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Concerned Parent

Concerned About Son

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Hello there everybody and thank you for allowing me to join the forum :)

I don't really know where to turn and when I was looking for resources online this forum came up so I'm hoping there may be someone on here who can point me in the right direction.

I have some concerns about my son.  He's 16, but has a brain injury so is mentally more like an eight year old child.  He has various disabilities because of this and can't go out on his own or stay at home by himself.

I have been very open with him through his teenage years about puberty, sex, relationships and so on and bought him several books that are written for teenagers with autism and learning disabilities to help him understand that changes are natural, as is masturbating, being interested in sex, feeling aroused and so on.  The whole process seemed to make sense for him and I had thought we'd got through that whole phase fairly well.

About a month ago I found out he'd been watching porn on his laptop.  I hadn't even been aware he could access it as I thought I'd put parental blocks in place.  It turned out that I'd only blocked the browser, not the internet provider, so he was using a different browser (I'm a technophobe and didn't even know those where different things; I just thought as I'd put a block on he wouldn't be able to see anything).

I had quite a long chat with him about it and explained that porn isn't a good way to learn about sex and it's better to spend time with people and doing fun activities rather than watching things on the internet.  He seemed to understand what I was saying and I made him up some worksheets so he had the information to refer back to.  I thought we had sorted that out; he said he wouldn't do it again and that he was sorry etc and I thought all was well.

About a week later I found out he'd been accessing porn on my phone; again, I didn't realise he could get onto it that way and hadn't thought to check.  I blocked that straight away and this time had a firmer talk with him and told him he wasn't to do it.  Again, he apologised and said he understood, etc.

Again about a week later I checked his laptop and found he'd been watching things on YouTube - it probably isn't what most people would call porn but it was sexualised content and not suitable for him to be watching.  Again, I didn't know that I needed to put separate controls on YouTube so I did that and again spoke to him about it.  He very calmly lied and told me he hadn't looked at anything and never would.  I knew that wasn't true because of the history on his laptop and again I was plain with him and told him he wasn't to do it.  I also mentioned that some types of porn are illegal and he could get into trouble with the police if he watched something like that.  He got very upset and I thought perhaps a short, sharp shock was a better way to do things and wondered if that had worked where the calm talking hadn't.  Again, he promised he'd never do it again, and so on.

He hasn't looked at anything since, up until today.  Again, it's not necessarily what others would call porn but it is sexualised and not suitable for someone with his mental age.  Again, it's on YouTube, I've confiscated his devices and we've spoken about it but I don't really know what to do next.

I appreciate this might not seem a big deal in the grand scheme of things but my concern is that his behaviour seems, to me, to be quite typical of an addict - he's done things in secret knowing that he shouldn't, he's lied about what he's doing, he's sought other ways of accessing it when certain ways have been blocked to him and even things that have upset him, like the police being mentioned or the threat of having his devices confiscated, hasn't made him stop altogether.  It just seems to me to be the start of an addictive pattern and, given his mental disabilities and his very limited social skills (he's at his happiest in his bedroom and doesn't like being around people or busy places) I'm concerned it could become a serious problem.  I realise I could just take away his laptop and that would be an end to it, but I feel it might be better to try to get to the root of the problem, as I worry he'll just keep trying to find other ways to get to it.

I've struggled to find any resources that are specifically written for people with learning difficulties so that he might be able to read and understand them.  I'm nervous about speaking to college or social services/GP etc as I'm worried that they may jump in with both feet and make the problem worse.  Equally I don't want to just do nothing and I don't want him to think that any kind of sex/nudity etc is bad, I just don't want him watching that and I'm worried about what seems to me to be addictive behaviour.

Anyway I'm sorry that is so long!  I just wondered if anyone might have any thoughts or suggestions as to what to do or who to ask for help?  I know that most sixteen year old boys would be looking at or aware of porn but given that his mental age is so much lower than his actual age I'm concerned about the effect it might have on him and want to try to stop things becoming more problematic if possible.

Thank you in advance :)

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You could say he's acting like an addict....or you could also say he's acting like a teenager. I know the brain injury caused mental damage, but physically, he's still a teen soon to be in the prime of his sexual life if you believe men hit their peak in the late teens/early 20s. I don't know enough about his condition to speak with any degree of certainty, but is it possible he's simply acting on physical urges? His behavior sounds like that of a typical, physically healthy 16-year-old. While he may or may not understand the context of what he's looking at, he clearly still wants it. And like any kid over the age of 5, mental or otherwise, he'll lie to his parents to get it. Let's admit, sexual urges are the most basic of human instincts and are one of the only things we share with every other species in the animal kingdom.

I guess what I wonder is how much of this is your concern about him watching porn -- which statistics suggest is typical among today's 16-year-old males -- and how much is that you simply don't like pornography? I understand your fears that he will descend into addiction, but it sounds more like he's simply hiding it from you because he knows you have a negative reaction. Saying that sex/nudity isn't bad, but then banning him from seeing it sends very mixed messages.

I can't tell you what to do, but I think a professional doctor who had dealt with people with brain injuries, or perhaps even issues like autism, might be able to better guide you through this time.  I'm not a fan of pornography...I became an addict and it ruined my life (or I should say I let it ruin my life)...but I also understand there are many people out there to whom it is passing fancy at best. I don't know where you son fits on the spectrum, but professional help is the way to go. I wish you the best of luck.

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