Defining pornography for your younger child is a difficult proposition at best! You’ve got to give just enough information so they can recognize it and reject it, but you probably don’t want to do more than that.
The hardest part of writing Good Pictures, Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids was coming up with a basic definition of pornography that would be appropriate for a seven-year old. I talked with several parents and people who have struggled with pornography addiction. I wrote and re-wrote dozens and dozens of versions before finally feeling successful.
Let’s start with a “grown-up” definition by Dr. Jill C. Manning (What’s the Big Deal about Pornography, p. 2):
“Pornography is material specifically designed to arouse sexual feelings in people by depicting nudity, sexual behavior, or any type of sexual information. This can refer to pictures, stories, sounds, symbols, actions, or words that depict bodies and/or sexual behavior.”
So that’s for you, but how do you adapt it for your child?
Let me just say that I think the gender of the child may shape your approach. Both boys and girls are curious and both can become addicted to pornography, but boys are more visually stimulated. According to one male friend of mine, a picture of a scantily-clad woman, whether she’s in the underwear section of the J.C. Penney catalog, in a National Geographic magazine, or on a porn site may all be equally arousing to him.
With a girl, depending on her maturity, you may be able to make further distinctions between a nude statue at a museum and the overtly sexual images of internet pornography–but this is tricky to a young brain that is fairly black and white and has not yet learned to understand shades of intention.
So, as Maria says in The Sound of Music, let’s start at the very beginning!
- Pornography is pictures of people without any clothes on.
- Pornography may make you feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or sick to your stomach. (Children who are exposed to pornography often describe it with words such as “gross” or “weird.”)
- Pornography may also feel exciting–which can be confusing to experience two feelings at the same time! (For more explanation, see this blog post: Porn is Tricky! SMART Parents Assist Kids to Understand Feelings)
- Pornography should never be kept secret. (Encourage your child to come and tell you if they ever see something they believe is pornography.)
Every parent will want to adapt a basic definition for their own family.
The most important outcome of your conversation is that you are making it okay to talk about pornography. You are taking it out of the dark and bringing it into the light where it can be defined, discussed and rejected.
If you’re feeling burdened by the prospect of talking to your child about pornography, take heart! Most parents I’ve talked to have felt a giant weight lift off of their shoulders once they’ve started the process of porn-proofing their child.