Jerri Jorgensen, co-owner of addiction recovery center Desert Solace and pornography addiction specialist, explains the need for parents to discuss adult websites with their children.
With Internet-connected devices everywhere, it’s more important than ever for parents to have conversations about adult imagery and pornography with their kids according to addiction specialist Jerri Jorgensen.
This is because children who accidentally discover adult websites require context for the images they see. Depending on the messages they’ve received from the adults in their lives, children may feel shame towards or be frightened of pornographic imagery.
Some people might think it’s a good thing for anyone, perhaps especially children, to feel negatively towards pornography. However, Jorgensen argues, if children grow up feeling shame, or that by viewing these images, they’ve become “bad” or “damaged,” they may suffer from emotional fixation that can drive pornography addiction in adulthood.
This is the crux of a discussion Jorgensen had on the In My Head podcast, where she stressed the importance of preparing children for the more adult side of the Internet. Jorgensen said that early and repeated exposure was one factor in her husband’s pornography addiction, which the couple worked through in therapy, inpatient treatment and lots of growing both as a couple and as individuals.
After helping her husband work through his pornography addiction, the couple has opened Desert Solace, a recovery facility for pornography and other addictions. Now they seek to help others find their own paths to recovery.
When Jorgensen’s husband was first exposed to pornography, “around age 11 or 12,” Jorgensen said that “it really did grab him.”
As a child, Jorgensen explained that her husband “would never smoke, would never drink, would never take drugs — I mean, I don’t know if he even swore back then.”
Even though he abstained from traditionally addictive substances, he fell prey to addictive behavior. Jorgenen said that repeated exposure along with a culture of shame caused him to fall into the “cycle of addiction.”
“And back then, it was Playboys,” Jorgensen said. “What’s on the Internet now, and on our mobile devices and stuff is way beyond that. And so what our kids are seeing now, they’re seeing that first exposure usually around 5 or 6 years old.”
Jorgensen explained that attempts to shield children completely from adult imagery in lieu of a conversation may have made sense in a pre-Internet era. It no longer makes as much sense now that smartphones and tablets are everywhere.
Jorgensen suggests, due to the near inevitability of children finding pornography online at some point, parents start using age-appropriate language to begin conversations with their kids as early as pre-school to help them navigate the online world.
“You’ve got to start talking about [adult imagery] early,” said Jorgensen. “How early? Two or three years old. Appropriately. About our bodies and that kind of stuff. And what (pornography) is.”
However, Jorgensen warns that these conversations can be less than productive if they are centered on shame. Jorgensen worries that if parents focus on how adult imagery is “bad,” children may internalize a message that they’re also “bad” if they view pornography, even if by accident. This can lead to fixation, which can drive addiction later in life.
“[Pornography addiction] is a shame driven disease,” explained Jorgensen. “A lot more than drugs and alcohol (are).”
Instead of focusing on how pornography is “bad,” Jorgensen explains that parents can instead explain “why” pornography can be harmful.
“It’s not a matter of, ‘You saw this, so you’re bad.’” explained Jorgensen. “If they hear ‘this is bad,’ (they’ll go on to think) ‘well, I looked at it, so I guess that means I’m bad.’ And that’s why I don’t like that verbiage.”
Specifically, Jorgenen suggests framing adult imagery as something that isn’t a good choice for developing a healthy mind.
“I like the verbiage of ‘this isn’t going to take you in a direction you want to go. This is not going to get you what you want,” Jorgensen said.
By focusing on pornography as a choice which can be avoided by closing the browser or asking an adult for help getting the image to go away, Jorgensen said parents can help children feel comfortable talking to their parents about difficult subjects.
“Keep those lines of communication open, where you are a safe place,” said Jorgensen.
For parents who may have already had negative experiences when discussing adult imagery with their children, Jorgensen suggests revisiting the subject with the aim of allowing their children to process what they’ve seen without fear of judgement.
“Some moms … may be listening to this and going, ‘Well, I already blew that one out of the water,” said Jorgensen. “It’s okay. You get back up.”
Jorgensen believes these conversations go best when they focus on building connections, and how human connections suffer generally when we substitute pornography for treating other people with dignity and respect.
“It’s not about ‘Oh, well, you screwed up, so I am going to punish you by giving you the silent treatment for two hours.’” explained Jorgensen. “That’s crazy. And it makes everybody miserable. We love (our children) and we make sure it’s safe to talk.”
Desert Solace is an inpatient addiction treatment center in St. George, Utah. Desert Solace specializes in the treatment of pornography and sex addictions. Additionally, they offer treatment programs for gaming, gambling and substance abuse. Their inpatient facility for porn, sex, gaming, gambling and substance addictions features professional, licensed counselors, a top-rated chef, equine therapy and more. Desert Solace believes in involving the client’s family in the recovery process.
1239 West 4200 North
St. George, UT 84770, USA
Note: Article contributed by KHTS AM 1220 & 98.1 FM