With the Internet now easily accessible through mobile phones and the growing number of mobile porn pay sites, photo/video apps, and sexting, teens view porn through so many mediums that it is almost impossible to monitor everything. Parents are less able to police their teen’s access to porn than ever before. The dangers become more serious when teens go from “curious” viewing to regular, daily use and addiction. Porn addiction meaning that with prolonged exposure and tolerance increase, it leads to general loss of control, the compulsiveness to seek out pornography despite negative consequences, and withdrawal when it goes away.
So here are six proactive action steps parents can take to help their teen who is struggling and addicted to pornography.
1.) BE OPEN AND TALK ABOUT IT.
Stop ignoring or denying the problem, avoid tiptoeing around the subject and treating pornography as a secret sin that only a minority of people are struggling with. Many kids who are addicted to pornography deal with their struggles in secret, which just adds fuel to the fire. View pornography addiction similarly as other addictions so open up honest, multiple conversations about your teen’s pornography struggles. Be proactive by approaching your teens and openly discussing porn’s addictive dangers, reasons for viewing pornographic images and videos, and their emotions/thoughts connected to what they view on the Internet and visualize later. A key to your teen’s willingness to open up and accept their addiction problem is your supportive attitude.
2.) BE COMPASSIONATE & TRANSPARENT
Shame, guilt, confusion, embarrassment, and humiliation are emotions teens experience during their addiction. For many teenage boys and girls who are entangled with pornography, feel unbearable amounts of shame for it, feel fearful to tell anyone, and become caught up in the web of addiction, avoid shaming. Shaming and stigmatizing their struggles will shut them down emotionally and verbally. Compassionate love and understanding will likely lead your teen to disclose the full story.
Compassion is also transparency. Share with them your own past struggles with pornography as a teen or even in your adulthood. Talk specifically about the temptations you faced, the negative feelings you dealt with, and the problems it caused you. Disclose the personal battles you fought and ways you overcame. Teens seek out understanding as much as attention. They seek out someone who can relate more than someone who constantly lectures can. Transparency will help them understand that they are not alone with their emotions and struggles.
3.) BE PREPARED & KNOWLEDGABLE
Better acquaint yourself with the technology that gives your teens access to porn. Understand how they get it, where they store it on their mobile devices, and the filtering services that can help control it. Have your teens cite and explain the websites that are not all as known in the social media world. In addition, do your own research on the effects of porn addiction. Learn about the long-term dangers of porn include desensitizing and dehumanizing women, unrealistic and perverted views of sexual relationships, and sexual problems for adults. Understanding these and other consequences plus the technological world that captures teens will increase knowledge and ability to support your teen.
4.) BE PATIENT: “It’s an illness.”
Many parents view pornography as a behavior that should be punished and will go away easily rather than a serious illness that takes time to recover. Understand that this addiction will not go away immediately and realistically expect difficulties and relapses occurring in recovery. Just as you may encourage and support a teen going through the trials of cancer, view pornography addiction in the same way-in the good times of abstinence or the worst times of relapse, support your teen through patience.
5) BE ACCOUNTABLE- CREATE A CULTURE OF ACCOUNTABILITY IN & OUTSIDE YOUR HOME
Take a leading role in encouraging an environment of loving accountability in the home, showing sympathy for present struggles while setting appropriate limits on mobile devices and home computers. Install necessary filter software on all mobile devices with a clear expectation that there is no room for privacy when it comes to harmful content online. Set together specific rules and limits such as computer use outside homework, cell phone limited use, internet use only in shared living areas in home, and reviewing history of visited websites. Boundaries and rules should also be set and discussed with addictive behavior outside the home. Consequences through a behaviorally contract is one way to uphold an agreement and demonstrate accountability.
Accountability also entails having regular talks with your teen- checking in on their progress. It also means getting them involved in support groups in the community, treatment agencies or at school. Remember that dialogue does not begin and end with one discussion, but it is a process without a timetable.
6.) SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP
Professional help with a licensed therapist is also critical. Parents can do all the above but will gain tremendously by a therapist’s expertise on addiction and recovery. The skills and insight gained through therapy whether individual, group, and even family, can be a needed and effective resource. Therapists can also provide you the knowledge and education on how to better support and help your teen.
Mark A. Molina MA LCPC
Fox Valley Institute For Growth and Wellness
640 N. River Rd, Suite #108
Naperville, IL, 60563
Ph (630) 718-0717 ext. 204 Fax (630) 718-0747