You may be surprised to find out that--although unfortunate-- this is not as uncommon an experience as you might think for children and their families.
As much as we (hopefully!) try very, very hard to control our children's Internet experiences, it is impossible to control it 100% of the time. In fact, even excellent parents, raising wonderful kids might find that a child is exposed to porn--sometimes because parental supervision was lacking, but on occasion for any number of other reasons. For example, did you know that whitehouse.com is a porn site?? Neither did I until several years ago my child clicked on it while I was sitting right next to her!
None the less, now that your child has been exposed to pornography, you need to address the experience directly and use it as a teachable moment. The following steps should help you through a somewhat difficult time.
1. Remember that having open conversations about tough topics creates a bond between you and your child
2. Ask your child gently, curiously and with no criticism what she saw. She may be embarrassed, but explain to her that it's important for her to share it with you so you can help her understand it and not be scared. Try and find out how much she actually viewed. Some young children don't really process a lot of what they see, or even understand it.
3. Tell her that like TV and the movies, things on the Internet often aren't real and that that's true of sex too. Explain that sex in real life is gentle and loving and between two grown-ups who care about each other. What she probably saw was made up. If your child really viewed a lot, discuss that real-life sex is mutually respectful and that people treat each other well and never hurt each other; that what she saw wasn't real or what really happens in real life.
4. Be prepared for questions. Answer them as honestly as possible, but don't give too much information--especially if she was unclear about what she saw.
5. Speak to the other parent, if you haven't done so already. Do not be critical or judgmental. There is nothing to be gained from this. They may be feeling terrible already. If you assess that there isn't enough supervision in this home then don't allow your child to go there anymore. Otherwise, use your best judgment to decide whether this is a relationship that should continue.
6. Continue to look for signs that your child is still processing this experience over months--questions, comments etc.
Children are resilient and will have many adverse experiences in life. It is impossible to protect them from every one. Rather, it is the manner in which we help them to handle the experience that is most important!
Good Wishes and Great Parenting,
Dr Susan Bartell
JustAsk Expert www.drsusanbartell.com
NEW book "The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask"