My Child Saw Pornography, What Should I Do?

Feb 26, 2018

If your child has accidentally been exposed to pornography, it's normal to feel upset and concerned. As a parent, thinking of your child viewing online pornography is uncomfortable and scary. The reality is, though, it's not a matter of IF your child will view pornographic material, it's a matter of WHEN.

According to an article in Forbes magazine, the average age a child first views internet porn is 11 - shocking right? Well, it shouldn't be. In recent years, children are increasingly younger when using the internet unsupervised. In fact, most children in the United States have a cell phone by the time they are seven years old.

In a recent study posted by Shared Hope International, 42% of internet users age 10-17 years, admit to viewing online pornography. Before getting too concerned, consider that 66% of these children report they viewed this material accidentally while attempting to access age appropriate programs. This begs the conversation to parents and caregivers: how do we protect our children and if they do view pornography, how do we respond?

This education should include sexuality and internet safety. Here are some things to consider:


    Children under the age of 12-13 years should be supervised while on the internet*. Provide age appropriate sites they can visit and make sure they aren't just "surfing the web". If younger children accidentally come across sexually explicit content, speak to them in simple terms and explain there are some videos online that we shouldn't be watching, all along reassuring the child he/she didn't do anything wrong.

    It's natural for young adolescents to be interested in sex as their own sexuality is beginning to emerge. Doing our best to educate instead of blame will invite conversation and an opportunity to learn. In doing so, we lessen the potential of shame and guilt and create a more open and honest conversation around sexuality.

    Parents sometimes wonder if their child will be traumatized from the exposure. While prolonged exposure to pornography can elicit negative emotional responses, the greater potential for harm and shame can come from a parent's reaction. The best course of action is to address the behavior in an age appropriate manner but to be careful not to overreact.

    So, what does the conversation around internet pornography look like between parent and child? Well, that varies based on the child's developmental stage and the family belief system but here are a few suggestions to get you thinking about it.

    A conversation with your teenager about accessing online pornography is going to go a lot smoother if you've already established a language around sexuality with age-appropriate conversations in their elementary & middle school years.

    Conversations with your child around viewing internet pornography should avoid shaming & punishment. While this conversation will likely be uncomfortable for you both, try to provide reassurance to the child, regardless of age that they didn't do anything wrong.

    If younger children have accidentally viewed online pornography, try saying something like "I’m sorry that showed up while you were on the computer. Those videos are intended for adults, not children. Together, let’s find you some better sites to visit that won’t show those kinds of images. Do you have any questions?" From there, follow the child's lead in a developmentally appropriate way.

    For older children with more free access to the internet, you may begin to notice a concerning pattern of behavior or perhaps a glance at their history shows access to online pornography. For these children, I'd suggest starting the conversation with a statement like "It seems that you've been spending a lot of time on your tablet lately and by the history, it looks like some of that time has been on sites with adult content. I want to talk with you about some of the risks associated with viewing this material."

    Some boys and girls will assume that what they see online is an accurate representation of normal sexual behavior. After exposure, explain to your child that what they are seeing is not real. Sexual behavior is real and normal but online videos are staged and is not an example of regular sexual behavior.

*Net Nanny® parental control software is known worldwide as the #1 porn blocking (porn filtering) software. Net Nanny® reviews web pages in real time and either blocks pornography and other mature content or warns you about it, according to your preferences. Net Nanny® includes pre-set monitoring features, which can easily be customized to meet the unique needs of each family member. You decide what type of content is appropriate for everyone.