It can happen before you even know it.

You’re making dinner or even driving in the car with your child. She’s surfing on her smartphone, looking at YouTube videos – something that seems so innocent. But a few clicks later, she could be viewing adult images she’s not ready to see or understand.

I can’t tell you how often I hear stories just like this from parents in the Portland and Wilsonville area, who have discovered that their kids have been exposed to internet pornography.

As parents living in a world defined by technology, we may feel a false sense of safety allowing our kids to surf the web. We believe we can monitor and protect our kids, using parental controls for specific websites to keep them safe.

As a family therapist, I believed this too – until I received more and more questions from parents who explained how easy it was for their children to gain access to porn from virtually anywhere. Their kids were finding new ways to visit sites filled with adult content – and many found their children or teens were watching porn regularly.

The illusion that we know what our kids are doing

In talking with parents, I found that many believed if they were in the same room, they actually had a sense of what their kids were watching. But thinking about how we ourselves surf the web reveals the truth. All of us hop effortlessly from site to site, moving from social media to videos to blog posts within seconds. It’s not hard to understand how our kids could land on content they shouldn’t see.

Children have told me about the images they’ve viewed but cannot get out of their heads. Many are very clear that these are topics they desperately don’t want to know about yet. They suffer from messages their brains send them all day long, urging them to look again – yet there’s a part of them that does NOT want to see any more.

Can our kids step away from their screens?

Many of the children and teens I work with tell me they don’t know what to do with themselves if they can’t play video games, look at their phones or watch videos. Other activities seem boring to them. They don’t want to go outside. Kids who once loved drawing, playing with Legos or making up games on their own may lose interest in these hands-on activities once they have a screen or gaming controller in their hands.

Over and over, I hear parents say how agitated, defiant and distracted their kids have become since they have gained wider access to technology. They’re worried, but they have no idea how to make changes that will benefit their kids.

With the right support, you can help your child

If you are seeing some of these patterns in your child or teen’s life, I want to reassure you that you’re not alone. And the fact that your child is struggling right now does NOT mean you are a bad, neglectful parent. These issues are front and center for millions of caring families, and therapists are developing new tools and perspectives that offer real hope.

The solution isn’t to turn away from all technology. That would hardly be realistic, given the fact that we depend on digital media for so many things. The idea is to guide and protect our kids while giving technology a healthy place in our lives.

I have the experience and training to help your family build new skills and perspectives that can address pornography, screen addiction and other issues. Together, we can figure out ways to balance screen time with other activities and hobbies that are fun, engaging and healthy. Please contact me today to schedule a meeting in my Portland or Wilsonville office at a time that’s convenient for you.