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I caught my teen watching porn

Anyone who has ever caught a teenager looking at porn on the internet knows the feeling of shock and disbelief.

Anita (not her real name) woke up to the dangers of internet porn when by chance she checked “history” to find a website she had visited a week earlier, only to discover a plethora of porn sites.

“I nearly died. I clicked through to see exactly what my teenage boy had been watching. It was just disgusting. Threesomes. Oral sex. Masturbation. Videos. Hard core pictures. I was horrified.”

Anita thought she was a savvy parent. She and her husband, a teacher, were determined to control the internet. At an early stage, they tied up the children’s computer.

When their eldest daughter got her own PC, they took over the administrator level and installed security software so she would not be able to access or download adult content without their consent. She complained: “It’s my computer!” They parried: “It’s our internet!”

Their two boys, aged 14 and 12, were into different things: one, sport; the other, stock car racing on YouTube. Soon competition over the shared computer became a major issue.

“Can I use your computer to check homework on the internet?” her elder son asked Anita one evening. She agreed.

“I forgot something very important. There were no parental controls on my machine. I had purposely taken them off so it would work faster,” said Anita.

It became a habit for her son to use her computer, first for his homework, and then after a while for checking his Facebook account. At Christmas time, as Anita looked at the list of XXX sites on the history, she realised that wasn’t all he had been accessing.

That night, she and her husband confronted their son and he admitted he’d been looking at porn for months.

“I just went with a gut reaction, and said to him: ‘Would you like to see me doing those kind of things, or your sister? They are real people.’ I was very cross and upset. I heard that you shouldn’t get emotional. I’m afraid I did.”

There is an infinity of porn on the internet, and more and more children are viewing it.

A Unicef online survey of 509 young people showed that more than half (54 percent) had watched porn on the internet, with a significant percentage (36 percent) believing that what they saw was “accurate and/or educational”.

Most people will admit that at some stage in their life they have looked at porn. Is it really harmful or just a natural stage in growing up?

Dr Martin O’Sullivan specialises in adolescent psychiatry. He says viewing pornography is a hidden issue.

“While adolescent males were always exposed to porn, there is a different order of exposure now and we don’t know what impact that will have in the long run.”

O’Sullivan says pornography is “highly addictive” and through it, he fears, many men will retreat into a “virtual world”.

“Far from helping them to form relationships, excessive porn use is likely to deaden the impulse to form meaningful relationships which require patience, consideration and growth.”

Professor of psychiatry Patricia Casey says the danger of looking at porn is that it can initiate teenagers into early sexual behaviour. “It also gives them a distorted image of women as sexual objects.”

While the area of sex addiction is “controversial and unclear”, for children who do not have other “healthy outlets” the lure of porn can be “compelling”. It can also be an indicator of early sexualisation and abuse.

When it comes to the internet, parents must be vigilant. It is part of their parental responsibility, says Stephen Cardy from Focus on the Family, a Christian marriage and parenting service.

“We have good reason to protect our children from getting into danger. When they are adults and want to have children of their own, we don’t want them to have regrets and reasons why they can’t connect and have proper relationships.”

– Irish Independent

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR TEENAGER IS WATCHING PORN

1 Have a united approach as parents. Lead by example.

2 Have a calm chat at a later stage (not in the heat of the moment).

3 Explain that it is normal to be curious about sex.

4 Identify women as people rather than sexual objects.

5 Explore links between porn and criminal activity.

6 Explain sexuality in the context of a loving relationship.

7 Explain the damage that viewing pornography can cause.

8 Establish firm boundaries in relation to internet use.

9 Be ready to experience and face up to periods of conflict.

10 Urge them to develop other healthy hobbies.

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