We’d all like to think we can keep our kids from being exposed to explicit content.
We’d like to think that if we’re careful enough, if we filter enough, supervise enough, preview enough — we can keep them safe.
But trying to shelter our innocent little ones is simply not enough.
Let me tell you a story…
Not long ago, one of my dearest mommy friends took her kids to church. She was on duty for some things that day, so her ten year old son sat in a pew with some little friends. He was in daddy’s direct line of sight from the audio visual balcony. He was where mommy could see him as she helped others.
And right there in the pew, one of the other kids pulled out an internet-enabled tablet and started browsing hard-core porn in the back row at church. Boom. Done.
Are you sure? Have you talked to them openly from a young age in an age-appropriate way? Here’s one of the many messages I receive asking for advice…
“Last night my 9-year old son came to my bed crying. He’s been exposed to videos of naked people on his Grandpa’s phone and he feels like his life is ruined. He didn’t search for them, they were just there! He’s been taking lots of long showers and acting withdrawn. We homeschool, we don’t have internet on any devices for our kids, we haven’t really discussed porn and sex yet because we thought we were keeping them safe from those influences. I thought we had more time! What do I do? How do I help him get past this? Do I need to talk to my other kids too?”
So What Do You Do Instead?
Let me share how I walked this mama through this:
1) good for you, for taking precautions and being so vigilant! You’re a great mama — and him being exposed was inevitable at some age. You have not failed your son, but you have to know that what you do next is super important.
2) your son came and talked to you about what he saw, which means he realizes it was wrong, he’s got an open, trusting relationship with you, and you’re already in conversation. That’s the best case scenario!
3) your next job is to:
A) help him realize that this exposure does not ruin his life, because his life is made up of thousands of choices every day,
B ) give him tools for dealing with the leftover pictures and thoughts that are now in his mind, as well as any future times he may see things he knows aren’t safe and good, and
C) stop blaming yourself for somehow allowing it to happen. (You didn’t say you are, but I’m guessing you are…) (Yep, she was.)
4) you need to address the issue with the grandparents and make sure they are aware of what happened and vigilant to never let it happen again. Clearly, grandpa very likely has a pornography problem. That is going to go over like a lead balloon with Grandma and may precipitate marital discord in their home. Talk to them about it anyway. (Unless of course, the videos were stumbled upon by accident. That detail needs to be sorted out.)
5) it’s absolutely important to not communicate with your son in a way that shames him, shuts down future communication, or makes him feel like somehow he is responsible/guilty for simply seeing these things. You want to help him feel clean and fresh again, not add to his emotional burden.
6) start talking about healthy, beautiful, committed sexuality ASAP. Have you already discussed sex and procreation? Does your child have a transparent, biblical sex education from you in place? If not, now is the time to start. Now that the door has been opened, you need to have open, honest, and ongoing conversations.
I wrote this blog post giving a detailed list of faith-based resources to help parents start discussing sex, pornography addiction, and body safety with children aged 3 and up. Here are three great titles I recommend from that list:
The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality || Ages 6-10, by Luke Gilkerson
When it comes to the matter of teaching kids about sex, Christian parents are often confused about what to say and when to say it. The Talk is a series of 7 studies, all anchored in the Scriptures, that helps parents to talk meaningfully with children about sexuality.
Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids || Ages 6-12, by Kristen A Jenson & Gail Poyner
Parents will appreciate this resource to porn-proof their kids because it makes a difficult discussion easy and empowering. How? By teaching kids simple concepts about the brain and the process of addiction, and by giving them a specific strategy for keeping safe from the poison of pornography. Many parents also use this book as a powerful tool for sexual abuse prevention!
The 5-point CAN DO Plan teaches kids how to avoid the brain-warping images of pornography and minimize the troubling memories of accidental exposure that often tempt kids to look for more and lead them into a dark and destructive addiction. To stay safe in the digital age, kids must install an internal filter in their own brain. Good Pictures Bad Pictures shows them how.
This book will address the images your child saw, place them in context, and give tools to understand how to turn away in the future. Also, it will help your child realize what addiction does to the brain and how it is incredibly dangerous.
Do you have other children in your home? There is a 3-6 year old version as well. Links are available for it and all the other titles over in this blog post.
As you navigate the concepts of cleansing your mind and making pure choices, here’s one more GREAT book:
Sanctuary Light: A Story of God’s Redeeming Love for Children of All Ages || Ages 7 and up, by Nicole Parker
Discover how the Sanctuary was designed to free God’s people from fear, perfectionism, guilt and shame, filling our hearts instead with perpetual peace. Experience the Sanctuary in the wilderness camp through the eyes of Asher and Zara, Israelite children. Be astounded at the beauty and depth of God’s love unveiled in the emotional, sensory experience the Sanctuary was designed to be. Discover the constant assurance of salvation God wanted His children to enjoy every day, through the simple illustrations of its services. Written as a story so simple a young child can understand, but exploring the unfathomable depth of themes of guilt, grace, forgiveness, faith, atonement and love, this book will delight the whole family.
Sanctuary Light has nothing to directly do with sex, but it is absolutely relevant to feeling clean again.
Do What You Can
Even the most loving and diligent parent can only provide just so much protection — but every parent CAN start talking early and often about God’s plan for beautiful relationships and clean minds — and give our kids tools to handle eventual exposure.
If your child is wrestling with feeling dirty, or that their world is out of control — offer gentle reassurances of how much you love them, Jesus loves them, and that their life is NOT ruined. This is what salvation and the gospel are all about.
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