Dear Dr. Meg,
I need assistance in helping my 13-year-old son to be healed of addiction to pornography. Despite my attempts to shield it from him, it has entered his life and he shows no control. I have put block and filters on technology, but he will still find ways around it and steal my phone or his grandmother’s phone to use the Internet. Even with a code on the phone, today he managed to get to it before the screen locked and helped himself while I was in the shower. He was not on inappropriate sites, just a game. However, he does not have any sense of shame, regret (other than being caught), and no contrition. I feel helpless. Can you offer any help? Just blocking the technology, even if he could never bypass it, doesn’t really deal with the heart issue.
Mom Needing Help
Keeping your young son from pornography is really, really tough. First, he can have access to electronics almost anywhere, at any time. Putting safe guards and blocks on computers is very important and I would encourage you to speak with an IT expert to make sure that you are doing everything you can. Second, I would set some very serious rules about electronics in your home and if the rules are broken, implement consequences that hurt (not physically of course.) Here are rules that I would implement:
No laptops, ipads, televisions or phones in his bedroom.
When he goes to bed, all electronic devices must be charged in the kitchen. If you don’t trust him to leave them there, you need to lock them up.
Make sure his teacher knows that he struggles with control when it comes to using electronics. Don’t tell her about the pornography because this is personal but tell her that you need her cooperation in limiting screen time.
Restrict him from going to friends’ homes until he has a handle on this.
I know these seem harsh, but becoming involved with pornography is serious business and he is too young to understand the deeper ramifications.
Talk with him about habits that make us feel bad. Describe how smoking leads to lung cancer, lying makes us keep secrets and cheating makes us feel ashamed. Don’t worry about his reaction, just tell him these things. Then tell him that looking at pornography can become a habit that will make him feel good and bad at the same time. Let him know that it feels good now, but that it can lead to sex addicition and an inablility to enjoy sex later in life.
Then, say that you understand why he wants to look at porn. Don’t make him feel like he’s a freak. Tell him that, sadly, we live in a world that thinks porn is fine and even helathy for boys. He doesn’t feel gulity because he’s led to believe that he shouldn’t feel gulity. I’m sure that he has friends doing the same thing and think it’s fun. Plus, we have adults who think it’s fine too! Look at Fifty Shades of Grey and the adults who couldn’t get into the theatre fast enough to see it.
Finally, tell him that you are going to help him break the habit of looking at pornography. He will fight you, but, oh well. You are tougher and more stubborn. Tell him that you need a plan to break the habit and ask if he wants to help you devise the plan. If not, then tell him yours. Let him know about the restrictions (the rules detailed above). Then, take him to your doctor and discuss this issue. You can call the doctor ahead of time and tell him/her what’s going on. Then, when you bring your son in for a check-up, the three of you can discuss this issue. I do this all the time as a pediatrician because many boys are addicited to video games.
Having your doctor address the problem with him may carry more weight. Often teens listen to a doctor or outside adult when they won’t listen to their parents. Also, your doctor can determine how bad the problem is and if your son has obsessive-compulsive tendencies. If he does, he will need extra help overcoming this problem.
This is hard and you have a fight on your hands. But remember, your son is worth every ounce of the fight. So, be more stubborn, more relentless and more patient than he is in helping him break this bad habit.