By: Kelli Stout, CSW

I’m sure I’m not alone in my deep concern about the devastating effects of pornography. I have seen firsthand the harm it has caused individuals, couples, and families. We hear much talk today about how to protect ourselves and our loved ones and the most prevalent solutions are to keep it from our homes by putting computers in public areas, installing strict filters, and checking the history regularly. While I agree these ideas can help, it is irresponsible to think they would provide adequate protection in this day of modern technology. Even young children are advanced in getting around these safeguards, not to mention that many have IPods, tablets, smart phones, and other devices that provide access to the internet 24/7. If they don’t, their friends do.

I firmly believe there are things we, as parents, can do to protect our families from the inside? The following are five suggestions from KayLee Dunn, CSW and clinical therapist with ADDO Recovery, for protecting, not preventing, our children from pornography and its consequences.

1. Parents (especially Dads)—hug and kiss your children. Research indicates that most people with compulsive pornography problems come from rigid, cold homes. Children, even teenagers, need human touch. It may be awkward for some parents, however, healthy parental affection can be one of the biggest safeguards against sexual addictions.

2. If you’re married, work out your problems, love each other, and understand each other. When you have a solid, trusting relationship with your spouse, your children know it. When you don’t, a feeling of unease and fear can creep in. Many with addictions had parents with problematic marriages and they had to be “the good one”, “unemotional one”, “peace keeper”. Create emotional space for your children by developing a strong marriage.

3. Teach your children emotional intelligence. An addiction is the inability to manage emotions in healthy ways. Pornography is the cocaine of behavioral addictions because it’s accessible, anonymous, and affordable (usually free). Many children are never taught to deal with their negative emotions openly. It can be terrifying to feel deep emotions without knowing how to handle them. Take time to talk with your children, cry with them, and help them experience difficult emotions rather than stifling them or ignoring them.

4. Decrease shame and perfectionism in your home. Guilt says, “I made a mistake. I need to make it right.” Shame says, “I am a mistake. I will never be good enough.” Shame is the fuel of addiction, especially one as secretive and isolatory as pornography. Teach your children they are of worth no matter who they are or what they do.

5. Educate yourself and teach your children about healthy sexuality. Even if you do all the “right” things and love them the “right” way, your children may still run into pornography. Children need to understand the difference between objectification and healthy sexual behavior. They need to know the components of both sex and intimacy.

There are many ways of fighting the harmful effects of pornography and we should be knowledgeable on what we can do. Let’s be parents who love our children, show them affection, have dinner with them, talk to them like they are intelligent and full of worth, set boundaries for them. Let’s teach them what is honorable, to right their wrongs, to manage their emotions, and to form healthy lasting relationships.