parents put preventative measures in place?  What should you do when parents come to you because their child has viewed porn?  What should you tell parents to do?

Your role in this is to be a resource for the parent and advise them on what to do.  The steps below are for parents.  Let's talk about these steps you can encourage parents to take.

Don't freak out. When you find out your child has been viewing porn, you will feel shock, disappointment, personal guilt, anxiety and grief.  But you want to act, not react.  Stay calm.  If you blow up, it will only make the situation worse.

Ask questions and find out what they saw.
  • Was this the first time you have seen this kind of thing?
  • Have you looked at this with anyone else?
  • How often have you been viewing this? 
  • What exactly did you see?  Was it heterosexual?  Homosexual?  Did they see body parts only?  Sexual acts?  Did it involve sexual violence? 
  • What questions do you have? (they may be too embarrassed to ask)
  • Do you understand why I am taking this so seriously?
Share God's plan for sex and help them gain a healthy, Biblical view of sex.  A discussion about pornography may not have been in your immediate plans, but even accidental exposure to this kind of content demands action.  In todays culture, it is necessary for parents to start having "the talk" earlier in life.  Especially if the child has viewed porn.  Of course, the conversations should be age-appropriate and how much you share should be based on the child's age.

It is our job, as parents, to help our kids gain a healthy, Biblical view of God's design for sex.  We should create an environment where kids will not feel embarrassed to ask questions about sex.  You want them to come to you, as the parent, with their questions, so you can help them find the right answers and establish a Christian world view of God's plan for sex.

Put preventative measures in place.  While there is no full proof plan to keep children from viewing porn, there are safety measures you can put in place.  Safety filters can be placed on devices that help block pornographic pop-ups and websites.  You should also monitor your child's online activity.  

Another practical thing is to have a rule that all online activity must happen in a common room like the living room.  You can establish a rule that no one is allowed on the internet without someone else being in the room with them.  Obviously, this means not allowing internet access in children's bedrooms.

Warn your child about online sexual predators.  One of the biggest ways predators find children to abuse is through the internet.  Use this as an opportunity to reinforce with your child about never communicating with someone they don't know online.

Get professional counseling if needed.  Sometimes this situation can trigger parents struggles as well.  Dad may be looking at porn as well and this conversation triggers him to confess.  Perhaps mom was abused as a child and this brings out painful memories.  Unless you are a licensed, professional counselor, it may be time to point them to a therapist, so they can work on these issues at a professional level.

Your job in this situation is to provide them contacts of liscensed counselors they can connect with.  You should also be a prayer partner with them and bring hope, peace and comfort during the process.

Your turn.  How do you help families who are strugging with pornography?  What safety filters or programs do you recommend?  How do you equip parents to know what to do about pornography? Share your thoughts and insight with everyone in the comment section below.