"I Caught My Teen with Porn"

How should parents react when they catch their child with Internet and magazine pornography?

Q. I discovered my 14-year-old son with porn on the computer and magazines. How should I handle this?

A. It would be alarming for any parent to discover that their child is logging on to pornography sites on the Internet and buying pornographic magazines. Your teen's interest in pornography is disconcerting because he's viewing sexually explicit material that's designed to arouse. Pornography depicts sex without affection, commitment, respect, or consequences, yet your son's interest is not unusual for a child his age.

Saying -- and Enforcing -- "No"

That being said, it's your role to control the use of the computer and what kind of magazines are around your house. Tell your son, "It's not okay to go to pornography sites on the Internet. I can't allow it in this house." Tell him outright that you will be checking to see that he's not violating this household rule. If a computer with Internet service is in his bedroom, you might need to remove it and put it in the living room where all can see what he's viewing. You can even block such sites from his computer.

Also tell him that you can't allow pornographic magazines. Tell him that you will be looking for them and if you find them, you'll rip them up and throw them out. You'll need to decide whether you'll go through his backpack and dresser drawers. Some parents feel perfectly justified in doing so; others allow their children the privacy of these personal spaces.

In addition, you'll need to tell your son of the impropriety of pornography. He is not an adult, and he should not be buying such magazines or logging on to such Internet sites. He definitely should not be taking porn magazines to school or logging on to porn Web sites at school or at any public place such as libraries.

The Root of Your Findings

Once you've asserted your position, keep a watchful eye on him and his behavior. You need to understand that although by societies' standards your son is still a child, by his biological body, he's a fully developed sexual male. He most likely masturbates and fantasizes about sexual activity.

His sexual side is not going away. He needs to manage it appropriately, therefore, you need to open up a conversation that fits with your values and that will help him develop a healthy approach to sexuality. It's important to point out that what he sees at a pornographic Internet site or in a magazine is a skewed vision of sexual behavior and an unrealistic idea of responsible relationships, body types, and intimate activities.

You might fear that your son will become a pornography addict. While this is unlikely, if you suspect this is the case, you'll need to direct him to professional help.

Jan Faull, MEd, is a veteran parent educator and the author of two parenting books, Mommy, I Have to Go Potty and Unplugging Power Struggles. She writes a biweekly parenting advice column for HealthyKids.com and a weekly parenting advice column in the Seattle Times. Jan Faull is the mother of three grown children and lives in the Seattle area.

Originally published on HealthyKids.com, January 2006.

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