|Flickr photo by Mely-O|
This dad left his son a compassionate, non-judgmental note. As reported by The Good Men Project (a great site, BTW), the dad wrote his son a note, explaining that the son's visits to pornographic sites were probably what caused malware to mess up his computer. The note explained that porn sites are notorious for malware -- and directed the son toward some more reliable, not-malware-infested porn sites.
Now, that sounds pretty provocative. A dad, pointing his kid to porn? Essentially saying, "Here you go!"?
I think the Dad handled the situation perfectly, though, and here's why: In his next paragraph, he reassures his son. The Dad writes, "I'm not gonna make a big deal out of this. In fact, I'm not gonna make any size deal of this..You have nothing to be embarrassed about." He doesn't shame his son; he says, "hey, I understand."
And he very, very gently expresses concern for his son -- not by telling him that porn will warp his brain, but by saying, "I would like to not be back here so much though. You literally spend all of your time back here. I'd like to see you more often. I like doing stuff with you and miss it." (I"m going to assume that "back here" is the kid's room.)
Why I Think Dad Was Right On
Those messages exude love. The Dad doesn't tell his son that he, the son, is evil or bad or warped or perverted for looking at porn. And he says he wants to spend time with his son!
Some commenters have taken the Dad to task for not talking enough about porn and why/how it can influence and perhaps even damage burgeoning sexuality. I'm not troubled by that, though. As I understand the situation, the son came to the Dad with a problem: a messed up computer. He asked for help with the computer. And that's what his Dad gave him.
When our kids are younger, experts advise us to answer their sex questions as directly and simply as possible. "Where do babies come from?" does not always require a full scientific explanation. Sometimes, kids just want to know that babies come from Mom and Dad, instead of from the stork or cabbage patch or wherever else kids may have heard babies come from. We're advised to figure out what the kid is really asking and to answer that question without a lot of extra info, which may be more than the kid can absorb at that time anyway.
This kid needed and wanted help with his computer. He didn't ask for help, advice or lecturing re porn. Odds are, the son was mortified to discover 1) that his computer problems were porn-related and 2) that his Dad knew exactly what sites he'd been visiting to view porn. The Dad realized all of that. So he focused his response around the kid's expressed problem -- the wonky computer. He fixed that problem, and told his son how to avoid it in the future. Then, he expressed love, understanding and compassion.
Don't you think that son is now more likely to come to his Dad with problems (of all kinds) in the future? I do.
If the Dad had huffed and puffed, and said or implied that the kid's actions were disgusting or immoral or wrong, or, worse yet, issued some kind of punishment or ultimatum, don't you think the kid would be more prone to simply hide his actions in the future? Less likely to approach his Dad with problems and concerns?
Porn vs. Reality
Some commenters expressed seious concern that the Dad didn't spend more time talking to his son about pornography. Porn, as they rightly point out, has very little to do with real-world sex. But does Dad really need to talk about that with his son? At some point, perhaps. But now? At this particular moment? I think not.
I think that our kids learn far more from us than they will ever learn from the computer, TV, video games and other electronic screens. So while it's true that porn often objectifies women and presents a warped version of sexual relationships, I don't think that talking to our kids about the objectification of women is enough to solve the problem. I think we need to show them healthy relationships instead.
That doesn't mean you need to invite your son into your bedroom. It means that how you treat your spouse is important. It means that a son who sees his father treating his mother with respect will know that women are not objects. It means that sons and daughters who see their mothers and father in respectful relationships will know, intuitively and from their emotional core, that respect is the core of a healthy relationship. They may still watch porn, at least sometimes, but they will know that what they see doesn't represent reality.
An update to the original article said that Dad did have a brief, 5 minute conversation with his son after the son received the note, and that the Dad talked (briefly) about the differences between porn and real life. In my opinion, that's enough for now.
What do you think?