My Son Watches Porn: Is It Normal?

teen boy at laptopSooner or later it's bound to happen: you walk into your teenager's room and catch him scrambling to hide his computer screen, but not before you see some images that are, ahem, a little racy ... or downright freaky. Yup, your teen is watching porn. And as much as you want to stay calm, your mind is going OMG, I was 15 when I peeked inside my first Playboy.He's only 13, plugged into an endless stream of effed-up stuff on the Internet! That's just not right.

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Yet as tempting as it is to install Internet filters or call a child shrink in a panic, keep in mind that his curiosity is entirely par for the course: By the age of 12, 70 percent of boys have been exposed to adult content, says Theodote Pontikes, MD, a pediatric psychiatrist at Loyola University Health System. Girls, too, are becoming increasingly exposed, and 50 percent have viewed pornography by age 12.

The upshot? There's no need to flip out if your kid has joined the ranks and taken a look. In fact, it's probably the worse thing you could do. "The biggest mistake parents make is to be emotionally reactive if they find their teenager viewing porn," says Dr. Pontikes. "This is not only shaming, and sends a message that the child is 'bad' and sex is 'bad,' but it also creates a scenario where the teen will just hide their behavior more and avoid going to the parent with questions. It totally shuts down future communication and support."

That said, we're not saying you should wholeheartedly endorse your kid's porn-watching habit. Because let's face it, your teen is probably using porn to learn about sex -- and porn is filling his head with some pretty warped and unrealistic ideas. Porn stars, for instance, wouldn't blink an eye about stripping down for the pizza deliveryman or getting it on with an entire football team. Most women in real life aren't up for that.

More from The Stir: Your Teen Caught You Having Sex: Now What?

"Pornography as the primary source of sex education can be dangerous to healthy psychosexual development," Dr. Pontikes explains. "There's the potential for misinformation and the misconceptions that it's acceptable to seek self-gratification at the expense of the degradation of others, especially girls and women."

Plus, research suggests that with chronic exposure, your teen could become addicted to high levels of stimulation. In other words, one sexual partner might not be enough of a turn-on if your teen is used to eyeing an orgy. "In therapy I am seeing men in their 20s with porn-induced erectile dysfunction," says Lori Cluff Schade, LMFT, a therapist who teaches family dynamics classes at Brigham Young University. "In contrast, I never saw these kinds of cases pre-Internet porn."

So what should you do or say if you catch your teen watching porn? For starters, while remaining calm, say, "It's normal to be curious about sex and want to know more about it." But then drive home the fact that porn isn't the best place for them to learn about sex. "Explain that pornography depicts ideas about sexuality that are unrealistic," says Schade. "Also warn them that it can have harmful effects on being able to perform normally with their partners later and could actually prevent them from having healthy romantic relationships in the future."

Bottom line: Leave your teens with the message that if they ever have any questions about sex, they can always come to you rather than search for answers in the wild world of porn. Deliver this message calmly, and you leave the door open to further conversations about sex down the road -- and that sure beats being in the dark about what your kid is up to in this department. 

Have you caught your teen watching porn?

 

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