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My 8-year old downloaded porn — here's how we handled it

Maria is a Step-Mom to 3 rambunctious boys aged 7,5, and 4. She's a Writer, a blogger, an Advocate for Infertility and PCOS, and an avid Baker and Self Proclaimed Traditional Italian Cook. She writes about suffering from infertility as s...

My elementary-aged son downloaded porn and lied about it

The truth of the matter is, it happens everyday to millions of parents. What is it? Well, it’s my child — your child — being exposed to pornography.

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I was actually livid at first. I asked him about it. I was looking at the times that he downloaded the porn and he lied. I don’t know why he lied. In retrospect, I realize that he may have been scared that he could have gotten in trouble, that we would yell or scream at him, and who knows what else he may have been thinking.

Normally, we have a very open relationship. He knows he can tell me and his Dad anything. I want to be clear he managed to get around parental controls by downloading a game through the Amazon App Store. While it may not have been actual pornography, it is a form of pornography none-the-less.

From livid, I calmed down and headed straight into paranoia. Yes, I almost became that mom who goes, "Where did you learn this?" "Is anyone touching you?" "Why did you download this?" I stopped myself. The look in his eyes — you know the deer caught in headlights one — broke my heart.

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I’ve never been the mom to say, "Stop it or your wee wee will fall off," or "Stop doing that or you will go blind." I’m Catholic, not stupid. I just explained to him that it was something that is to be done in private and not in public places.

When he finally admitted that he did in fact download the porn/game, I asked him to go sit in the kitchen and wait for me and his dad. I needed a couple of minutes to calm down, assess my feelings, and breathe. I also didn’t want to yell at him and embarrass him further. A few minutes later, we called him back into the living room and asked him to have a seat. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Bubbies, first we want you to know that it’s okay for you to have these kinds of feeling towards girls and your body. It’s normal, and we’re not angry with you for that. We’re upset and disappointed, because 1) you lied to us with the evidence right there, and 2) You downloaded something you knew you shouldn’t have and betrayed our trust.

Son: I know, I’m sorry.

We told him he would lose his tablet and YouTube privileges until he'd earned back our trust.

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This was honestly a conversation that I could have waited a few more years to have with him. I honestly think that I was more embarrassed than angry at the situation. When I looked at the search terms, he had “sexy boobs,” “naked girls,” and “big butts.” He apparently knows what he wants to look at! I just couldn’t believe he is aware enough to actually search for this.

The past two weeks he has been working diligently to make sure that the trust boundaries are being rebuilt. He hasn’t had too much of an attitude either.

So, what to do if your child downloads porn? It’s quite simple. I know that some of you have already experienced this kind of situation, but if you haven’t here are some tips:

  • Don’t freak out! It’s normal for their age to begin exploring.
  • Don’t yell! They’re already embarrassed from being caught, don’t make it worse.
  • Don’t shame or guilt them about it. The last thing they need is a complex that will a lifetime to get over.
  • Do make this a teaching opportunity.
  • Do explain to them how they broke your trust.
  • Do tell them and assure them that you still love them.

Has this happened in your family? How did you react?

Originally published on BlogHer.

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