By: Cole Adams, LCSW, CSAT
I can remember back to the first time I saw pornography. I was walking home from school in the first grade and found a single page from Playboy. I took the page home and hid it in the bathroom. I felt so much shame about having it, but at the same time was compelled to keep it so that I could look at it again.
This week my children graduated from kindergarten and the term first grade was mentioned. I was immediately reminded of my experience that day walking home from school and a huge knot formed in my stomach. My children are entering the age when I was first exposed to pornography.
No parent that I know wants to think that their child might view porn. Current research shows us that the average age of exposure to porn is now eight years old. Prior to the Internet, the average age of exposure to porn was age 11-13. The ease and access of the Internet and digital media has created a tremendous problem for our society and our children.
Recently a dad, whom I respect very much, came to me because he was very concerned on what to do with his five-year-old son. That morning, he walked into his living room and found his son watching hardcore pornography. Apparently, his son had learned to use the remote and was trying to watch Scooby Doo. At that time on his cable company's pay-per-view was a hardcore porn film titled "Scooby Doo: A XXX Parody (Video 2011)". His son had clicked this title looking to watch "Scooby Doo and the Gang" and was traumatized for life. That child will never forget the images he saw that day. I still remember the images that I saw at age six. This father called the cable company and they walked him through setting up parental controls on his cable box. They would not discuss the absurdity of the porn that they had on their network. This type of event is just the tip of the iceberg as far as what our children are possibly exposed to on a daily basis.
Children today are being exposed to porn that is much more graphic and damaging to their mental health than in previous generations. The problem that we are facing has been labeled as a tsunami by Patrick Carnes, a leader in the field of sexual addiction research. Children have access to smart phones, satellite, cable, iPads, computers, and many other forms of instant free access to pornography. Many times these forms of media and communication are totally unfiltered and unmonitored. Not only is viewing pornography a possible option for our children, but interactivity and exhibitionism are common. It is now possible to download apps that will allow you to find and interact with someone who wants to act out sexually near you. This app will tell you what type of sexual experience this person wants to experience and how many feet/miles they are away from you. Kids are currently sexting nude pictures of themselves and others via their smart phones. Kids are under the false impression that there is anonymity and safety on the Internet. It could not be further from the truth. Once pictures and information are out on the web, it is virtually impossible to have it completely removed.
What can we do to help our kids? We cannot protect our kids from the world. I believe that our kids are going to see pornography. I also believe that we can do our best as parents to protect our kids as much as possible in our own home. For instance, I believe that every device at home should be filtered and monitored. Cable/Satellite should be password protected and set at an appropriate age limit for your kids. For all forms of Internet access, there should be software that is placed on all computers, laptops, iPhones, iPads, etc. This software should serve two purposes. First, it should serve as a blocker. A blocker will do its best to block all sites that are adult related. Software companies have improved dramatically over the years, but they are not fool proof, porn sites are introduced daily and it is difficult for the blockers to keep up. Second, the software should monitor all activity that is done on each device including all sites that are visited and all searches made and provide a report to us, the parents. On iPads and smart phones, this same software should be installed and the ability to download apps should be controlled by a password that only the parent can administer. There are multiple software companies that have such products. The one that I would suggest is www.covenanteyes.com. Covenant Eyes is compatible with PC, Macs, iPhones, and iPads. If you have children or young adults, I would highly recommend taking time to research the software that suits your family best. I would also suggest that all forms of Internet access be kept in common areas of the house, not in the child's room. If you determine to allow Internet access in their room, I would also suggest that all electronics are left in the main area of the house at bed time and that it is understood that either parent has complete access to their phones, computers, and other devices.
To some this may seem like an invasion of privacy, but anything that is put out on the Internet is no longer private. As a practitioner working in the field of sex addiction, I see daily the catastrophic impact that pornography and sexual acting out have on individuals and families. I am happy for my children to have a hand written journal of their own, that I promise to never read, but if they feel the need to put something out into the world via the Internet, I have access too.
Cole Adams is the Owner of Bluffview Counseling www.bluffviewcounseling.com. Cole is psychotherapist, a licensed social worker (LCSW), and a certified sexual addiction therapist (CSAT). Bluffview Counseling specializes in working with individuals who struggle with sex addiction and pornography addiction, the partners who have been affected, and the couples that want to heal. We also specialize in working with individuals who struggle with chemical dependency, love addiction, sex and love addiction, and codependency.
Sexual Recovery is one of a series of cutting-edge workshops offered at The Meadows. These workshops are designed both to meet the needs of those who have not experienced our inpatient treatment and as a source of renewal for our alumni.
Sexual Recovery is a five-day workshop that examines sexual compulsive issues and behaviors. Often we do not talk about our sexual experiences because the subject carries too much shame. This workshop helps to lift the shame and resolve sexual dilemmas and self-destructive behaviors. Chief among these compulsive behaviors are:
Sexual obsession and intrigue
Compulsive masturbation with or without pornography
Compulsive use of cybersex
Use of prostitutes, strip clubs, peeping or sex bookstores
Multiple or serial relationships
The Sexual Recovery workshop is best for those who want to
Jumpstart their recovery process
Acquire tools to support continuing recovery
These workshops are scheduled as "men only" and "woman only" and are offered periodically throughout 2010. More detailed information about the Sexual Recovery workshop is available by visiting our website or by emailing our Intake Department.
And for commentary on the topic of Sexual Addiction, please visit Maureen Canning's blog on the subject.
Victoria Munoz, M.C., LPC, Counselor at The Meadows of Wickenburg
Is pornography causing problems in your relationship? Does your partner disapprove of your pornography use? Have you found that you prefer pornography to intimacy with your partner? Pornography, specifically Internet pornography, can have detrimental effects in a person's life. Although our culture has often said, "Boys will be boys," the Internet makes pornography available 24 hours a day. It is affordable, often anonymous, and endless in its supply. As a result, many people have found themselves using pornography compulsively. You may find that you are using it more than intended, needing more to get desired effects, using it to relieve stress, and using it despite negative life consequences. In addition to the problems Internet pornography may be causing your relationship, it may be causing work and legal problems as well. You are not alone, and there is help.
The compulsive use of Internet pornography is treatable. You may find yourself unable to discontinue your use of pornography alone, and perhaps it is time to consider treatment. Maybe you are seeking treatment at the urging of someone you love, maybe you have long known that you have a problem, or maybe you are fearful of where your behavior is taking you on the Internet.
In treatment you can explore the questions: "How did this happen to me?" "What role does Internet porn play in my life?" "Why is my continued use of Internet porn no longer serving me as it once seemed to?" In addition, you can look at patterns you have developed to numb or escape from daily life. In treatment you can become free of this compulsive behavior; by exploring family-of-origin and adult patterns, you can identify how and why pornography has been so alluring to you. You do not have to continue living with feelings of shame and despair. There is a solution.