how to talk to kids about porn

How to Talk to Your Children About Porn

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If you grew up in the early 80’s or before, you’ll know how difficult it was to obtain any kind of racy material. Looking at lingerie ads, finding Playboy magazines on the shelf of your local store, or even hidden somewhere in your home. 

But since the invention of the Internet, there’s been a brand new era of exposure when it comes to explicit photos and videos.

And sure, the Internet has an endless amount of perks, and it’s made our lives infinitely better. But with great power comes great responsibility. 

Children are seeing, sharing, and becoming “educated” by sexually explicit things they’re seeing online, causing a whole new issue to tackle. And it all starts with the parents.

Why is it Important to Talk to Your Children About Porn?

Firstly, it’s normal for young people to want to see sexual images and videos. After all, we are sexual beings with curious minds. But the way in which you approach the topic with your child, tween, or teen will make all the difference.

It’s encouraged to approach the topic with a non-judgemental and open-mind, free of shame. 

The aim is not just to educate and protect, but also to allow them to feel safe as opposed to feeling as though they’ve been “caught” or are doing something bad. This could have a negative impact on them, as they may learn that this kind of pleasure is worth punishment

It’s bad enough that there’s an immeasurable amount of shame, guilt, and taboo surrounding sex, especially when it comes to women. We don’t want to contribute to a world of adults who see sexuality as something to be ashamed about. Instead, we want our children to become adults who normalise exploration and discovering pleasure, all the while being safe and educated.

With that, let’s take a moment to look at sex education in schools. Surely almost all of you can attest to receiving sex education that focused solely on preventative measures, such as how not to fall pregnant and spread STIs, and how to use condoms. Some sex education curriculums even enforce abstinence.

This kind of education merely highlights the dangers or “negative” sides of being sexual active. 

Were you ever educated in pleasure, erogenous zones, the benefits of masturbation and orgasms? Highly unlikely. And some may even admit that they did not receive sex education in school at all. Could this further fuel the aspect of shame? 

And then, when children realise that they have access to porn without the correct kind of sexual education, it’s often unhealthy. Many have difficulty differentiating between fantasy and reality, leading them to have unrealistic expectations of sex. 

We know that sex is rarely like what we see in porn (which is often aggressive, violent, stereotyped, and full of exaggerated dominance and submissiveness). All of this can lead to a false notion that girls are always ready for sex, crave rough intimacy, and are simply there to feed into a boy’s pleasure.

Essentially, if you’re a parent of a young child or have young children, it’s safe to say that they will encounter, or even intentionally watch, porn. 

And there are so many channels on which to see this kind of material besides actual porn websites. For example, spam emails, typing in a web address incorrectly, coming across a sexual website when typing in something non-sexual but that which has a sexual meaning, and seeing popup ads.

Not just that, but it’s impossible to control what your child is looking at all the time. They too may be exposed to porn at a friend’s house, or have links sent to them by friends. 

Tips on How to Talk to Your Children About Porn

There’s no “right” way to do this. As we mentioned, it’s just about having a calm, understanding, and non-judgemental attitude. It’s a teachable moment, not a moment to shame and guilt them.

For Children Under 10

If you have a child who is under 10 years old, perhaps allow the takeaway to be that they may come across porn. In this case, you can assure them that you’re always approachable if and when that happens. Allow them to know that you’re available to talk to them about what they’ve seen and to process it.

You can also begin talking about normalising healthy forms of affection, such as hugging and physical closeness. Talking about consensual sex between two adults is important, because consent plays a large part in intimacy and sexual activity. 

The best way to go about your talk is to use the correct anatomy, such as “penis” and “vagina”. You could use educational books if that makes you feel more comfortable. 

Either way, talking in a simple and direct manner can help to remove any shock or disgust, and help them to become comfortable with their bodies and different anatomy. 

Also, letting them know that their feelings are normal can create a safe space for them to safely explore their sexuality.

Middle School-Aged Children and Older

It’s around this time that children experience puberty, which is when they’re more likely to encounter porn (either by accident or intentionally). This is why having a talk with them before puberty is so important. 

But, as they get older, continuing to talk to them about sex and sexuality is a great way to further remove shame and to prepare them to have healthy ideas about sex and exploration. 

Because tweens and teens are at a somewhat awkward age, it may be more difficult to talk with them. That is why finding the right time to do so is crucial. 

Try to initiate the conversation in a more casual way, rather than an official “we need to talk” situation. For example, talking whilst driving in the car or going for a walk. These two scenarios are great because it can reduce eye contact, making it less awkward for them, and gives them a more comfortable space to talk to you openly. 

When it comes to talking to tweens and teens about sex and porn, it’s better not to go the route of listing information or asking them questions. Instead, make it an ongoing conversation. 

You could talk about things such as the difference between sex in porn and real life sex. When a child, tween, or teen knows that (first time) sex in real life shouldn’t (and won’t) resemble the sex they’re seeing in pornography, they’ll be able to eradicate problematic first sexual encounters and beyond. 

Talk about how their bodies are not merely vessels for other people’s entertainment and that porn is staged. Mention that it’s all been curated and is not a natural and realistic representation of sex, but that sexual activity should be an act of intimacy and exploration in a caring and consensual manner.

It’s also pertinent to talk about consent and personal boundaries. A lot of porn depicts consensual non-consensual acts that have aspects of violence and the appearance of rape. Your child needs to understand that this is never okay without unwavering consent from both participants. Exploration is normal, but acting violently without consent is illegal/morally wrong.

And lastly, normalising your child’s feelings of sexual arousal will pave the way for a healthy sex life. Of course, you should also make sure that they know about the dangers of unsafe sex, unwanted pregnancies, different kinds of contraception, and that staying safe, physically and emotionally, is important. 

At the same time, by allowing them to know that their sexual arousal is normal, and that you’re always available to talk about anything, anytime, they’ll be more likely to engage in safer sex while discovering new levels of sexual bliss, when they’re ready, either solo or with a partner.

In short, it is key to create a safe space for children that is free of shame, judgement, and guilt, and to take the time to educate them on sex, sexual activity, how porn is not real sex, keeping safe, and consent.

When you open up a caring communication channel for your children to discuss matters with you, you’re setting them up to be more sex-positive, more realistic in sex, and the opportunity to benefit from sex and masturbation when the time is right.