Talking To T(w)eens About Porn

If you are a mildly responsible parent, you have wrestled with the subject of kids and the internet. Many of us have used site blocking apps and software to try and keep questionable material out of the hands of our impressionable youth. I was one of the parents who jumped up and down in celebration when YouTube came up with a version built just for little ones that restricted access to content that wasn’t appropriate for young viewers. 

However, children don’t stay children for long, and eventually, you must loosen the reigns. Whether at home or at a friend’s house, you must deal with the fact that your little ones will be exposed to the temptation of pornography. While tablets, phones, and laptops at home may be equipped with porn-blocking filters, there are still ways to get around those protocols. Or even worse, if you’ve been caught off guard, thinking that your little Fatma/Fadil is too young to be interested in such things only to discover (while perusing their internet history) that they have already stumbled into the world of online porn. What do we do at that point?

The truth is, ready or not, you are going to have to talk to your kids about pornography and sexually explicit material in general. As a Muslim, this can be a little tricky. How do you talk to your kids about sex and pornography without sounding like an out of touch, sexless, prude? Believe it or not, Islam is a pretty sex-positive religion. We prohibit monasticism and consider sexual urges to be natural desires that must be met in a safe and respectful manner. 

So here are a few tips on talking to your tween/teen about pornography. 

Don’t accuse and don’t get angry.

Being curious about sex is natural and finding the opposite sex attractive is normal. They may have handled it wrong, but the desire is a natural one. If this is enough to push you over the deep end, then you can forget about them coming to you to talk about other, more difficult/embarrassing issues. Calm down first. Then, let them know that you think it’s time you had a DISCUSSION. That means sometimes they talk and you listen, and sometimes you talk and they listen. Sex is a two-way street and conversations about sex and pornography need to be that way as well. Being able to talk respectfully and honestly about these feelings is important to developing a healthy relationship with your child and helping them deal with their sexuality in a healthy way. Tell them that you saw some things that make you worry about them and tell them clearly what you saw, why you are worried, and ask for feedback. 

Pornography addiction is real, so address it.

Like opioid abuse and cigarettes, it’s important that young people know that there is a serious risk factor in certain types of behavior. Give them good information about how pornography can stimulate the brain and how the regular viewing of such images can affect them. 

Don’t try to scare the straight.

Threatening your children with stories of hell and damnation will do more harm than good. At best you will get them to modify their behavior for a short while without really solving the problem. In some cases, children learn to attach guilt and shame to sexual urges and that trauma stays with them well into their married life. They become prudish or (in some cases) promiscuous as a result of developing negative ideas about sex. 

Remind them that Allah swta is pro-sex, pro-love, but also pro-hayaa.

As I said before, Islam is a pro-sex religion. Both men and women have a God-given right to a fulfilling and happy sex life. Sex is a very important component in developing intimacy in a marriage, and it is often noted that bad sex can ruin a good relationship. Remind them that Allah swta has only confined sex and sexuality to a marital relationship. It’s not dirty, it’s simply private. In fact, putting sexuality on display is what makes it dirty. What consenting adults do in private is a beautiful and healthy act. Hijab of the eyes is one way to protect and beautify the intimacy between partners. We dress modestly, not because our bodies are shameful or our feelings of attraction are sinful. We dress modestly because it helps to confine our sexuality to the healthiest place…within the confines of a loving and committed relationship. Leaving the confines of that relationship is dangerous. It’s not only displeasing to Allah, but it can wreak havoc on your sex life later on. 

Remind them of the dark side of porn.

It looks glamorous to some, but pornography has very real links to human trafficking, drug abuse, sexual violence, and exploitation. While it seems rather innocent to stream or download explicit content privately, you are actually adding revenue to one of the seediest industries in the world. Not ALL porn stars are coerced into sex work. And, not ALL sex workers are desperate young women with no other options. But which ones are which? 

Cooperate with them to find solutions.

If you haven’t already installed a porn filter of some sort, now is the time to do it. Let them know that it’s not that you don’t trust them. Let them know that it’s easy to accidentally click on the wrong thing and fall down a rabbit hole. If viewing this kind of thing has already become a habit, take steps as a family to break it. Move the laptops into a common area. Install a program that allows you to see exactly which sites they visit on all of their devices. Come up with strategies to deal with situations with friends that they find uncomfortable but may not know how to get out of. 

Above all else, keep this private.

Chances are this conversation has been as uncomfortable and embarrassing for you as it has been for them. Keep it quiet. Whatever you have agreed on, keep it between yourselves. Don’t bring in other family members to scold and shame your child. Its counterproductive and proves to the child that you can’t be trusted with secrets. If Allah swta has covered their sin, so should you. 

 

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