If Your Child Accidentally Sees Online Porn

By Christina Elston

parenting having the talkIf it hasn’t already, it’s going to happen. Your child will type an innocent word into an online search engine, log onto a gaming site or search for a favorite music video and stumble onto photos and video you – and often they – would rather they didn’t see. Tracy Levine Wallace wants you to think about that now.

“Be one step ahead of this,” urges the L.A. mom and sexual and reproductive health educator.

Wallace, who teaches workshops for kids, parents and schools through “Can We Talk Health Ed,” says seeing naked images of people they don’t know is going to be at least “a little startling” for kids of any age, and that around age 10 or 11 a child might start to feel interested in or upset by them. So before you allow your child even a smidgen of online independence, you or another trusted adult should explain that these types of images might accidentally pop up on their phone or computer, and let them know what to do if that happens.

“Tell them, you’re not in trouble, and it’s not wrong, but we want you to come and let us know that this is happening,” says Wallace.

If your child does come to you to report pornography on their device, first thank them. Then do some explaining. In a simple and age-appropriate way, tell your child that the people in these images are actors being paid to play a part, like on TV. Then bring in your values – whether you believe this type of thing is OK for consenting adults or awful for all. For kids over age 10 or so, “you can talk about how these images are portraying connection and intimacy in a very skewed way,” says Wallace, and that this isn’t the type of thing you want them seeing. “Watching those videos is not sex education. It’s not intimacy education. It’s not relationship education,” Wallace says.

Reassure your child that you are going to do what you can – via pop-up blockers or other security software – to make sure this doesn’t happen to them again. And let them know that if it does, they should come to you again and you’ll try something else.

If you’re spooked by the topic, consider tapping your spouse or someone else your child is close with to handle the talk, as long as you make sure the conversation happens. “It’s OK to play to your strengths,” Wallace says. “Don’t just leave them there hanging.”

Learn more about Wallace’s upcoming talks and check out her informative blog at www.canwetalkhealthed.com.

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