What Age To Start?
On some levels, you can start arming your child against pornography from a very young age. I will talk about the types of lessons that are great for giving young, innocent children further on. As you teach your child about his/her worth, to stand up for himself, and that you are a safe place to bring questions and concern, your child is being prepared to face hard situations.
You may have read about how we do a Family Home Evening each Monday night. During a few Family Home Evenings in 2015, we had some lessons to talk about pornography. We did it with all four kids there--ages 10, 8, 6, and 3 (though our 3 year old was not really paying attention to the lessons).
What To Teach?
Whenever you are teaching a young child about something like this, you want to keep it basic. You don't want to over-share. You don't want to expose them to things. Keep things simple. Teach principles. Empower your child.
You want to come out of teaching these lessons with your child knowing:
- If I see something that makes me have a bad feeling, the right thing to do is to leave it.
- If I see something that makes me have a bad feeling, I should immediately turn it off or walk away and tell my parents or another adult in charge of me.
- I can always tell adults in charge of me the things that are happening. I can ask questions and tell them things without getting in trouble.
- I am of infinite worth. I am in charge of my own body.
Through our church, we have some fabulous lessons all outlined and prepared to teach children about pornography and what to do about it. These lessons are on appropriate levels for children. I won't reinvent the wheel here--I will link directly to the lessons but give you a summary of each one. The lessons include ideas for object lessons and ways to involve children and preteens/teens.
My Body Is from God--All Ages
In the first lesson we used we talked about how our bodies are from our Heavenly Father. Genesis 1:27 reads that "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." Our bodies are gifts. We should treat our bodies with the respect they deserve as a gift from God. This is a great lesson for a basis for pornography and also for protecting children from sexual predators.
What Should I Do If I See Pornography--School Aged
Unfortunately, we can't just leave it at "your body is sacred" and hope the rest falls into place. We need to provide more information. I would teach this lesson when your child is old enough that exposure is a real possibility. I would do it if your child is spending time away from home without you. I would do it if your child spends time on the internet at all. You never know when something might pop up.
You will need to start with defining pornography for your child. This is an area you might vary things based on age. When my husband taught this to our younger children, he focused on how things make us feel a lot. Children are sensitive. They will know if something they see is not good. Go back to the lesson on the body being sacred. If something comes up that shows the body in a way that is inappropriate--that is not using the body as a person would using it as a gift form God--then it is not a good image.
How children respond to pornography exposure will impact what place pornography has in their lives in the future. Teach them to turn it off, walk away, and come tell you. The story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife from the Old Testament is a perfect story to illustrate how to respond when something comes up you shouldn't be involved with.
Sexual Intimacy is Sacred and Beautiful--Preteens
We talked about the first two with the full family, but this third lesson I feel is often more appropriate for preteens and not younger children. This is basically a simplified version of "the talk." It can be a great help when you are ready to have the talk with your child.
If your child is in a situation where pornography is a reality in life, this would be a wise lesson to teach. A great trouble in the world of children who grow up in a conservative home is often that they feel sex is bad. It isn't talked about openly, so when they get married, they feel like they are sinning and have a lot of conflict and confusion within themselves.
If a child is exposed to pornography and not taught what healthy sex life is like, then the exposure will be the only lessons the child has. So keep this in mind for helping to teach about the sacred nature of sexual relations in the right setting. There are some good ideas in this lesson for helping illustrate that point on a level for children and teens.
You need to be prepared for that possible day when your child tells you he has accidentally seen pornography. Do not get angry. Do not accuse your child of seeking it or being too careless. You want your child to be open with you about it, so make the conversation one the child isn't scared to have again. Help your child figure out how to avoid the exposure in the future. Be comforting. Tell your child she did the right thing by coming to you.
Prevention is obviously ideal. You can help prevent exposure through a few simple steps.
- Have content filters on your devices. Be aware that anti-virus or anti-spyware software are not content filters. Content filters help block unwanted material.
- Use devices in safe mode. You can get an application that helps you control certain things. You can control time spend online and block questionable material. You can also set up things like Google, Yahoo!, and YouTube to filter. Here is a search result on apps for safe kids mode.
- Have time limits. The more time spent on the internet and devices, the higher your odds for exposure to inappropriate material.
- Keep all electronic device use in public locations. Do not allow these things into bedrooms. We had purchased Kindle Fires for our kids to use as an e reader and also as a tablet. We had a rule that only books could be opened in bed. Once we started pondering pornography and keeping kids safe digitally, however, I felt like I was not okay with my kids taking the internet to bed with them each night. So we purchased them Kindle Paperwhites without the advertising (you want to purchase without "special offers") so they can take their books to bed. The Fires stay out where we can all see them.
- Do not allow electronic devices to be private. You are allowed to take the devices at any time and inspect what is going on and what the history is.
- Follow up the lessons. We do monthly Private Interviews with Our Children. During these interviews, the children are asked if they have had any exposure or anything they want to talk about. They know they will be asked questions and they know we are willing to talk about it.