It’s often a shock when parents discover their kids have been viewing Internet pornography. They often react in anger, punishing their kids. However, before reacting, it’s important for parents to step back and realize what has happened to their kids. Consider this true story.
Brandon is twelve years old. Recently, his parents discovered he had been viewing pornography on his tablet. They reacted by scolding him and taking it away. They realized Brandon had a problem, so they came to me for help. In a counseling session with Brandon and his parents, I asked him when he first encountered Internet pornography. He replied that he was ten years old. He was at a friend’s house playing video games when his friend said, “Let me show you something really cool!” He logged onto a pornographic website and they began viewing hardcore material.
A Victim, Not a Perpetrator
I asked Brandon what it was like when he first viewed that pornography. He said it was both fun and shocking. He had never seen anything like it. On one hand, he knew it was wrong, but on the other hand, it was so thrilling. I asked him why he never told his parents about that first experience or the continuing problem. He said it was because he knew they would be angry with him. Thus, he didn’t feel safe talking to his parents about this experience. He was filled with shame because of it. The longer the problem persisted, the deeper his shame became.
Brandon found himself caught in the cycle of compulsive pornography use, fueled by excitement and shame. Because it was so exciting he wanted to go back to it again and again. Still, he knew this was wrong and wanted to stop. But the shame kept him from turning to his parents for help. Thus, he was forced to keep it a secret. Viewing pornography then also became a way of coping with his deep shame.
Healing for Children and Parents
Seeing how Brandon struggled with uncontrollable pornography use and the associated shame, his parents came to understand that Brandon was a victim, not a perpetrator. They realized that his early exposure to pornography, although exciting for him, was also traumatic. He was introduced to a world for which he was not ready. It gave him an unhealthy understanding of sex and intimacy. Instead of punishment, he needed their compassion.
Brandon’s parents apologized to him for their angry reaction when they discovered his pornography use. They apologized for making him believe he could not turn to them for help when he was struggling. They apologized for not warning him about the dangers of the Internet and protecting him from pornography.
This opened the door to many more frank discussions about God’s plan for sexuality, healthy relationships, the dangers of pornography, and using technology safely. This was very healing for Brandon. He was able to let go of his shame and talk to his parents when something was troubling him. This would help him grow into a healthy young man.
While discovering your child has been viewing Internet pornography may be shocking, remember, your child is a victim. He has been traumatized by material that is degrading and violent toward everyone involved. He needs a safe place where he can talk about what he has witnessed and can learn about healthy sexuality and relationships.
He needs to be educated about the dangers of the Internet and on how to use technology safely. Moreover, he needs parents who will listen with love and compassion. This will help him recover from the shock and trauma of being exposed to Internet pornography.