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What I told my 7-year-old when he asked what porn was

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And here's a prayer you can say for the protection of your children.

I suppose it’s not entirely surprising, given my line of work, that my 7-year old-son should ask me, “Dad, what’s pornography?” But it was. Especially since he asked me in front of a female friend of ours who was driving the three of us on an errand.

“What’s that, mate?” I asked. Knowing exactly what he said but stalling to gather my thoughts.

“Pornography. What is it?” he said.

He had heard me say the word in a YouTube video.

What I said next I am relaying here not because I think it was brilliant, nor because it was sufficient — much more could have been said (which I’ll get into towards the end of the blog). I’m sharing it, in part, to press home an important point that, if you’re a parent, you’re probably not going to want to hear. Are you ready?

You need to talk to your children about pornography.

Told you.

Fr. Sean Kilcawley says, and I agree with him, that we should start having this conversation — in an age appropriate way, to be sure — when our child is around six years of age.

You see, It’s not a matter of if our kids will see porn, it’s a matter of when. And while good internet filters and accountability software are a must, we need to help our children develop their own internal filter for the unfiltered world in which they live.

More on that in a moment. Back to the conversation.

“Pornography is something that, when you look at it, it hurts you.” I said.

“Huh?”

“Well you know how some pictures make you feel good, and happy, and safe?”

“Like comics?” he asked.

“Sort of, but I’m thinking more like photos of your brother and sisters,” I said. I pulled out my phone and showed him a few photos I had taken recently of his younger brother. “How does that make you feel?” I asked.

“He’s so cute, I miss him already!” he said.

“So this is a good picture, and it makes you want good things and want to do good things, right?” I said.

“I guess so,” he said.

“Pornography is pictures that are bad. They’re bad pictures that make us want to do bad things and they hurt our brains and our souls.” I said.

“Why do people look at it if it’s bad?” he said.

“Because it can feel good and exciting.” I said. “But remember, rats find rat poison good and exciting. And not just rats; if I took some poison pills and covered them in chocolate, and people ate them, they’d probably like them too, wouldn’t they?” I asked.

“Yeah, but then they’d get sick,” he said.

“That’s right,” I said.

“Do you just find it by typing it in?” he asked. Now this question was interesting because I hadn’t yet told him that porn could be found online, and he hasn’t yet ever used the internet. Honestly, I was afraid of what to say. I didn’t want to respond, “Yep, just type ‘porn’ into Google and you’ll be on your way!”

“You can type lots of bad things into the internet and find lots of bad things, but why would you want to do that?” I asked. “How silly would it be if you typed in “How can I hurt my brother?”

He smiled, nodding with agreement.

“If you ever see anything on the internet or anywhere else that you know is bad or that makes you feel uncomfortable I always want you to come and tell Mum and Dad about it, okay?”

“Okay.” he said.

“Even if you’re scared we’ll be upset. We won’t be upset. We’d be so proud of you for telling us, and that way we can make you feel better,” I said.

“Okay, Dad,” he said.

You’ll notice I didn’t get very specific about anything in particular: what porn is, how it hurts the brain, what he should do when he encounters it (other than speak to his Mum and me).

This is a conversation I will be having with him in the coming weeks (pray for me), and the resource I’ll be using to help me have that conversation is the book, Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn Proofing Today’s Young Kids. This is a beautifully illustrated read-aloud book designed for parents to read to their children.

In the book, Jenson and Poyner suggest an acronym to teach kids what to do when they encounter pornography, They call this the CAN DO Plan. (For a free printable poster of the CANDO plan, subscribe to the blog at Protect Young Minds.) Here is a summary of it:

Close your eyes. As soon as you see something that looks like pornography, close your eyes, shut the laptop, walk away.

Alert a trusted adult. Tell Mummy or Daddy or someone who cares for you about what you saw.

Name it. Teach your child to label what they saw, “That’s pornography.”

Distract your mind when the image pops back up in your memory.

Order your “thinking brain” to be in charge. Remember why pornography is harmful.

A Prayer for Our Children

Dear Jesus Christ, you know what our children are up against in this culture, you know what I’m up against as a parent. And yet you clearly said, “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Give me the courage and motivation I need to protect my children in this pornified culture.

Give me the words to speak as I warn them about the dangers of pornography, and bless my children that they may understand my warnings.

Help me to be merciful, patient, and kind with my children after they do see pornography. They didn’t ask to be born into this pornified culture, that wasn’t their fault.

You are always loving, compassionate, and merciful with me, dear Jesus, help me be like that for my children.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of death. Amen. 

This article originally appeared on IntegrityRestored.com and is reprinted here with permission. 

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