My parents raised me to think that one sip of beer would lead me, minutes later, to the destitute life of a wino, laying in the gutter, hiccupping while holding a bottle like an alcoholic cat out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. I was also told smoking cigarettes was gross and would give me almost immediate lung cancer. Marijuana would kill me. Pornography would turn me into a Peeping Tom pervert before the day was done and gambling was something only done by degenerate mobsters. Needless to say, I tried them all.
Once I recognized that one of their dire warnings was little more than hyperbole, I recognized all of their dire warnings were BS. It took me a while to become an alcoholic and I was always “functional.” Cigarettes and marijuana were used for years, and I quit both on my own. I still will occasionally visit a casino, but don’t think I’ve ever lost more than $50 in an evening. Losing more isn’t fun. And even with pornography, I never found myself hiding in anyone’s bushes or drilling holes in the wall of the girl’s locker room.
The message I got from my parents was ultimately, “None of this stuff is as bad as we said it was.” I know it’s not the message they want to send.
I appreciate all of the parents out there who want to stem the flow of pornography into their children’s lives. Whether it’s putting parental controls on the cable box, filtering programs on their computers or content blockers on their cell phones, their heart is in the right place – just like my parents’ hearts were.
My mother would lose it if HBO was on and a breast or a bare buttock came across the screen when I was a kid. We immediately had to change the channel, even if it was only something like the movie version of Romeo and Juliet from 1968 which they played all the time when I was a kid and had about two seconds of nudity. I could watch a show with all the swearing or violence I wanted, but the moment there was more skin than you could see at the beach, that show was over for me.
I don’t remember if she had any justification for it. I think it was mostly along the lines of, “Change the channel because I said so, I don’t want you seeing that kind of stuff.” For an inquisitive little kid like me, “Why don’t you want me to see that stuff?” is the question that swims in my head, but was smart enough not to ask. Her overreaction was curious. Clearly she didn’t want me to see any of that stuff.
But, around 11, my cousin showed me my first hardcore pornography magazines. At 13, a friend I met in middle school would invite me over to his dad’s house on weekends where the Playboy Channel was part of the cable package. At 14, I found a video store that would rent me porn.
What did all of these things have in common? My mom wasn’t aware of any of it. She still hasn’t read my first book, so I’m pretty sure she still doesn’t know about any of it.
She couldn’t porn-proof me and nothing has changed in 35 years. You can’t porn-proof your kids. You can remove every device in your home where the image of genitals could ever appear and all you’ve done is take care of one home in your neighborhood. Unless you’re living in a Little House on the Prairie world, it’s not even a drop in the bucket. A drop is better than nothing? Are you trying to convince me or you? I believe porn blockers are more for parents to give themselves peace of mind they are protecting their children more than anything else.
The average age a boy sees hardcore pornography these days is between 8 and 10. The average age a child gets a cell phone is 11. Let’s say that you buck the trend and your son doesn’t see porn between 8 and 10 and at 11, you gift him with one of those specialty phones like Gabb Wireless that keeps things like the Internet and photo texts off their device. Do you think every child your son interacts with has parents doing the same thing with their child?
My friend’s dad had no idea we were watching the Playmate of the Year Video Calendar for 1989 late at night on the TV in the basement. I’ve got to imagine they’re still making the same kind of content. And that doesn’t even begin to address the world of desktop, laptop and tablet computers. I have a feeling that before “Brush Your Teeth” to the end the night, the three words a teenage boy remembers most are “Clear Browser History.”
You can’t porn-proof your child and I’m not sure you should even try. What you need to do is talk to them about pornography. In a very age-appropriate manner, you need to tell them when they’re young that, like cigarettes or alcohol, pornography is something for adults and they aren’t to touch it. If they find any, or stumble upon it on their phone or computer, you won’t be mad at them and if a friend shows them, you just want to know about it. As they get older, you can get into more nuances of “that’s not depicting love or what sex is really like” and even a little older, especially for boys, you can talk about things like Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction.
I understand you love your kids and I understand you want to protect them, but shielding them instead of preparing them is not the best tactic, I am proof of that.