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Finding Your Son’s Computer Porn Stash

A dad's letter to his smut-surfing son goes viral, raising the question of how to deal with a pubescent pornophile.
 
 
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A father is removing scamware from his 13-year-old son’s computer when he finds porn — lots of it – in the browser history. So the dad writes a note: “Listen, I was 13 once too and it wasn’t so long ago that I don’t remember. I’m not mad or anything. It’s life and I did it too.”

He explains that “there are sites that are completely safe and you can go on them and not have your computer turned into a piece of junk.” He even lists a handful of recommended destinations, including www.pornmd.com and www.xhamster.com. The dad goes on to say, “Listen, I won’t tell your mom and I’m not gonna make a big deal out of this. … If you want to completely ignore this ever happened then I can and will do that too.” He ends the letter with, “I love you and I couldn’t be more proud of you.”

This is the Cool Dad™ approach an  anonymous Reddit poster says he took. Earlier this week, he wrote about the experience, and included his lengthy note to his son, and asked his fellow Redditors if he did the right thing. Then in came the comments — more than 6,000 of them to date. Before long, the post made the site’s front page; it currently has over 23,000 “up votes.” Reactions ranged from “much better than my parents” to “that has to be the worst possible reaction.”

Everyone has an opinion on how to deal with a pubescent porn-watcher. I’ve always sort of appreciated the fact that my liberal, sex-positive parents never confronted me over my adolescent AOL cyber-sexing or scrambled-porn watching. They must have known, but they apparently never chose to mention it — beyond general conversations about Internet safety, and what healthy, happy sex meant to them. But, then again,  look how I turned out. This Reddit tale got me wondering what experts advise in these situations. The question is more relevant than ever: The average age a boy first sees porn is 10, according to at least  one report. (No word on first porn for girls, humph.)

Amy Lang, a sexual health educator and founder of  Birds + Bees+ Kids, tells me this Reddit dad got some things right: “I love that he wrote his son a note — this is the perfect way to communicate with a young adolescent boy about something like this,” she says. “What I don’t love is that he didn’t clarify that porn isn’t reality and that it will give him a skewed idea of what real sex is like and what it’s all about.” Perhaps it wasn’t just his son’s embarrassment that he was avoiding in his practical-seeming note, but also his own. “If I were this dad, I would leap at the opportunity to start having regular conversations about sexuality with my son,” Lang says. “The door has been kicked open.”

So finding your kid’s porn is a golden opportunity for an honest sex talk — but what about the basic question of whether it’s OK for young teens to be watching porn? Several of the experts I spoke with gave a definitive “no.”

Airial Clark, who coaches parents on talking to their kids about sex, argues that forbidding your adolescent from watching porn “doesn’t make you a prude or a hypocrite; it makes you a responsible adult.” She explains, “I am a strong advocate for age-appropriate sexuality education. I’m also a strong advocate for age of consent laws. I absolutely believe kids should not be viewing porn.” At the same time, she believes that kids should know that porn exists and be able to talk to their parents about it. “It sounds like a contradiction, but that is what a lot of parenting is,” says Clark, author of  The Sex-Positive Parent blog. “Negotiating contradictions.”

 
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