What to do about teenage boys and porn

2010-01-20 00:00

I WAS puzzled when I fired up my computer one morning and found an unfamiliar icon on the desktop. I clicked on it and it took me to a porn site.

Thoroughly freaked out, I went into my computer’s browsing history and discovered that my son, then aged 15, had been using my machine to access pornography for weeks without my knowledge.

Before confronting him, I phoned a ­psychologist friend who specialises in teen problems and told her what I’d found. She sighed. “It’s probably going to get worse ­before it gets better,” she said, but added that a preoccupation with pornography isn’t at all unusual in teenage boys, or, for that matter, in many adult men.

Her comment was borne out by my subsequent research, during which I found that (perhaps not surprisingly) more boys than girls look for sexually explicit sites, and also that this behaviour increases with age through the teen years.

But the most worrying fact I found was that the more teens sought out X-rated sites on the Internet, the more likely they were to view sex as recreational — in other words, to think that love or even affection aren’t ­necessary for a sexual encounter.

What, as a parent, was I to do about this? “Don’t forbid, educate,” was my psychologist friend’s advice. She pointed out that if my son was old enough to be interested in sex, he was also old enough to find ways to access it — and anyone with a teenager knows how sneaky they can be when they’re determined to do something they’re not ­allowed to.

“Point out to him, first and foremost, that the sex he sees on porn sites doesn’t correspond to what most adults experience in the bedroom,” she advised. “He needs to understand that what he’s seeing isn’t real.”

I got that, but I was still unhappy with the notion that my son might regularly be cruising the ­Internet looking for X-rated images. “How you handle that comes down to your parenting style,” said the psychologist, adding that some research has shown that parents who express clear, strict guidelines about what may be accessed do have some ­success in limiting their children’s tendency to seek out sex sites. Over time, their children do internalise the message. “Lay down the rules and expect your child to follow them,” she said.

She also advised that the family computer be sited in as public a place in the house as possible, for instance in the family room. This isn’t possible for me as the only computer we have is the one in my study, which I use for work.

“In that case,” she said, “hang around when your son’s using your computer. Ask him what sites he’s visiting and have a look at a few of them. If he knows that you’re keeping a close eye on him, he’ll be very much less likely to try to access porn sites.”

I’ve always stressed to my children that they’re entitled to privacy, and have never been the kind of mother who reads their ­diaries or checks their cellphones, so I found this hard.

Harder still, though, was her further ­advice: “Feel free to snoop,” she said. “Check their browsing history regularly and remember that most teens are savvy enough to delete telltale sites from it after they’ve completed a session.”

There is always, of course, the option of installing parental-control software on your computer. Once I’d had a long, serious talk with my son about his browsing habits, I told him that I didn’t want to do this but that I would if he made it necessary.

“I want you to take responsibility for what you access,” I explained. “I don’t want to be your policeman.”

He will, after all, not always live under my roof and within range of my beady eye, and one of our responsibilities as parents is, surely, to teach our children self-awareness and self-control. — News 24.com.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.