My 15 year old son has just confessed to me that he is interested in younger children, especially boys ages 8 to 11. He seemed very upset about this. I tried to calm him down a bit, but am left wondering what to do now. If it matters we are in the US as recent immigrants from Europe.

We are a very technological household, so I know he knows how to use the Tor browser (like me) to hide himself online. I am worried what he might find there.

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    A good text to start from: medium.com/matter/…
    – Ana
    Commented Feb 22, 2015 at 21:22
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    I hesitate to link to a comedy site, but this recent article is very relevant, and serious enough for this question: cracked.com/…
    – user11394
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 1:10
  • That age difference will be completely okay in the future, and prefering boys is certainly not an issue (or so I hope). Since all the answers seem to jump to cry "pedophilia", I wonder; should you not observe for a few years and check whether his window of interest moves with his age?
    – Raphael
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 12:27
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    @Raphael: And OP's son needs help now, especially as he's at a vulnerable and formative age.
    – Stephie
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 15:31
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    @Raphael, Stephie is right. An 8 year old is 7 years younger than OP's son, not just 1 or 2, and pretty much half his age. And it's not just one "unfortunate crush", OP talks about him being sexually interested in boys as young as 8, in general. Not that he has a crush on one. He may very well grow to be attracted to boys his age as he continues to grow, but it is very likely that he is indeed a pedophile. OP should hope for the best, but plan for the worst, and start helping and supporting her son ASAP. It just dawned of me that I have been assuming OP is his mom, but it could be his dad. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 16:04

11 Answers 11


Pedophilia is a sexual orientation. He is not a bad person just for having this orientation (any more than any other orientation), and that needs to be made clear to him. Not all pedophiles are child molesters and not all child molesters are pedophiles. Your candor, love, and support are going to be incredibly important to him, and his courage in facing this with you, as others have mentioned, is incredibly commendable. Your son is a remarkable person. He deserves sympathy and respect.

Has he acted on his attraction? (You need not answer.) You need to talk about this. Not all pedophiles do, and if he has not, he has done nothing wrong or illegal.

Although there is growing awareness in the field of psychotherapy about pedophilia, it is still largely not well-understood, but it is important that he start therapy. Finding a good therapist is going to be difficult, and pre-screening will be necessary.** There is still a fear in the community that reporting a pedophile is mandatory. It is not. It is only mandatory to report someone if the therapist has a strong suspicion that the patient will harm someone by acting on his attraction. Find someone who knows the difference, or can recommend to you to someone who does.

Read together about pedophilia written by sympathetic sufferers, i.e. people who know that they are pedophiles, but have made a moral decision not to act on their desires. These people understand that any interaction with child pornography is contributing to child abuse. It is not merely a matter of illegality (albeit it is a seriously life-altering prohibition); all child pornography involves the exploitation of a minor, unable to give moral and/or legal consent, for sexual purposes.** If your son feels the same way, or can recognize this (I suspect he does already), he will be more amenable to treatment.

Many young male pedophiles also have sexual attractions to people closer to their own ages. A good therapist will explore this to see if it is the case, and can work with this. The orientation probably will not be changed, but it might be mitigated.

There are a few internet support groups for pedophiles who wish to live lives free of child abuse in any form. Virtuous Pedophiles is one such group. Their FAQ pages and their reading lists are very helpful.

From their page:

We are not an organization for people who want to debate whether sex between children and adults should be legal. We are united in our belief that sexual activity between adults and children is wrong. ...[W]e can resist the temptation to abuse children sexually...

Although one of the goals of the website is to reduce the stigma attached to pedophilia by letting people know that a substantial number of pedophiles do not molest children, your son (who should keep this between himself and his parents) can still benefit from their ability to provide peer support and information about available resources to help virtuous pedophiles remain law-abiding, and lead happy, productive lives.

It's obvious that you love your son and want the best for him. Please know that there are other parents and children in your respective shoes.

** Before revealing the situation, you should ask the therapist about the conditions under which he or she would break confidentiality and notify the police or others. You should be able to ask confidentiality-related questions over the phone before making an appointment or even revealing your name. Also, a therapist who helps your son to avoid detection from illegal activity is not a true therapist at all.

** Virtual child pornography is illegal, and has not been shown scientifically to help pedophiles (it may be harmful). It needs to be avoided.

This American Life 522: Tarred and Feathered
I, Pedophile
What Can Be Done About Pedophilia?
Pedophilia: Is There a Duty to Report?

  • What exactly is "virtual pedophilia"? I assume you mean "virtual child porn"? And if so it may depend on the type of virtual child porn (written erotica, drawn cartoon-like or realistic CGI) and the jurisdiction. While none of this has shown scientifically to help, there are plenty of experiences that it very much helps by providing a sexual outlet that does not involve real children and thus does not harm real children. It has also not shown scientifically to lead to more cases of sexual abuse or use of actual child porn. In fact it can be a way to keep away from the real bad stuff. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 16:15
  • @EnderWiggin - Thanks for pointing out the ambiguity. virtual child porn is also used in the US to catch pedophiles. Virtual child porn is illegal, even though there is no actual child involved, and precisely because it's "benefits" have not been proven, it's better to fight the urge to engage than to engage with a virtual model. The jury is still out on this one, and as it can still land him on the sex-offender list, I advise against it. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 19:50
  • have the benefits of regular porn been proven? What are they? If they haven't why aren't we banning it? I believe that, as long as there is no scientific proof that it harms anyone, we shouldn't go about making stuff illegal. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 21:09
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    @EnderWiggin - this is philosophical. I didn't make it illegal, and, most likely, neither did you. A body of elected representatives, with the advice of a hired body of consultants, made it illegal. Whether or not is should be is irrelevant. My point is two fold: it is just as illegal as non-virtual child porn (people have gone to prison for using it, and are labelled sex-offenders), and it has never been proven of any benefit in keeping pedophiles from acting on non-virtual child porn/children. Experts in pedophilia (yes, there are such people) are divided on it's use. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 21:23
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    @anongoodnurse - Definitely. Also, the text I left in the first comment to the original post mentions that the only way to be sure after visiting an unsafe website, is to destroy the computer. The police know how to find 'hidden' browsing history.
    – Ana
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 22:24

I deeply admire your son for facing his feelings and for seeking help. You must have a very close and special relationship if he can trust you with this.

I strongly recommend that you all talk to a good psychatrist, preferably someone with experience in this field. If these feelings persist - and they may - he will need help developing coping strategies and methods to deal with his sexuality and this may be a long process.

Your task will be to support and love him no matter what.

Please note that feelings of attraction and desire do not have to be executed. His thoughts and fantasies are his, this does not make him a molester. Unfortunately, many careless people will fail to distinguish between desires and actions, so be careful who you trust with this information.

I am not from the US, so I don't know much about the legal implications. But I do know that if he ever is registered as "offender", it may influence the rest of his life. The US are more "restrictive" (can't come up with a better word) than most European countries in all things sexual. I am not sure who would be legaly bound to report him if you ask for advice (psychiatrist should be ok), so perhaps some day you should discuss the legal consequences with a trustworthy lawyer as well.

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    I just want to say that OP needs to be very careful with who he/she talks to. Therapists should not report without a very grounded suspicion that his is a danger to a child, however this is vague and left to interpretation, and many therapists report just to cover their asses. It could ruin OP's son's life if they go to the wrong person, so they must do a lot of research and find a therapist that understands and is sympathetic. If he has viewed child porn already, he should never admit it even if it's to ask for help to stop. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 16:19
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    I understand your concern. Finding a trustworthy therapist isn't easy even for "everyday problems", I can only imagine what it would mean in this case. I have only second hand knowledge on the subject, but a friend once confided in us - he said it was either this or suicide, so I think he made the right choice - and it took him years to reach a somewhat comfortable state. Thank you to you and all the others who add valuable input on the matter.
    – Stephie
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 16:31

Speaking from experience here. At 16 years old, I confessed to my parents that I was addicted to pornography and had been for 5 years. I hid my browsing history and the like.

First, make sure he knows that you love him. It does not matter that he is interested in younger children or that he did anything wrong, you still love him. Make sure he knows this. He needs to know that you love him.

Don't punish him. From my own experience, my 5 years of addiction to pornography were the worst years of my life. I hated myself. At times, the thought of suicide crossed my mind, although I always dismissed it immediately. The entire year before I told my parents, I struggled to stop. More than ever before, I wanted to get out of it. I prayed frequently, asking God to help me. I resisted the temptations to look at more pornography. Yet I always failed. I even failed more frequently than before. When I finally managed to tell my parents, they were surprised, but they made sure I knew that they loved me. Don't punish your son, he already struggled.

Don't cut off internet access. He did come to you, which means he wants to change, or that he wants help. Sit down with your son and have him come up with a solution that will protect him. For me, this was only using a computer in the same room as someone else. This doesn't have to be a permanent solution. Come up with techniques to help him avoid falling.

If you are religious and trust your son's religious leader, suggest to your son that he might go and speak with his religious leader. It is important that he be willing to go. His religious leader might be able to help him figure out how to use religion to help him with his struggles.

Consider a counselor. These are professionals who's job is helping people. The biggest thing that a counselor can do is coming up with techniques to help him with his struggles. A counselor should not try to change someone; changes have to come from within. It's important that your son feels extremely comfortable with his counselor. The counselor may be able to provide him with reassurance and methods to avoid his struggles.

Most importantly, make sure he knows that you love him. He trusts you - he came to you and asked for help. He needs to know that you love him. Also, he is 15, make sure that he makes the decisions with your advice. If you set up rules, he will likely feel as if you are punishing him. However, if you have him set up the rules and figure out what he wants to do - with your advice, he will feel as if you are supporting him.


First, I want to commend your son for his bravery in telling you about his attraction to young boys. Trust me, it takes a lot of courage to do something like that. I also want to congratulate you for having built this amount of trust that he felt he could tell you something so difficult to confess.

I discovered I was sexually attracted to boys when I was still a boy myself, and roughly a the same age as your son I realized that the boys I was attracted to were much younger than me. However I never felt that this was something I could ever tell anyone, let alone my parents. So consider yourself blessed that your son has entrusted this secret to you.

Your son is still young and his sexuality could maybe evolve. His "age of attraction" could continue to grow with him. Perhaps this is just a phase. But I don't want to give you false hopes, and don't give yourself false hopes either. By 15 most people's sexuality is pretty well established, so what's most likely is that your son is indeed a pedophile. This is something that is very hard to cope with, but it's not the end of the world. Your son can still have a meaningful and fulfilling life ahead of himself. Many pedophiles can build successful relationships with adults, get married and have a family and a good job and be happy. For instance, I am married and have kids, and my wife even knows about my attraction to boys, but she also knows I'm a good person and I would never hurt a child, let alone my own. She accepts me for what and who I am, she loves me and supports me. It is also possible to be happy without having a partner or getting married.

It's important that he realizes a few things. First, no one chooses what they're sexually attracted to. Just like heterosexual men don't decide one day to be attracted to women or gay men don't decide one day to be attracted to other men, he did not decide one morning to be attracted to younger boys. One's sexual attractions are something that are simply discovered as one starts to develop their sexual identify and to have sexual feelings. In that sense pedophilia is nothing more than a sexual orientation like any other. Of course, the difference comes when considering the consequences of acting on that attraction.

Second, being a pedophile does not make him a bad person, or a monster. He did not decide to be a pedophile. He did nothing wrong to be the way he is. There is no reason for him to be ashamed of what he is or for him to hate himself. The best way you can show him that is by showing him how much you love him, every day. Don't let him ever feel ashamed of the feelings he has towards boys. Don't let him internalize all the hateful comments he will inevitably hear about people like him from the outside world. They can be very devastating, so he'll need all your support to not fall into self-loathing or depression.

Third, he is not a ticking time bomb. He is not destined to act on his feelings and ruin a child's life. He needs to understand this, no matter how much society wants to tell us that all pedophiles are terrible child molesters. This is simply not true. It is perfectly possible to live your life as a pedophile and never have sex with a child, like most pedophiles do.

Be careful with talking to a therapist. Especially if he has already viewed child porn. New mandated reporting requirements in some states dictate that if someone admits to having viewed child pornography they must be reported to the authorities, even if they admit it precisely because they want help to stop. If he has, he needs to stop right away, and realize just how wrong it is. But at the same time he will need to find other ways of expressing his sexuality that don't involve actual children. Fantasizing in his own mind is the safest way for sure.

Virtuous Pedophiles is indeed a great place to find support from other pedophiles. Unfortunately, your son needs to be 18 before he can join the forums. It is unfortunate that a site like VirPed has to be worried about what can be said if there are underage members talking to other pedophiles in the forums, even if said underage members are only trying to find support for their own struggles. But given the climate of pedohysteria that we live in, it is also understandable. However, VirPed is not only for pedophiles. We have non-pedophile members. Researchers, journalists, and also family members of pedophiles. So if you want to check it out I would recommend you go to http://virped.org and fill in the contact form.

I wish you and your son best of luck. You'll be in my prayers.


Well I'm glad that he told you.

I wish I had taken the same action as him.

Since I was 13 years old I was attracted to kids my age and younger boys.

I knew I was gay, but as I got older and older and still felt an attraction to younger kids I saw that it was a problem, but I never told anyone about it because of the fear of being rejected and the way people think about you scared me so I held my biggest depression secret. When I was 13 years old I found a lot of images of child sexual abuse. I download some that I wish I had never watched. I kept watching and downloading until I was 21 years old when the FBI finally got me. This can sound bad, but it was such a relief for me to get caught so I could get help, because there is no help everybody that feels the same way I felt needs to be caught to finally get help and that is sad because most people go to jail first. I know people that went to jail because they download child pornography but never abused a child, which is the same situation as mine. I never went to jail that's because the FBI still working in my "case". I'm scared and every person that I know from my group therapy was scared of going to jail. I don't know how people feel about people like me, but going to a prison sounds horrible because you never got help to cure myself of this problem that you don't know how to solve. Then you need to go to jail and be there with people that are worse then you, not judging because everybody has their problems, but it is scary to be there with murders.

So I live in the US but I'm not from the US either. I'm really glad that your son told you about what he feels. A lot of people don't tell their parents because they feel like me and all the other people that couldn't tell with the fear of being interpreted wrong because let's face it the world interprets wrong. They don't care about you; they want you to die or go to jail.

He is 15 so is still a good time to find a therapist to help him. Look for a therapist that works with sexual offenders (that's what they call me but I hate this word). Why? Well no one helped me to fix my problem, then they call you that and put you in jail and the worst part is with your label I'll always be dirty.

Not calling your son a sexual offender, he isn't one just like me. Why find a therapist that works with sexual offenders? Because they will not judge your son like some other therapists do because they don't have experience with this type of subject.

I'm 22 years old now and if I was your son's age and my mom knew about my problem I would like my mom to be open and understand what I feel. I don't know how to fix it, but I'm willing to try really hard to change. (By the way now my mom knows and my step dad and my sister also know; they have really been a support in my life.) So just be patient with him, don't judge, and remember that he told you something that is really hard to tell anyone.

Make sure that he is not downloading child pornography / accessing any place that he can get images / videos of children in the age that he has an attraction to. Child pornography will not help. It will just make the feeling worse and if you want to change you have to commit yourself to not go to the place where it is slippery.

Some things that you need to know of:

Depression / no friends / fear to go to places like shopping malls / thinking of suicide. That is what I felt most of my life when I was 13 to 18 years old.

Depression: staying at home a lot eating, playing video games, surfing the web, not doing exercises, missing school. Not going to places where you can see another kids in both young and older ages.

Suicide all the time, I never tried to kill myself, but I always though that the world would be better if I killed myself. Or why god choose me to be like this and not someone else. Some suicidal thoughts that I had like buying a gun and shooting my head, freezing to death, taking some medicine like a lot until I overdosed, or asking a friend to shoot me in the head. I never used drugs and I don't drink, but I though of using drugs until I die or don't feel in my normal state of mind anymore, drown myself.

So be aware of that and help him out, just make sure that you are open to help him because this path is not easy but he still young so maybe tell him some stuff that I talked about here, so he can be aware of it too.

Some people are recommending forums. I do not recommend any of them. From my own experience, in some of these forums there is a lot of people there that they don't want to change. Some people may try to manipulate you to do bad things and don't let your son join any of this forums. If it is for yourself so you can find a better way to help him it's fine, but if it is for him to join, just don't. There are a lot of people in these forum that are willing to help you, but there are a lot that just wants to do bad things. Even though your son feels attracted to young kids a forum like that can be a way of other people trying to manipulate your son. So just be careful.

Virped, I do not recommend. A lot of people there don't want to change (I tried to get help at this place and they banned me saying that I couldn't change) and let's face it, the one with the name virped was really rude to you.

After 2 hours I was able to find an article that I read a while ago about a 19 year old pedophile, and I feel exactly like him

It's an audio on sound cloud:


https://soundcloud.com/this-american-life/522-tarred-and-feathered-act-two-help-wanted < listen to this audio.

If you have any questions let me know. I'm glad to help people in the same situation and I hope some day we will have a better way to be helped without going trough the system.

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    Please be aware that downloading child pornography is child abuse. The children in those pictures and videos are being sexually exploited by the makers of pornography, and you are exploiting them as well every time you look at or download it. Such victims have very strong feelings about this, and feel people who view child pornography should go to jail. I know you are offering support here, and your experience is valuable, but please do not be deceived about the seriousness of doing this. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 6:28
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    Well i didn't got help so how should i stop watching child pornography? That's my point. But i agree the children in the videos and pictures are been manipulated and i don't watch child pornography anymore, I wish I haven't because i feel sad about all the children been abused / manipulated by someone else. Child Pornography is horrible i just wish that wasn't possible to find it to download. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 6:57

Pedophilia is a problematic sexual orientation, but at the age of 15 I don't think it's so straight forward. Being attracted to people 5 years younger than you when you're a 15 year old kid is alot different from liking 13 year olds as a 20 year old.

I remember a stage around the age of 15 of feeling like I was attracted to younger (10-13 year old) girls, but as I got older, I liked people closer to my age and sometimes older. I think we just like people that look like us, and that's a taste that continues to change as we do. However, you should speak to a professional immediately.

In the mean time, make sure he knows to respect people's boundaries at all times, abide by legal guidelines, and remember that sexuality is only a small part of who we are as people. Also, that child pornography is an unacceptable route.

Note: This is more geared toward the homosexual side of this situation - pedophilia (if this does turn out to be the case) is something messier and deserves professional outreach. Not just for your son - for you, as soon as possible, to discuss the most healthy path for your him with someone trained to advise you on this more complex problem.

As an afterthought, I was raised a Catholic, and we were taught that if you're gay or have any type of sexuality different from what is "normal" you'll go to Hell unless you change and become like everyone else, avoiding what your body tells you is right.

I know lots of very nice gay people and after some thought, I decided that was an ignorant, unacceptable view. Regardless of your religious teachings, I recommend that you don't let these limited views affect your son, because it could be damaging.

Just remember people with different sexual orientations feel the same way about each-other that us straight people feel about the opposite sex. Different love isn't "bad" love, it's just different.

Be understanding of your son and don't let him feel like he has to be someone he isn't. At the same time, again, make sure he understands that sexuality is something that has to be mutual to be acted upon, and there are legal age limitations and guidelines to adhere to.

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    I strongly disagree with your first sentiment. 8-11 years old means pre-pubescent, with the focus on the maximum age of 11. A 13 year old may very well have a developed body.
    – SBoss
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 12:49
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    @SBoss he very well may, but I'm trying to give the kid some breathing room here he's 15! And he might be 15 and look like a 12 year old, some do. But notice I do suggest that professional help is gotten in case. I did make some modifications though.
    – J.Todd
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 12:56
  • You bring up some great points, I just wanted to voice my disagreement with your first point. From my experience, I was attracted to people in my grade or higher with rare exceptions, but that may be different for everyone else.
    – SBoss
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 13:01
  • That line, "God hates me if I do what feels right to me", is really dangerous. You can justify anything with this line - even in fact raping someone. You answer is really good, but please, consider removing it to improve your answer overall.
    – T. Sar
    Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 19:31
  • @ThalesPereira Wow this is old, but I was reviewing my answers and just noticed your comment. I took your advice and made that edit.
    – J.Todd
    Commented Jul 31, 2016 at 20:47

I was in the exact same situation as your son at his age. I never molested anyone, and I now have a happy and healthy marriage to an adult woman. Here is my advice:

  • You can't change what you find erotic, but you have choice on how to respond. A molestor isn't necessarily someone who is attracted to children, but someone willing to exploit children. You can commit to not being a molestor no matter what your attractions.

  • He should avoid friendships with younger boys and never be alone or in a position of responsibility with younger children. I didn't follow this advice and it placed me in some dangerous situations that thankfully didn't lead to anything over the line. I now know it wasn't smart. In addition to being a risky situation for the younger child, it also opens your son to the possibility of false accusations.

  • As a person of faith, I credit maintaining a strong relationship with God with bringing me through. If you are religious, it is important to let your son know God loves him despite his attractions.

  • The internet is a very dangerous place for your son. There are communities of molestors looking to normalize molestation, and they may try to draw your son in or even groom him as a victim. Also, if he is caught with illegal images, it could ruin his life forever. Monitor his internet usage to the best of your ability and impress on him the dangers.

  • Let him know, things may not always be this way. For me, although I still have a strong erotic attraction to guys much younger than me, I am now old enough that that means men in their early twenties, not children. In ten years, he may be attracted to people who are now 18+. Personally, I also learned that I could have an erotically satisfying relationship with a woman who is an adult, but younger than I am, with some tomboyish traits. In addition, after some homosexual experimentation, I learned that for me, sex with a younger guy is a great fantasy, but not a great reality. These same things may not be true for him, but it is possible, and it is way too soon to know for sure.

Things will not be easy for him --he will have to be strict with himself, and you will need to trust, but monitor. However it is a great sign that he can share this with you. Help him to know he is not intrinsically a bad person and that he can live a good and moral life --perhaps even a sexually fulfilled one --even if his attractions never change. He should also know he is not alone. People who have successfully fought attraction to children rarely go public, for obvious reasons, but this thread makes it clear that they do exist.

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    Welcome to the site Tyger. Well formed answer. +1 from me for ... well for everything you outlined. Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 22:15

Sometimes us parents fear for the worst, but hope for the best. Your question started by using the word "pedophilia" and that defined the course of the conversation. But let us take a deeper look...

As anyone well versed in sex will tell you, physicality is one of the components. The mind, though, is the primary component. This holds true in positive and negative sexual encounters. Everyone wants something. A predator intuitively knows this, but as importantly it is true about predators too! To know what someone wants requires an exploration:

  • Did he emphasize the young age? As if though that factor is what excited him?
  • Did he mention the young age? As if though that concerned him?

Sometimes a person finds themselves attracted to someone only to learn that by their own standards that attraction is inappropriate and they subsequently reject it.

The fact that the attraction existed for a moment and when the truth was known, rejected is an important consideration. Think of the adult man/woman who says, "wow, that person is so hot!" And when told "that person" is 15, replies, "Wow, they look older!" and turns to other activities without another thought. A right-minded individual would not proclaim, "Pedophile! Call the police!"

The lines can be fuzzy from a legal perspective, too. In some jurisdictions 18 or less is a fine line while in others it is expressed as a difference in age... neither of which addresses the fundamental point: a difference in mind.

To a certain degree, sexual behavior is an expression of power (and, hopefully, more an expression of love!) If one enjoys being dominant and loving, who would complain? If, on the otherhand, one enjoys controlling those who s/he finds inferior and obedient... one who can be conquered and manipulated according to his/her whims of the moment... and is only tangentially concerned with the welfare of the other person, well, then who would not complain?

When I was 14, I convinced myself that because I did not hurt them, that what I did with my stepbrothers was not bad. When I was 15 they sent me to a group home for treatment with 3 therapists. When I was 17, I learned the lesson I was most missing... not from them as I continued my behavior until I realized this one point which I pledged my life upon:

I will never again use my mind to deprive another human being of the freedom to use their mind.

From that very moment, I have adhered to that as a "prime principle" guiding my behavior -- even in the non-sexual realm.

Today I am a parent. Today I am a gay man. My course has been frought with challenges which have bettered me as a man.

Can we understand the mind of our children? I dare suggest no more so than we can understand our own mind -- it is a lifelong adventure worth the effort.

If your son has told you that he is attracted to boys and expresses no other interest in control/power/harm/etc, then things may be fine.

If your son has told you that he is attracted to younger kids, then he needs what I needed: help -- and since he knows intuitively that everyone wants something, he is begging for it because he knows he cannot give that to himself.

If you are not sure, help cannot hurt!

To clarify that last statement, help will hurt. My mother and I share the same birthday. When they took me to the group home it was for an "evaluation". When they kept me they did not care that my mother and I had always spent our birthdays together. And today, as a constructive member of society I would choose to pay that price again and many times over because I have convinced my mind of why treating everyone with the dignity of freedom of their own choice is the only course of action.

Just be appropriately balanced in your choice. Making a universe out of a grain of sand will cause more problems than it solves. If he's gay, who cares? If he's willing to do harm to others and begging for help, then, well, everyone cares!

I wish you all the very best in a wonderful, respectful future.


I know he knows how to use the Tor browser (like me) to hide himself online. I am worried what he might find there.

If you are worried about what he will find on the internet, then I recommend providing some internet restrictions.

The computer should be in a common room such as the living room, that people are walking through from time to time.

With so many images available on the internet, it frequently happens that a child starts exploring out of curiosity, and then quickly gets somewhere that s/he's not ready to handle yet (or may never be ready to handle).


If your son is a pedophile that's simply part of who he is. There's not much to really do, other than give him the emotional support he needs.

Just know that this isn't something that can be "fixed". A person's pedophilia is unchangeable as far as modern science is aware. Also know that he is no ticking time bomb that is destined to hurt people.

I strongly advise against seeing a therapist unless absolutely necessary. Therapists are too eager to report pedophiles because they do not understand the condition and assume that because a person has sexual attraction to kids that they are a danger to children. There is no place offered by society to anyone who is known to be a pedophile. If your son is exposed he may become the target of harassment and may have a difficult time getting a job. Even if a therapist does not report your son to the police, they will not be equipped to treat him because there is absolutely no understanding or training in the mental health field on how to handle a person who is a pedophile but has not harmed any children.

Virtuous Pedophiles is a good website for your son to get in contact with. It is full of good people who can provide support.

You should feel confident as a parent since he is able to open up with you about this. This isn't something that most ever feel like they can discuss with anyone.

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    Virtuous Pedophile does explicitly recommend therapists. They also recommend different kinds of therapy. Can you offer additional insight into why you believe no therapist can help? Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 9:54

I would like to present an alternative view of this situation that will likely get me downvoted to the very bottom of the page, but I think it's important that you give me a chance since I have more personal experience than any of the other answerers. (I discovered I was attracted to pre-teen children when I was about 15 too. I am now 25 and still attracted to pre-teen boys and girls, as well as attracted to people my own age. I'm perfectly happy with my sexuality, though not at all happy about how others think of it.)

It's common for people to realize during their teens that they are attracted to children (section III, Chart 8 https://www.ipce.info/booksreborn/bernard/factual.htm ), and ages 8-11 are significantly young compared to 15, so I would be surprised if this is just a "phase" that he'll grow out of as others have suggested.

Assuming it's not a phase, here are six important things your son should know:

  1. An attraction to children isn't morally wrong. And, just like homosexuality, it shouldn't be a big deal or a worry. The only reason it is a big deal is that an unfortunate majority of people believe that it is (as evidenced by your son being upset, you asking for advice, and by the other answers on this site saying he should seek therapy immediately).

  2. Fantasizing about sex with children is morally acceptable (it doesn't hurt anyone) and is legal in the US, but anything beyond that is either highly illegal, or at least in a legal gray area (like with drawings of sexual acts, for example). Some people might say that allowing these sexual fantasies will "fuel" a person to do illegal things, but there's no proof of that, and the opposite could be true too: fantasies could channel sexual feelings away from "real life", so that one is less inclined to do something illegal. Stay away from actual child porn though. It's not worth going to jail over.

  3. And here's where you'll disagree if you haven't already: Children are sexual, and sexual encounters with adults (or with teens) aren't inherently abusive or harmful to children (just very illegal in the US and most other places, so don't do it). They can even be positive. I say this not to advocate breaking the law, but because he should know that his sexual orientation is something good, not something that needs to be mitigated or feared. Your son shouldn't believe there's something "evil" inside him when there isn't, like he's a time bomb that might one day "explode" and end up accidentally abusing a child. If your son doesn't want to hurt people then he won't hurt people; whether or not he's attracted to children has exactly nothing to do with that.

I won't present an argument here for why acting on pedophilic desires isn't necessarily morally wrong (within the right culture). It's something you just have to figure out for yourself. But if you or your son happen to be willing to entertain that idea, there's a lot of information about it out there. Here's some helpful reading addressing child sexuality, adult-child sex, and issues of consent: [Well, I'm not allowed to post any more links... I'll try to post them in the comments]

  1. Pedophilia isn't always exclusive; some pedophiles can be attracted to people their own age too. I don't have have accurate statistics about the rates of exclusive and non-exclusive pedophiles, but I have met both exclusive and non-exclusive ones, and most are non-exclusive at least to some degree.

  2. He's not alone. There are all kinds of people who are attracted to children:

    • Pedophiles who are happy with their orientation, are morally opposed to abusing children, and don't see consensual adult-child sexual encounters as abusive. Many of them prefer to be called boylovers/girllovers/childlovers to avoid the negative stigma surrounding the word "pedophile". They might view their attraction as something beyond just sexual, and their relationships with kids as beneficial friendships (whether sexual or nonsexual).
    • Self-hating pedophiles who want to do the right thing, but for the wrong reasons (e.g. the "Virtuous Pedophiles" group mentioned in other answers). They abstain from sex because they believe there is something inherently wrong inside of themselves. I went through this phase between the ages of 15 and 20 and found that it didn't really make sense, and I'm happier and more honest with myself now that I outgrew it. It was just a way to fit into society without denying my attractions.
    • And then there are a small number of people who truly sexually abuse children using force or coercion, though many of them aren't even technically pedophiles, just opportunistic abusers who happen upon children. Not all pedophiles have sex with children, not all sex with children is abuse, and not all sexual-abusers-of-children are pedophiles.

A lot of pedophiles I've talked to are happy with their orientation, and unhappy with laws and cultural stigma against it; they are morally good people, would never want to hurt a child, and don't consider willing sexual encounters inherently harmful. I've talked to a fair amount of the self-hating type too. I've never met a single person who actually rapes kids though, and I hope I never will.

  1. Don't tell your parents you're a pedophile! Oh, wait, it's a little late for that. Still, it's worth saying that most parents probably think pedophilia is unhealthy and will try to prevent their child from becoming a pedophile, which I think could be very damaging in the same way trying to "cure" homosexuality is damaging. So this is something best kept secret from your parents at this point in history unless you have the right kind of parents. I'm glad I didn't tell my parents.

I don't know of any good, structured places a 15-year-old could go to get support from other pedophiles, unfortunately. There's plenty of support for gay teens or depressed teens I'm sure, but at this time people aren't so open to the idea of pedophile teens. They're on their own unless they get lucky.

About therapy: maybe it's a good idea and maybe it isn't, but just being attracted to children is not sufficient criteria to seek therapy. I'm not an expert on therapy, but I would think he would need to have some additional issues (like depression or something) to justify therapy. And you don't need to be depressed just because you're attracted to kids. Either way, here's a fairly neutral website dedicated to finding good therapists for "minor-attracted people": http://www.b4uact.org/ I think their name ("before you act") unintentionally gives kind of a self-hating vibe, but that's not what they're about as far as I can tell.

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    -1 from me. I think that you present many interesting and valid points to consider. Most people here don't feel that non-practicing pedophiles are evil or that they deserve to hate themselves. Sexual orientation is not` a punishable offense. However, the OP's son is very upset and deserves a therapist able to help him. Some of the sources you link to are disturbing; comparing the concept of a happy child's "consent" being as obvious as a happy dog's "consent"; "Giving people, and especially children, autonomy to do what they want shows respect for their personhood...". (cont.) Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 4:08
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    Claiming that we are doing more harm by "violating a child's consent when we force them to take piano lessons" than by honoring a child's ability to consent to adult-child sex, and "what we reveal is not our great respect for consent, but rather our great unease over sex" is exactly the attitude that people associate with, and the reason they fear, the idea of pedophilia. These ideas are self-aggrandizing and self-serving rationalizations of abuse. Heterosexuality is not evil, but rape is, and many rapists justify their actions; it doesn't mean they're morally righteous. Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 4:25
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    I have no problem with your holding to your opinion. Nor do I have a problem with my holding to mine, unless it is harmful to people. I do not wish to harm anyone, adult or child. Better safe than sorry when in doubt. In this area, most of the studies do show harm. You can argue that they start with a bias. Again, better safe than sorry. Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 5:07
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    You say that a child can give consent? Yes, you are right. But, informed, educated, knowledgeable consent over what they will be happy with in 10, 20, 30 years? Absolutely not! When you claim that your ability to convince a child means the child has consented, you become a predator. Voting to delete for obvious reasons, not rationalizations. Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 2:33

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