Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Porn: What's a Mom to Do?

Pick one:
It’s inevitable.
It will never happen.
I don’t want to know.

Personally I was hoping to avoid the whole thing.

But in the flash of a screen, a fraction of a second, and the unmistakable form of a naked woman . . . I discovered my son surfing a porn website.

Oh shit oh shit oh shit what do I do? Why me, why did I have to catch him, why didn’t my husband? My emotions raced from shock to panic to anger, while my brain was telling me, “However you react, whatever you do right now, he will remember and retell his entire life.” I realized instantly that this was a seminal moment of parenting. I had to stop freaking out. So I went in the bathroom and texted my husband, who was not home, with this simple message: 911. He didn’t answer so I texted him five more times with the same message.

Then I went to talk to my son. First he tried to deny what he was looking at, then he claimed it was a pop-up he couldn’t get rid of. I let the irony of that melt away. Then I’m not exactly sure what I said, but it was something like, “This is inappropriate, you are not allowed to be on these websites, it is not OK.” In case he was starting to feel ashamed, I added, “It’s OK to be curious, but this is not OK.” I added that he needed to talk to us about it. I don’t know, it didn’t make sense to me either, I just threw it in.

I went back in the bathroom to voice my frustration with my husband by texting him a few swear words for not being there and not calling me back.

When he did call me back and I blurted something incoherent out in a hostile whisper, he was maddingly quiet. Once he got the gist of what was happening, he had the nerve to sigh in relief. And even start to chuckle. I hung up on him.

A public location for the computer, an internet filter you think is up to date, a trust you place in a boy to know what is “appropriate,” it is all no match for the powerful cocktail of emerging hormones and curiosity. They want to know, they need to know, and it is so easy. Images and videos are everywhere online. He will be told or even shown exactly where to find them by a more knowing friend.

Now I happen to believe that surfing internet porn is not at all appropriate for a boy of this age. I feel I have a responsibility to protect him and shield him from it at least until he is older. Obviously my precautions were not adequate.

I was able to determine by viewing his computer’s browser history (and that of all the other computers in the house) that this was the first time he had surfed porn sites. My husband and I spent the better part of the next day installing and updating better filtering software (we chose K9 by BlueCoat which is free).

After taking care of the immediate need for better internet filtering, my mind began to go back over the incident. I thought about the boy at school who had so kindly given my son the exact website to check out. I felt sure his mother had no idea he was so knowledgeable in this kind of information. It was a mom I don’t know very well, but I pondered telling her, or at the very least suggesting she check where he son goes online. I would want to know. Wouldn’t she? I tried to come up with scenarios in my mind, running into her in the carpool line, rolling down the window, and saying, “Excuse me, I think your son is a regular on,” or calling her up and inviting her over for coffee and broaching the topic, “So what are your philosophical beliefs about pornography?”

I sought input from other people. My mom was shocked and dismayed about the whole thing. My dad, who has been trying to warn me about how horny young boys can be, while I try not to hear this message from him, said “I told you so.” The very kind school administrator said, “Go with your gut and don’t be too hard on him.” A good friend said, “Buy him a subscription to Playboy magazine.” I heard “boys will be boys” more than once. I decided I had enough of input from other people. The range of opinions among parents about pornography is staggeringly wide.

According to one article I read, boys ages 12-17 are among the biggest consumers of pornography. If parents don’t monitor their children’s internet use, and if they don’t have filters in place and check that they operate as expected, then I have to assume they are not concerned about pornography. And just to be clear, every variety of sexual activity is available online; group sex, violent sex, much much more than enough to satisfy your basic curiosity.

I’m not going to tell that mom about her son’s expansive knowledge of porn. Maybe she doesn’t care. But mental note: no sleepovers for my son at that house.

Articles I found useful:


Carole said...

I have 3 boys, the oldest will be 12 in January. I am SO not ready for this! Your reaction sounds so much like me. I hope I will be able to calm myself like you and not freak out!

Anonymous said...

I have four boys and grew up the oldest of three girls so I completely get it:) Funny thing...between the three of us girls we have eight boys and only one girl (the youngest cousin). Our computer is in a high traffic area in the house but we still should have a block. Thanks for the free info. I think the website would have helpful information about dealing with porn. Check it out:)

Anonymous said...

mine is almost 18 & I've seen some racy stuff pop up on his wall, etc....but I expect it! He knows that "losers" get addicted to porn & he;s usually too busy "gaming" with his buddies to be hooked too severely. Better than having the real thing & condom worries (yes, the subject has been broached)