How Dads Can Protect Their Kids Online: Excellent Advice from a Therapist

by Jun 13, 2014Addiction/Brain Science, Help Kids Heal, Prepare Kids to Reject Pornography

Father And Daughter In Park

Father’s Day is almost here! Let’s talk about how dads can help their kids stay free from porn addiction. Dads who proactively teach their kids to steer clear from pornography of all kinds can have a huge impact on their kids, even if they’ve struggled themselves with a porn addiction. jeff fordThis week I Interviewed Jeffrey Ford, LMFT who counsels individuals with pornography and sexual addictions at LifeSTAR in St. George, Utah. Jeff graciously agreed to talk with me on the phone and answer questions about fathers and how they can help porn-proof their kids.

Kristen: How can fathers help their kids stay away from porn, or get out of it? What is their unique perspective?

Jeff: Fathers have a unique contribution in encouraging their kids to venture out and be successful in the world. In fact, the way mothers and fathers hold a baby has been studied. Mothers typically hold the baby over her shoulder in a very nurturing position, whereas fathers often hold the baby facing outwards. This is quite symbolic of the role of fathers in raising their kids. Fathers can have a huge impact on their kids’ attitudes. When fathers educate their kids about pornography, they are helping to protect them from a very real danger—just as real as drugs. I recently had some parents bring in their 12 year old son who had been looking at pornography since the age of eight. When I said to the boy, “I hear that you’ve been looking at pornography,” he had no idea that the images he’d been viewing were called pornography. So it’s crucial that fathers define these terms for their kids.

Kristen: How do you define pornography?

Jeff: Lots of people ask me for a definition. They want to know the difference between soft core and hard core pornography. But I say pornography is not what you see, it’s what you get. In other words, whatever arouses you sexually is porn, and it may be different for each individual.

two girls with cell phone

Kristen: What is the best age for kids to be warned about the dangers of pornography?

Jeff: It’s not a question of age, it’s a question of use. As soon as a child has any access to an internet-enabled device, they need to have some internet training. This is what we’ve told our three year old who uses our iPad, “If you see someone without clothes on, turn it off and bring it to mommy or daddy.” That’s as far as you need to go with a three or four-year old, but they need to have some warning.
Student working on task

Kristen: What’s your advice for a dad who struggles with a porn addiction and wants to help his kids avoid the same problem?

Jeff: The best thing a father can do who struggles with pornography is to start his own work so he can get into recovery. Kids may find out a father is using porn when they accidentally walk in and see dad viewing it. Sometimes the father doesn’t even know a child has found out, but it leaves the child with a huge burden, a huge secret which can lead to other serious problems. I’ve counseled children who carry this secret for years and I know how devastating that can be. But I’ve also seen their fathers get help and healing for themselves and their entire families. Fathers who struggle with pornography are often paralyzed by the shame, but again, the best gift they can give their kids is to start working on their own recovery whether it’s through professional counseling, a pastor or church leader, or a 12-step program.

In addition to getting started on their own recovery, I encourage dads to tell their kids. Kids often feel there’s something wrong. Dads don’t need to share the details of their addiction or recovery efforts, but it’s a big relief for kids to know that Dad is being proactive and getting help.

Young dad and son

Kristen: I can see Dad telling his teens that he’s getting help, but what about young kids?

Jeff:  Again, it’s not about the age of the child, it’s about their experience. If they’ve seen Dad viewing porn, or sense the problems a porn addiction can create in family relationships—even a young child of five can feel pain and shame. They can also feel relief when they know that dad is “going to the doctor to get help.”

Kristen: Any other advice you’d like to share with fathers? Father and son talking in living room

Jeff: Yes, fathers need to reassure their kids that they won’t get in trouble if they come and tell you about an accidental exposure to porn. Even if the child had a weak moment and gave into their innocent curiosity, they need to come and talk. Open communication between a father and his kids is powerful and very helpful in protecting them from the dangers of porn.

My Two Cents

Jeffrey Ford sees the tragic and devastating effects of pornography everyday on kids and families as he counsels them at LifeStar. He’s a father himself and understands the power dads have on their kids. I’m thankful he was willing to offer his important advice to all fathers. GPBP_26SmallFathers are so important! Their love, example and encouragement are so powerful! In the final chapter of Good Pictures Bad Pictures, Dad spends time with his son fixing a bike. He affirms what mom has taught and then gives some excellent advice of his own. Let’s honor dads, even those who struggle themselves, as they work to raise resilient and strong kids. What has your dad done to help you? As a father, how have you helped your children defend themselves against pornography? Thank you for leaving a comment!

Kristen Jenson
Kristen A. Jenson is the founder of Protect Young Minds and author of Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids. Kristen enjoys speaking, writing and anything else that will help empower kids to reject pornography. Kristen earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, and a master’s degree in Organizational Communication. Kristen currently lives with her husband in Washington State, where she enjoys growing a vegetable garden, watching Masterpiece Theater, and taking long walks with friends who tolerate her incessant talking about you know what. Above all else, her husband and three children are her greatest treasures.

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