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How to Talk to a 5-year-old About Porn

How to talk to 5-year-old About Porn

How to Talk to a 5-year-old About Porn

Talk to Kids Early About Awkward Things

Recently, I presented to a group of parents at a charter school about our digital culture. At the end of my talk, a father named Anthony asked me, “Chris, my 5-year-old likes to use our tablet. What should I say to him so he uses it well? Do I talk about pornography? What should I do?”

These are great questions.

During my presentation, I typically spend a lot of time talking about the importance of talking.

See, most parents get all caught up in the fact that they really don’t understand all of the technology their kids are using, and therefore, they conclude there’s little they can do to teach their kids how to use technology well.

This is an incorrect conclusion.

Although it might be true that parents don’t understand all of the hardware and software, they do have the most powerful tool available for helping their kids become responsible digital natives—consistent and persistent conversations. I’m not talking about meaningless chit-chat. Rather, parents can start having age-appropriate conversations with young kids about what they are experiencing through their screens.

I call it: “certain phrases for certain ages and stages of life.”

These are thought-out, intentional, practiced, and strategic conversations so that kids walk away empowered and equipped with tools for using technology awesomely.

Related: What to do if my kid has already seen pornography?

What’s the Right Age to Talk to My Kid About P*rnography?

Parents often ask us this question at our presentations. Here’s my standard response:

  • I don’t know your family, but if you wait until you’re ready, it’s too late.
  • I don’t know your family, but your kids are ready for the talk before you are. Just get it done!
  • Does your kid ride a school bus? Then he/she needs to know the word and what to do when (not if) they hear it.

How do I talk to my Son About P*rn?

Let’s go back to the conversation I was having with Anthony about his 5-year-old son.

Is a 5-year-old ready to hear about pornography? Kind of. You might not use the word “pornography” with your kindergartner, but should he/she know what to do when they see someone without their clothes on? Absolutely.

They need to know what to do! This means being specific! It probably doesn’t mean going into great detail about different types of pornography but talk about it with age-appropriate language.

I think kids are ready to handle conversations of this nature far sooner than their parents are. Let’s keep in mind that the average age of a child’s first exposure to pornographic online content is somewhere in the elementary school years according to almost any study. They need to be ready. 

At age 5, I told Anthony he has a fantastic opportunity to lay a foundation of trust and transparency with his boy.

I gave Anthony a very tangible illustration to use the next time he spoke to his son. He might say, “Hey, you know that your dad would do anything to protect you, right? Good. So, just pretend for me a minute. Imagine you’re out in the woods with your friends, walking down a trail, and something really scary happened. Like some animal or even some person jumped out and scared you. You would tell me about that right? I know you would. Well, every time you use this iPad, it’s just like going for a walk in the woods. And, the Internet gives us all kinds of trails that we can walk down when we click around on games and have fun. Now, me or mom are going to probably be right here with you when you use the iPad, but, if you ever see anything weird or scary, or something that shows people without their clothes on and we’re not right with you, promise me you’ll tell dad all about it, ok? I’ll never, ever be mad if you tell me. Remember, I want to protect you!”

For a 5-year-old, that’s a great start. Tangible. Understandable. Foundational. And, Anthony needs to have follow-up conversations regularly, checking in, asking, “Hey bud, have you bumped into anything kinda weird on the iPad recently? Anything funny? Has anyone shown the private parts of their body on the Internet?” He can just continue to build from there. I believe that conversations like this begin to create a family culture of trust and transparency so that kids know what to do when they see something inappropriate, whether they’re five or 15.

For my son Blake, it went something like this:

[Standing in the kitchen at the island]

Dad: “Hi, Blake! I see you’re using the iPad. That’s great. You like using it, don’t you?”

Blake: “Yea, dad, I love this thing.”

Dad: “Well, put it down for just a second. Cool. Blake, you know what your private parts are, right?”

Blake: “Um, yep. I sure do.” (Come on now…he’s a 5-year-old boy, which means he plays with them all the time. If you’ve raised boys, you know what I’m talking about!)

Dad: “Okay, great. Now, mom or dad will usually be with you when you’re using the iPad, but if you ever see anything weird, scary, uncomfortable – if you ever see someone else’s private parts, do you know what I want you to do?” [Now he’s really listening]

Blake: “No, what?”

Dad: “I want you to put it down and tell someone. That’s it! Can you say that back to me?”

Blake: “Sure, put it down! Tell someone!”

Dad: “That’s awesome, buddy! Can you give me an example of a someone you might tell?”

Blake: (thinking) “Aunt Susie, Dad, Grandma McKenna, Mom.”

Dad: “Yes! Exactly! Awesome job, Blake. You can always tell me. Okay?”

And, as often as I remembered, I would ask him, “Hey, Blake, what do you do if you ever see something strange or any private parts on the Internet?” And, he would tell me, “I put it down, and tell someone.”

I just taught my 5-year-old son what to do when he sees pornography and I never said the word. Guess what? Now that he’s six and sometimes rides the school bus, he knows the word “pornography” and what to do if he ever hears it. “Tell someone!” No big deal. It’s just a word. Here’s what the conversation at age six looked like:

Dad: “Blake, do you remember when I told you about seeing weird things on the Internet? Like someone’s private parts?”

Blake: “Sure, dad.”

Dad: “Well, there’s a word for that. It’s called pornography. And, if you ever hear a kid say the word pornography, do you know what I want you to do?”

Blake: “What, dad?”

Dad: “Same as before! Just tell someone. Tell me! No big deal. Sound good?”

Blake: “Yep!”

If you’re not sure what to say, one of our favorite set of books for younger kids are the Good Pictures Bad Pictures series by our friend, Kristen Jenson. 

How to talk to a 5-year-old about porn

Parents, you can do this! Be observant, engaged, and informed. Get in their business, sit down, look ‘em in the eye, and talk to them early and often about what they are experiencing through their screens (that includes talking to them about all of the things no one talked to you about). We can teach our kids how to use technology well.

Peace, Chris

 

 

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Living life to the full! That's why He died and how I try to live. I have an eclectic list of professional experience...CPA, business advisor, youth pastor, development director, now educational resource manager for Covenant Eyes. God shares wild ideas with me about life while I run. I want to show parents how to protect their kids from online dangers, which led to the creation of Protect Young Eyes. We recently created Virtue in Media, the first digital citizenship curriculum based on Scripture (www.virtueinmedia.com).

1 Comment
  • John Winstanley
    Posted at 18:09h, 06 October

    Great post. A must read for every parent.

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