When should parents start to worry about a child viewing porn

At what point does viewing porn cross over from normal curiosity to abnormal. When should parents worry?

One of our own needs some parent to parent advice. When do you worry about your child viewing porn?

I have 6 grown children and then adopted a 7 year old from the Philippines. She is now 12. I have a serious problem that I have never had with my other children. Starting when she was 8, I caught her looking at porn on the computer. I have tried everything to stop her–taken away the computer, watching her like a hawk, punish her, etc., but every time she gets on the computer, I check the history and she’s back to viewing porn. She’s now 12, and I just caught her doing it again, this time from my phone. What do I do? Nothing I have tried worked and she makes me think at 12 she is starting to be addicted to porn or is viewing porn normal for kids. I need your help, please.

I am not a psychologist or therapist or doctor so I can only give you my opinion as a mom. And for the record, let me say up front that I think you should consult with a therapist.

Parenting in the Age of Internet Porn

I think today’s parents face far more of an issue with our children and porn than previous generations because of the internet. It used to be a well worn copy of Playboy, Playgirl or Hustler being passed around, but now the sheer amount and variety of porn that is “just a click away” is staggering.

I think adolescents have a natural and normal curiosity in sex. I remember sneaking over to the National Geographics at the library when I was a young teen to look at the pictures. I only had one sister and was really curious what a naked male looked like. I didn’t have access to anything better, until… I started babysitting for a family who had The Joy of Sex right on their living room bookshelf. Yes, it was on a high shelf, off to the side, but still… Their kids were bratty and they didn’t pay well, but I continued to babysit for them until I had finished the book (and truth be told, reread a few chapters).

But the ready availability of porn today scares me. I think it is setting our kids up for unrealistic ideas of what sex within a loving relationship is supposed to be. But all this is in the context of a child who is approaching or past puberty, and has a normal curiosity.

I Would Be Worried

Like you, I too would be worried about your daughter. I think eight is young to be interested in sexual images. It also sounds like your daughter’s interest is beyond natural curiosity since it seems she is obsessed with finding these images despite your best effort to prevent her. I am worried that your daughter may have been sexually abused in her past.

Children Without Parents are So Darn Vulnerable

The sad reality is that sexual abuse is not uncommon in children past infancy available for adoption because they did not have a parent to protect them from the evil that exists in this world—including pedophiles. It is also not uncommon for pedophiles to gravitate to places where children are vulnerable, and children in orphanages are certainly the most vulnerable.

I am not trying to scare you. This is nothing to panic over, and it does not mean she is damaged beyond repair. It does mean that you need to immediately get her help with a therapist that has experience with victims of childhood sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is so damaging and confusing for children, and if your daughter was abused in this way, she needs help understanding and processing this abuse.

Where to Find Help?

  • Contact your local Dept. of Family Services (or whatever the agency is called in your state that works with foster children) and ask what therapist they would recommend.
  • Parenting a Child Who Has Been Sexually Abused: A Guide for Foster and Adoptive Parents available from the great folks at Child Welfare Information Gateway.
  • Listen to this really terrific Creating a Family show on Parenting a Child Who Has Been Sexually Abused. Our guest expert is Dr. Joshua Sparrow, Assistant Professor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Director of Special Initiatives at the Brazelton Touchpoints Center at Children’s Hospital. He also has a monthly column on child development in the New York Times. It’s 1 hour and you can listen on your phone, tablet, iPod, or computer.

Have you experienced anything like this? (You can post anonymously.) Even if you haven’t experienced this situation, please share your suggestions for this mom. 

Image credit: Graham Holliday

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