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Dear Ashley,

I recently discovered that my 12-year-old son watches porn. I check my children’s tablets from time to time and when I checked the other day, I found porn sites in his browser history. As I mentioned—he’s 12. At first, it kind of freaked me out. He’s just a boy. But then I realized: oh yeah, he’s just a boy. I was trying to keep that childhood innocence going as long as I could, but I guess that’s out the window now. Any suggestions on how to approach this? I don’t plan to punish him, but I want him to know that porn is not realistic and also that being curious is normal without shaming him.

Sincerely,

Concerned Mom



Dear Concerned Mom,

I’m not a parent, but I imagine it can be alarming to discover your child has been looking at porn. But as you mentioned, watching porn as a child is quite normal, according to Forbes. The average age a child first views internet porn is about 11-years-old, and based on that statistic your son is right on schedule.  An unfortunate truth is porn is most people’s first introduction to sex and sexuality, so letting him know that porn isn’t real life is a great start to the conversation. Honestly, it’s a conversation I wished somebody would have had with me. It would have been very beneficial to know early on that I didn’t have to make wild animal noises during sex for it to be enjoyable or that vulva varies in shape, sizes and color.

It’s very important to lead the discussion with concern and empathy, and in a way that will leave the door open to ongoing conversation. Start by making a point to normalize the situation. Let your son know it’s normal to wonder about sexual body parts. Normalizing the behavior doesn’t mean you endorse the behavior, but it does mean you reduce your child’s fear of feeling dirty or perverted for being sexually curious. Assure him that if he has questions—he can ask you, and if you don’t know the answer—you will find it for him. Let him know that porn is not a real depiction of sex and teach him how to view sex in a positive and healthy way. Tell him that you actually want him to have good sex later in life—when he is much older. He needs to know that sex in and of itself is not a bad activity and is one that he should be looking forward to when age appropriate. Moving forward, I would probably install parental controls or set up passwords on all devices with internet access. You can also deactivate WI-FI at bedtime, doing this won’t alleviate all chances of him ever seeing porn again, but it will set boundaries for when he’s home. 

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Ashley Cobb is the millennial microphone that brings the conversation of Black women’s pleasure to the forefront. Creator of digital platform Gossip And Gasms, her work and words have been featured in Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health, Shape Magazine, Business Insider, and Huffington Post. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter via @sexwithashley

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