A Million Shades Of Grey : Talking To Children About Internet Porn

Sometimes I pretend to be in a parallel universe with no wormhole connecting me to the one where a fight just broke out between my two boys – both a cocktail of hormones, raging to claim supremacy, and establish control over toys and books. The strategy mostly works. But sometimes, fractures in time-space continuum appear.

‘Mum, a friend suggested that I check out a pornographic site.’ the elder one declared today.

They know how to create a wormhole, and suck me right back into their world. He had a smile plastered on his face.

‘And?’

‘Nothing. Just telling you.’

‘There is nothing else you want to ask?’

‘I know what porn is, and I seriously have no interest.’ He sighed and tried to sound as cool as a thirteen-year-old possibly could.

That was his way of getting my attention, and then he launched into his wish-list of books to be bought at the upcoming book festival. There were no gasps, no fear, no fidgeting and definitely no hesitation when he used the big, bad P-word. Yes we have talked about birds and bees, and yes we have moved on to discussing darker beasts – pornography, alternate sexuality, gender sensitization, and sexual assault.

Most parents, and nearly all teachers shy away from discussing pornography. And if, God forbid, a child is caught watching or reading porn, he is made to feel like a social outcast who has committed the worst moral crime there is. There are a myriad of books and articles out there stating the importance of discussing and warning against porn but none teaches you how to handle the situation where your child has stumbled upon a porn site, is caught surfing the net for porn, or is offered site addresses by the ‘caring’ friends. So we devised our own way and so far, things have been fine. One cannot just decide one day to have ‘the talk.’ It is a process and it has some pointers that one needs to be mindful of:

1. Sex is normal. Curiosity about it even more so.

Chant this, read about it, gather data if you have to – but at the end of the day, treat sex they way it is – real, and far removed from moral character of the child. I must have repeated this to myself and others a gazillion times, yet it is never enough. So chant some more.

2. Learn and teach the basics.

Use facts. Stop calling a penis wee-wee or su-su or whatever name you have devised for it. It is a body part, and by giving sideways glances and shuffling whenever an inevitable reference to ‘it’ comes up, we are telling a child to be ashamed of it. Birds and the bees are next.

3. Put checks in place.

Children should not have a free run on computer or other gadgets connected to the Internet, in the first place. If at all they do, there are a quite a few monitoring Apps available that can be installed to prevent them from opening porn sites. Research them and install.

4. Talk.

Installing the security app doesn’t absolve us of our job. Internet access beyond home is out of our control. Hence, it becomes important that we talk. Tell them what porn is. Recently the boys were given limited iPad privileges, which meant that they could access the Internet (with checks in place, of course). So I discussed the perils that lurk out there, including porn sites.

5. Be logical.

Just telling them what porn is and that it is bad, doesn’t serve the purpose. Give them reasons:

a. Watching porn can lead to addiction. Research reveals the effect of porn on brain is similar to that of drugs. It is addictive, leads to denial, life style changes and, overwhelming feelings of guilt and depression.

b. Sex is beautiful. Porn distorts it. Look at Barbie. Do you think a real woman looks like that? Or for that matter the superhero figurines. Just as these distort the image of a real healthy person, leading one to ache for a waist that is an inch slimmer or hair that is a tad bit straighter, porn distorts the idea of sex. Rather than connecting it with emotions it is linked purely with gratification and most of it glorifies objectification of people. Tell them that.

c. Body image goes for a toss. Most people shown in those pictures or videos are a product of elaborate surgeries or Photoshop. When a child sees them, the image presented is far removed from reality, distorting expectations from self and their future partners, and worse, giving way to feelings of inferiority in the little minds.

6. Teach respect

More often than not, it is the women who are objectified through pornography. Frequent porn-viewing makes the visuals seem normal where the women are degraded, displayed as objects, and at some levels, shown to enjoy violence. So, over time, it leads to desensitization towards women, their feelings, and ultimately leading to loss of respect. On the contrary, if boys are taught to respect women from the very beginning, they might find porn a tad bit less attractive in the first place.

In the end, it is all right. You will stumble upon dubious search histories, a child staring at Google homepage when you walk-in unannounced, and there will be times when you will feel faint. Gather your senses, stay calm and help them tide over this phase of tremendous growth, changes, and discoveries.  Sex is not simply pornographic or evil. Sex is just that, sex. We need to treat it like the meeting grounds of bodily functions and emotions. All we need to do is be there when the children need us, without judging, without falling flat on our faces out of shock. Contrary to what we like to believe, this generation is not very different from ours. They are just more vulnerable thanks to the virtual world. Hence, it is our job to sometimes be the gatekeeper and sometimes the guide, but never the judge. Ever.

Originally posted at : Momspresso

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