"Big Four" Highlights


Warning Kids About Porn

How to inform without sparking curiosity

by Peter C. Kleponis, Ph.D.

Online pornography is epidemic, and parents are rightfully concerned. They want to warn their kids about it, but they fear any discussion will raise curiosity in their kids to seek it out. There is a way to safely educate kids about the dangers of pornography, but you have to start educating your kids early, years before they will encounter pornography.

Start by teaching your kids now about respect and virtue. For boys, this means teaching them to respect women. For girls, it means teaching them to respect themselves. It also requires teaching both to be virtuous.

From an early age, parents need to teach boys to respect women. Men are called to be leaders, providers and protectors. Fathers must do this by example. They must model true respect for women, particularly their wives. This is found in little things, such as holding a door open for her, offering her his jacket if she is cold, and defending her honor when someone insults her. Ultimately, boys need to be raised to be virtuous men. To help in this process, I recommend a great book by Tim Gray and Curtis Martin entitled Boys to Men: The Transforming Power of Virtue.

Parents also need to teach girls to respect themselves, and to insist on respect from others. Girls must also be taught proper modesty in dress and behavior. This does not mean teaching them to be weak. Mothers can show girls that a woman can be feminine, modest and even demure while still being strong and independent. They must be raised to be virtuous women. To help in this process, I recommend a wonderful book by Theresa Tomeo entitled, All Things Girl: Modern and Modest.

Once a foundation of respect and virtue has been established, kids can be educated about sexuality. Today, the average age when a child first encounters hard core pornography is 11. In addition, kids today are entering puberty much earlier than previous generations. Because of this, I recommend that parents begin to educate their children about sexuality once they enter middle school (fifth grade). Many sex education programs do a good job of explaining the basic mechanics of human sexuality – the “basic plumbing course.” What they often neglect to address is the “electrical wiring” that accompanies sexuality. This includes sexual attraction, masturbation/orgasm, love, and relationships. It’s the “electrical wiring” that often gets kids into trouble and feeds their curiosity about pornography.

This is why teaching kids about respect and virtue are so important. To help kids better understand how to manage the “electrical wiring,” I recommend teaching them about Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. This will help them understand what a wonderful, holy gift sex is, and how to properly use it. A great book to help with this is Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West. Any talk about sexuality at this age will trigger some curiosity about it, especially if the child is entering puberty. This is normal and to be expected. Their sexuality is awakening. This is why teaching them about respect and virtue is so important early on.

Once all this has been achieved, parents are ready to warn their kids about pornography. They need to explain that there are many people in this world who do not respect women or care about them at all. They just want to use them sexually. This is done through pornography. The women in pornography have little respect for themselves. This is because they are deeply, emotionally wounded. Many have been abused and/or are addicted. They enter the pornography industry because they believe there is no other way for them to survive.

The men who view pornography also don’t care about women. They believe the women in porn are there for their own sexual pleasure, and they have no qualms about using them. A wonderful book that will help in understanding the reality of the porn industry is Pornland: How Pornography Has Hijacked Our Sexuality by Gale Dines.

If kids have a solid foundational belief in the importance of respecting women and growing in virtue, they will be rightly offended by pornography. While there may still be some curiosity about it, deep down they will know it is wrong and that they should stay away from it and anyone who uses it.

Even when parents do an excellent job of teaching their kids about sexuality and pornography, fallen human nature can often interfere. Even the best kids can be lured into viewing pornography out of sheer curiosity. This is why parents need to be vigilant about monitoring all media that enters the home and all the electronic devices that kids use. Parents must do everything they can to protect their kids from porn.

Outside of the home, parents need to monitor who their kids are spending time with. They need to know that the parents of their kids’ friends are also teaching them the truth about pornography and protecting them from it.

While educating kids about sexuality and pornography may seem like a daunting task, with a firm foundation of respect and virtue, it doesn’t have to be so difficult. This will allow parents to teach kids about the dangers of pornography while protecting them from excessive curiosity. My book on pornography may also be helpful, see below.

Peter C. Kleponis, Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Therapist and Assistant Director of Comprehensive Counseling Services in West Conshohocken, Pa. His new book, “The Pornography Epidemic: A Catholic Response,” is published by Johnette Benkovic of EWTN’s Women of Grace program. Copies can be purchased by calling 1-800-558-5452.