Is he watching porn ― what should I do?

Talking to your young 'uns about pornography and sex can be tricky — and awkward — but you MUST do it.

Kids-Is-he-watching-porn-What-should-I-do

When he is caught watching porn red-handed, a common refrain from the guilty party is, “There’s nothing wrong with it because nobody gets hurt — no girl is getting pregnant and no sexually transmitted diseases are being spread through the act of watching porn.”

But to the contrary, explicit images have a funny way of getting caught in one’s mind and can stay there for YEARS. A recent Touch Cyber Wellness survey showed that a staggering 91 per cent of secondary school boys and 35 per cent of secondary school girls have been exposed to porn.

Hershey Regaya, programme manager at Family Life Society, explains that the Medial Pre-Optic Nucleus (MPN), the pleasure centre of the brain is capable of linking sexual excitement with explicit images. This connection is what feeds porn viewing as a habit in the long-run ― in short, your tween could face far-reaching consequences because of this habit.

Both Regaya and Chong Ee Jay, a manager at Touch Cyber Wellness, open up on why porn won’t just harm your tween’s perception of sex and relationships, it could hurt him in other ways…

1) A smaller brain

Dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for reward and pleasure goes into overdrive when a person views porn. The downside is that the person will need to seek out more and more pornographic material to feed this “high”, marking the beginning of an addiction.

Regaya says that research has shown that an addiction to porn can cause some parts of the brain like the striatum area (linked to motivation and reward response) and frontal lobes (responsible for sound decision-making) to shrink in size.

2) Body image and social issues

Porn negatively influences the way a person view themselves and the opposite gender: Girls compare themselves with the images and could be easily swayed to accept sexual favours and advances from boys as they may think it is “normal”. Boys may come to view girls as sexual objects — to be dominated, and “abused” as seen in the sometimes violent sexual portrayals in porn.

Even worse, Chong says, some boys are unable to hold proper conversations with girls without mentally undressing them or have explicit images at the back of their minds (yikes!).

“Porn is also termed a marriage-killer because it can destroy the pleasure of sex with your spouse — it does not measure up to their comparisons with fantasy partners in porn.”

3) Feeding the addiction

An addiction to porn can manifest as “acting out” or experimenting. Chong says, “In children and teenagers, this could mean self-exploration on sexuality — masturbation, sexual experiences with friends or partners — which can potentially lead to legal, social and emotional repercussions on a child’s long-term development.”

The young person might choose to compromise on other aspects of his life to sustain the addiction — social and family life will take a back seat, as could learning to meet members of the opposite sex.

4) Unhealthy and unrealistic sexual expectations

Regaya says research has shown that habitual consumption of porn in a marriage can destroy the pleasure of sex with one’s own spouse. The spouse will lose satisfaction in having sex with a real person as it fails to live up to his mental comparisons to fantasy partners in porn. Hard-core porn could even lead to increased sexual aggression and the belief in sexual dominance, aggression and rape.

Already found questionable material on your tween’s smartphone or browser history? Here is what to do…

How should I react?

1) Be alarmed but don’t overreact

Take a deep breath and think about it. Chong says parents should not jump to the conclusion that your child has been actively seeking out pornography. It could have been just an indirect exposure to explicit content.

Regaya urges that you should not instantly cut your child’s access to the computer or smartphone without providing alternatives — work out other replacement activities like signing him up for sports at school or getting him to help around the house.

2) Talk to your spouse before your kid

Presenting a united front to your child is crucial for effective parenting. Don’t send confusing signals by taking different stands. Both parents should hold the same perspective and know how to handle the conversation with junor and whom should do it.

“We do recommend that parents take the same gender approach — fathers talk to their sons and mothers to talk to their daughters,” notes Chong.

“Tell your tween that porn devalues sex itself — which plays a meaningful role in a loving relationship.”

3) Time for “the talk”

Both our experts agree that you should think of your child’s exposure to porn as a “teachable moment”. Chong notes that it is time to talk to your child about the myths, doubts and impacts of pornography on his perception of sex and relationships.

Also, be an active listener to what your kid thinks he knows as well as how he found out, before you assert your view.

Be as open and honest as you’d like your kids to be. Chong says, “Whenever possible, share your own personal examples and journeys with regards to overcoming the struggles of porn.”

Regaya asks that you encourage your child to open up and ask if he has any questions about sex, the opposite gender or even the human anatomy. Remind him that porn can devalue the person and sex itself — which plays a meaningful role in a loving relationship. Remember that you are talking to your child not just as a friend but as a “loving and firm guide”, says Regaya.

4) Find out why he tried it

The talk should not dwell on disgust or disappointment (both are sure-fire ways to stop any conversation); also don’t shame or condemn the child’s actions (this may make your child hide his actions but not necessarily stop).

Regaya advises parents to ask factual questions in a calm voice — a good place to start is to ask how he got hold of porn or “adult material”, or how long he has been accessing it. Regaya says the goal is to explore the underlying reasons for watching porn — could he have been pressured into it by peers? Was it done out of curiosity? You might even find that loneliness or bullying are reasons for it, too.

Above all, you must remember to keep talking to your child — which is the single best way to guide him on the right path.

Chong Ee Jay is a manager at Touch Cyber Wellness, a non-profit spreading awareness behind new media literacy and cyber wellness. Hershey Regaya is the programme manager at Family Life Society, a non-profit charity that conducts the sexuality-education programme My Child is Made for More.

Photo: iStock

Puberty — 6 facts to tell your child

Listening actively to your child: 5 Tips

Giving the “sex talk” — what to say and when