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Did Porn Find Your Child? A Loving, Practical Response for Parents


Did porn find your child? I’m so sorry. Discovering that your child has been exposed to porn can feel very shameful and isolating for both parent and child. But there is hope.


A couple reached out to me about their 12-year-old son’s discovering and continuing to watch porn on his school-provided computer. (They were assured it had a filter.) In a matter of days he’d managed to watch some terrible things. His parents were desperate, heartbroken, and unsure of how to handle the new reality. We cried, talked, and prayed. I shared a few thoughts with them, things perhaps you could use now or in the future, things that might be helpful for someone you love.


(Please know that my advice below was based on their son’s use of porn, but these truths apply in cases of girls using porn also.)


  1. Their son needed empathy. He needed to know he was not alone. I reminded them that he’s a normal, curious child with the ability to become aroused by sexual images and experience the desire to see more. In other words, he’s just like all of us. I encouraged them to relate to his situation, maybe even with stories from their pasts (general information, not sharing intimate details, is best).

  2. He needed to know their love for him had not changed at all, that they were sorry that anyone had made something like porn, and sorry that he had seen it. In some ways your child is a victim of the dark side of current culture, and victims need care, not condemnation.

  3. I reminded them that their son would need their physical and emotional connection now more than ever. He needed to be shown how loved he was, by them and by God, especially as he would likely be tempted to feel shame. Shame is a great inhibitor of conversation and relationships. Learning one’s true identity in Christ as a beloved child of God is powerful, more powerful than the shame the enemy casts on us.

  4. We talked about the reality that the images he’d seen would resurface from time to time in his mind and what their son could do in those moments (or in moments of temptation). I suggested they help him make a list of some things to do (e.g. find a family member or friend to connect with, work on a project, go for a run, help one of his siblings or parents, etc). Activities which involve others can be especially therapeutic.

  5. He needed to know that the things he’d seen, while arousing, did not reflect God’s plan for sex and in fact were far from it. God designed sex to be a beautiful, respectful, and pleasurable experience for a man and a woman who’ve committed their lives to each other in marriage. Their son had seen destructive, counterfeit versions of sex. If needed, he should be allowed to process things he’d seen or felt with a parent (or perhaps a therapist). While dwelling on the information might not be helpful, at least acknowledging the destructiveness is important (e.g. scenes of hurting someone, choking, or forcing oneself on another). Today’s porn can be incredibly defiling, degrading, and violent. It would be very damaging for an adult, even more so for a child, to see these things. He might also need to process the mixture of feeling pleasure while seeing images he knew were bad for him. His body responded in a normal way to seeing naked people, regardless of what they were doing.

  6. I suggested they work to make conversations two-way. In other words, don’t lecture but draw information out of their child through ongoing discussions. Find out what he knows or has been told. Ask him what questions he has, and assure him that they will always answer any question honestly. I suggest answers to personal questions be more generic (e.g. a question about what you and your spouse do could be answered with something like “What mom and I do specifically is very special and private. But I will share that in general sex….”) It’s okay to have a little mystery surrounding sex. In honestly answering your child’s questions, you become his or her go-to for information, not the internet nor friends. Answer questions as best you can with short, honest answers. Exactly what you say in response is not nearly as important as acknowledging the question and having your child know that you’re the one they can always turn to. Sometimes these types of personal conversations will go better on a walk or a drive rather than face to face.

  7. In response to their question about consequences (he had lied to them about something related to the porn use), I suggested they acknowledge the offense but tell their son they would talk about consequences later. I felt this was important to keep conversations productive and give them time to consider logical, helpful consequences.

  8. Especially for a child who’s not adept at processing emotions well, something like porn (which releases dopamine in the brain) can become a numbing agent almost like a drug. They should work to become more aware of their child’s emotional maturity and find ways they can foster growth in this area. (Honest Talk by John Fort is great for this as well as other aspects of leading kids in today’s culture).

  9. Help him find his own allies. While this might be a bit tricky, he probably has friends who’ve seen porn and desire to live free of it also. Bringing a struggle into the light can often remove much of its power, and a cord of three strands is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12). Pray God will bring some brothers he can link arms with.

  10. I reminded them that this might be a good time to talk about the true meaning of repentance. In the Greek, “repent” means a “change of mind.” My Bible study leader calls it a “change of mind that results in a change of direction.” How to repent of porn use will be different for everyone, but one idea would be to intentionally seek out ways to connect with God and/or real people. At its core, a desire to look at porn is rooted in a desire for intimacy, which is actually a good, healthy desire.

  11. The battle today’s kids (and parents) are facing is a spiritual battle. They should pray like they’re in a war, because they are.

  12. I encouraged them to not overwhelm their child with these conversations. He’s still a boy, working to figure out the world. Being humble, compassionate, and loving during this season will reap big rewards down the road as other challenges make their way into their son’s life.

Your child really needs you as an ally in today’s highly sexualized culture. An ally is someone children turn TO rather than hide FROM as they become more aware of sexuality or encounter sexual things. As children, most of us hid in those moments, and today’s kids can quickly do the same without a safe place in which to share about something as shameful as discovering or watching porn.


How do you become your child’s ally?


Connect with him or her as one sexual being to another. Empathize. You were once a young girl or boy beginning to become more aware of your sexuality. Relate to what your child may be feeling or experiencing today. Then, lead your child through ongoing conversations and good resources grounded in biblical truth. And finally, protect your kids to the best of your ability while trusting in the sovereignty of God.


Romans 8:28 is comforting to all of us who know the struggle of failing in the area of sexuality. God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. He can and will redeem your child’s wanderings. He can draw you closer as a family. He delights in displaying His strength through our weaknesses.


After several weeks, I circled back with the mom who called me about her son. She was so encouraged. She said initially she wanted to run to “the law.” Her son had sinned. He’d lied. He’d visited sites that he knew were off-limits. He’d hidden things from them. But Jesus reminded her that love covers a multitude of sin (1 Peter 4:8) – hers, her son’s, her husband’s. And that God’s love could bind their hearts and make their family stronger. They were intentionally moving in that direction and bringing their other children into ongoing conversations. Her husband was organizing a small group with two other fathers and their sons to have a place to be more real, a place where their sons would know they were not alone, a place where they could encourage one another and pray for each other.


God truly is redeeming their son’s story by weaving it into His bigger story – His story of grace for our sin, strength for our weakness, and His ability to take the broken things and use them for our good and His glory. I pray you’re living this kind of story too.


Would you like some guidance along your journey? Here are some resources and links you might find helpful:

  1. A Family Game Plan for Tackling Porn Use (and other resources) at Pure Life Academy.

  2. Family Care at Be Broken has many resources including a one-hour personal consultation with John Fort or me.

  3. Honest Talk: A New Perspective on Talking to Your Kids About Sex by John Fort

  4. Treading Boldly Through a Pornographic World: A Field Guide for Parents by Daniel Weiss and John Glaser

  5. Protect Young Eyes for help with technological issues as well as staying up to date on the latest apps and trends

  6. BARK for smartphone monitoring

  7. How Do You Respond to Your Child’s Suspected Porn Use? by Danny Huerta of Focus on the Family

  8. Father - Son Webinar led by John Fort. An interactive, small group webinar designed to help fathers and sons (ages 12-18) learn to talk more easily about issues related to sex and porn. Space is limited.

  9. Good Pictures Bad Pictures by Kristen Jenson. This is a secular book, so be sure to add your own messaging about God’s grace and provision for us in this broken world.

We are better together, and we are here for you and your family. Please reach out and let us know how we can help:


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