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Advice for Parents of Teens with Porn Addiction

When faced with their teen’s porn addiction, most parents don’t know where to begin to get the help he or she needs.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

With the advent of the Internet, parents are finding it increasingly difficult to shield their children from pornography. Now, in addition to the exposure kids might encounter from classmates who borrowed one of their father’s magazines, most school-age children and adolescents are spending large amounts of time online for homework or entertainment reasons. Learning to confront teen porn addiction can cause confusion and fear. However, there is hope for understanding how to help your teen overcome teen porn addiction.

The Rise of Teen Porn Addiction

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft has estimated that nine in ten teens have been exposed to pornography. Unfortunately, many of these teens are susceptible to developing teen porn addictions or compulsions to these images.

The term “addict” may seem severe. Most parents will initially minimize the problem, hoping their son or daughter is simply “experimenting”. In many cases, experience has taught me that at least one of the parents will have faced similar struggles when he or she was younger. Today, however, Internet pornography is the fast ramp to sex addiction. Between our culture’s moral decay and our children’s developing maturity, teen porn addiction can happen quicker than we might think.

When I was a guest on a teen call-in radio show, several adolescents called in to discuss sexual integrity. Even having previously treated teen porn addicts, I was surprised that the first four callers identified themselves as sex addicts – three of which were females.

My private practice and experiences on the call-in show demonstrate that the problems of teen porn addictions are real, devastating, and increasing. When faced with their teen’s struggle, most parents don’t know where to begin to help their child’s needs.

Taking Ownership

In many situations, the first reaction is to determine who is to blame within the family. It is important to realize, however, that bad things still happen to good families. This does not absolve certain parties from taking responsibility where it is needed. Everyone needs to take ownership of his or her piece of the puzzle.

For example, parents need to ask if they have provided a comprehensive sex education that truly equipped their child with the winsome truth expounded in the Bible. Setting proper foundations for understanding a Christian sexual ethic is a crucial step in protecting children from later sexual disorder or continued teen porn addiction.

Parents will also want to re-evaluate the types and amounts of media they have allowed in the home. People tend to absorb the messages that bombard them in popular media; more so with teens and young children. What have your children been listening to and watching? Is their media reinforcing respectful messages about sexuality and the dignity of the person, or is it working to erode these foundational principles in your child’s mind?

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Another often overlooked problem is the sad reality of sex abuse. Most sex addicts have suffered sexual abuse at some point in their lives, and treatment of sex abuse is foundational to overcoming sex addiction.

How Teen Porn Addicts Suffer

The adolescent addict also has areas of responsibility. Has he or she been honest about the sexual struggles? Have there been other excesses like alcohol or drugs? Has a peer or perhaps an adult been a bad influence? Most importantly, has the adolescent made a full disclosure to his parents so that the family can become equipped to deal with teen porn addiction?

Parents need to realize that their teen is likely suffering from extreme shame and embarrassment. Authoritarian dictates are not likely to encourage your child to open up and share the extent of his or her struggles. Compassionate love and understanding, such as Jesus demonstrated to the woman caught in adultery, is likely to help your child feel safe enough to disclose the full story.

Many families will already have experienced serious communication breakdown with their teens. How parents approach their teen in this situation matters. A parent’s approach will likely determine whether unhealthy patterns of communications continue to disrupt and frustrate the relationship. Or whether a new foundation of openness, trust, and safety can be built and sustained throughout the struggle.

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What to Expect as You Help Your Teen

Parents will need to remind themselves that they are often prone to minimizing what they know or think is true. Parents also need to realize the resistance they will encounter from their teen. Most addicts, regardless of age, will deny their struggle. They may even shift the blame and become verbally aggressive. Others may agree immediately that they have sinned or hurt others. And promise too quickly that they will never do it again. Getting caught in teen porn addiction hardly changes the heart.

Of course, it’s to be expected that everyone will feel awkward, maybe even embarrassed. However, regardless of the discomfort, when there is evidence of sexual behavior and teen porn addiction, parents have to take the lead.

For more resources on how to help your teenagers who struggle with pornography, check out these Focus On The Family Resources:

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