Sexual Recovery Blog

How to Talk to Your Teen about Porn (Part I)

Posted by Anthony Liu on

“Sometimes, when my mom goes to bed,” the thirteen-year-old boy whispered as he leaned in to me, “I watch porn.” He giggled with titillation.

When in college, I mentored this thirteen-year-old boy. When he told me about his porn use, I felt conflicted. On one hand, I felt honored that he trusted me; he was bonding with me the best way he knew how. On the other, I felt uncomfortable because of how young and impressionable he was; he was curious and innocent. Before I knew it, he pulled up a website revealing an unclad woman, with only the web editor's super-imposed stars strategically covering sensitive areas.

As I reflect upon this incident more than 15 years later, I see it through the unique lens of my experience as a certified sex addiction therapist. Almost daily, I see clients in their thirties, forties and fifties come in for counseling during times of crisis. Because of sexual issues, they may be on the brink of divorce, on the verge of job loss due to inappropriate behavior, or in a state of depression.

Regardless of the consequences or issues, these clients seem to have one thing in common – all of them have regularly looked at porn since an early age.  Regardless of what the media or our culture would like us to think, teens watching porn is a big deal.  Regular porn viewing wires the brain to think in ways that will be destructive to relationships if left unaddressed.

If you're reading this, you might be a parent concerned with your teen looking at porn or inappropriate online material. You might be fighting (or giving in to) the urge to freak out and ground your child until they're 35. The internet is amazing for expanding knowledge and convenience, yet this same accessibility has made internet pornography extremely common.

Some studies indicate that it is more uncommon for teens to have not looked at porn as opposed to those who have seen porn.  This is my first advice to you. Breathe. Slow Down. Gather your thoughts. Unfortunately, most, if not all parents, will have to face this issue at some point during their kids’ adolescent years.  

Discussing teens looking at pornography is a sensitive topic. It can be an amazing opportunity to strengthen a parent's bond with a child, share values, and have a mature and productive discussion. Yet, if handled inappropriately, the topic may drive a wedge in the relationship and foster toxic shame.  See Anthony’s next blog for tips as to how to address this important topic with your teen.

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