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What Is Normal Childhood Sexual Development? (page 3)

— Families Are Talking
Updated on Apr 30, 2014

Ask Amy

Do I need to tell the other parent that our kids were playing doctor?
Q

The other day, my 4-year-old daughter's friend came home with her after school for a play-date. When I checked on them, I found them playing doctor. Do I need to tell the friend's parent?

A

Yes, it's important to mention what you observed. Parents appreciate knowing what goes on with their children when they are not around-whether it's that the play-date went splendidly, that the child was given a snack after school, or that she/he fell and scraped her knee when playing outside. And, while it may not be as easy to bring up, you should also share the sexuality-related scenario and how you handled it. If after finding out, the other parent doesn't agree with what you did and said, don't take it personally. The reality is that child-rearing styles vary. Nonetheless, most parents will be glad that you brought it to their attention, giving them the opportunity to share messages and values with their child.

How do I handle my pre-teen viewing porn on the Internet?
Q

My 12-year-old son is always using the Internet. He says that he is doing homework. After checking his computer without his knowledge, it seems that he has been viewing adult websites, possibly for hours on end. How can I bring up the topic without letting him know that I "spied" on him?

A

While it's possible that your son is deliberately looking at adult websites, it could also be that someone else has used his computer or that the sites appear spontaneously as pop-up ads. Whatever the case may be, the truth of the matter is that today's youth are bombarded by sexy images of scantily clad bodies on the Internet, billboards, television, and in magazines. Not to mention, if he hasn't already, within the next few years, your son will be going through puberty. Whether or not he's looking at porn sites, he's likely curious about how his body will look and may wonder what the female form looks like nude.

In the meantime, if you are concerned about his computer usage, set ground rules. Try limiting his computer time; moving the computer to a space where you can observe his viewing habits (you can explain this by telling him that everyone in your family wants easy computer access); and most importantly, give him sites where he can find credible, age-appropriate sexuality information like www.teenwire.com and www.scarleteen.com.

As a parent, you are the primary sexuality educator of your child. So, if you haven't already, think about the messages you want to share. Then, open the dialogue and keep it open, addressing various topics as teachable moments occur. For example, use a magazine like Maxim (which is definitely for young men, but easily accessible to young boys) to illustrate that many of the models in the magazine are airbrushed to look "perfect" rather than realistic. And, let him know that many companies use sex to sell sneakers, computers, and other popular items by positioning models in very sexy poses. Flipping through the magazine, you'll likely find a few photos to illustrate your point. As you discuss each concept, ask your son what he thinks. While it may not happen overnight, hopefully over time, a full-fledged conversation will transpire.

Amy Levine, M.A., is SIECUS' Family Project Coordinator and has worked at SIECUS for over 9 years. She is certified as a sexuality educator by the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. Send your questions to Amy at alevine@siecus.org or mail them to her at SIECUS, Family Project, 130 West 42nd Street, Suite 350, New York, NY 10036. Check out new Q & As at www.familiesaretalking.org/ask_amy/index.html

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