I just learned that my grade-schooler recently saw violent and sexually explicit movies while spending the day at a friend’s house. Could this have negative long-term effects? How can I prevent this happening in the future?
If your child has been exposed to this type of material only once, it’s unlikely that it will have any severe negative long-term effects on him. Nevertheless, it’s important to get him talking about this experience since he won’t be able to erase the images from his mind on his own. In a calm, non-judgmental way, ask him what he saw and how it made him feel. Reassure him of God’s grace and forgiveness. Let him know that you’re not blaming him for what happened at his friend’s house. You may discover that, on a certain level, he found the imagery contained in these movies intriguing and even exciting. If that’s the case, you’ll want to use age-appropriate language to provide him with accurate information about the psychologically harmful effects of consuming violent and sexually explicit media.
You should also take this opportunity to teach your son the importance of making responsible choices. Turn this experience into an object lesson. Use it to help him understand that every decision he makes has consequences, and that he needs to learn how to say “no” when offered things that may not be good for him.
It’s also crucial that you talk to the parents of your son’s friend about his incident. We suggest you do this privately, couple to couple, keeping the kids out of the discussion. Explain that this couple’s child has been accessing porn and violent material and that your son was exposed to it in their home. They’ll probably be just as shocked as you were when they hear what happened. But if for some reason they become defensive and deny any responsibility, you’ll need to tell them that you won’t be allowing your child to play at their house anymore. In the future, take care to get to know the parents of your children’s friends and learn what their values are.
For your own information, you should bear in mind that researchers have found definite links between repeated exposure to violent media messages and aggressive behavior in children and teenagers. A steady diet of violent and sexually crude television programs, movies, and video games may also cause kids to become mean and distrustful of others. Children who view pornographic images on television or on the Internet end up imbibing false and destructive messages about sex and relationships, and these messages can interfere with healthy marital intimacy later in life.
Perhaps you’ve already had many opportunities to instruct your son concerning God’s perspective on sex. If you haven’t, this crisis demonstrates how critical it is for him to have medically accurate and spiritually sound information about the differences between males and females, his own body, and the divine plan for human sexuality.
Copyright © 2010, Focus on the Family. Used by permission.