Q: Recently my 16-year-old nephew visited us. I had been aware of inappropriate content that he had been caught viewing on the school computer and at his home in the past. We allowed him to use our computer after discussing limitations with him. He assured us he understands. I had no reason to doubt him until we came home from vacation and I went online only to be assaulted by cascading porn. The more troubling issue (realizing that he is a 16-year-old
boy) is the subject matter. It isn't just porn, it's child pornography
, which leads to other nastier sites just by opening one. I am currently not on speaking terms with his mother partly because of her parenting ability, but I want to address this with my nephew. I don't want to just attack him, I want to help him. He has been caught doing this several times so my chastising him won't have any more effect than previous punishments. Right now I'm upset, furious, annoyed at the time it took to clean up my computer. It did open my eyes and caused me to enable the content advisor available. I have a 10-year-old daughter that doesn't use the computer much, but at least now I don't need to worry as much that she'll start experimenting. I've taken back control.
A: I am glad you have taken back control. While there are a lot of good programs to screen out pornography, nothing substitutes for adult supervision. I am also glad that you found out about your nephew's inappropriate surfing. This provides an opportunity, while difficult and uncomfortable, to have a discussion with him about his questions around sex and his own identity. Better to deal with this now, while he is in a "virtual" exploration mode and not after he has explored this in the "real" world. Curiosity and confusion are normal for a child his age around sexual issues. It is our job as parents and substitute parents to set limits and try to wipe away some of this confusion. Pornography, especially child pornography, is not normal behavior.
Find a quiet time to talk with your nephew about your discovery, repeatedly let him know you love him and care about his welfare, and discuss the inappropriateness of pornography. Reassure him that his curiosity and biological drives are normal but the means of education and expression are not. Set the limits, for your home, very clearly so there is not dispute. Put the computer in an area where you can see what is being viewed and let the kids know you will check it daily, if necessary.
You may not be able to talk about all that is going on inside of him, in one setting. Use this initial talk to open up a safe and secure forum for ongoing dialogue. It sounds like there are a number of issues, in his life, that require some attention. Consult with a good child therapist in your area if necessary. And keep a close eye on him and your daughter. It is tough to be a teen in today's society and it requires that parents work diligently to protect and educate our children.