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November 9, 2017

How to Talk to Your Kids About Porn

Young-internet-user-watching-porn

The landscape of sex has changed since we were kids with sexting, mobile porn, and social media shaping the way young people learn about sex. Research suggests that 70 percent of children have been exposed to pornography online inadvertently and the average age of first contact with adult material is 11.

With explicit content at their fingertips, talking to our children about sex and porn is more important than ever. And as uncomfortable as a conversation about porn may be, there is no avoiding it if we want to support our children in developing healthy attitudes toward intimacy, sexuality, and relationships. While there is no perfect formula for addressing such a sensitive and subjective topic, we have a few tips for making the conversation count:

1. Ask questions without judgment.

Parents often wonder how to start a conversation about sex and it is common to have serious concerns with regard to exactly how much information they should reveal. One of the best ways to address these concerns is to ask questions to help understand what your kids have seen, learned and heard about sex and porn. Ideally, you’ll want to address the topic before your child is exposed to the material, but many young people click on adult content inadvertently.

If your young child has clicked on a porn link accidentally, you might want to ask him what he saw and what he thought of the images, language, and content. By remaining neutral in tone, language, and facial expressions, you can encourage your child to express himself without fear of judgment.

If you’ve found adult links on your child’s computer, you might ask her what s/he felt when viewing the videos and emphasize that both positive, negative and conflicting reactions are normal. Other questions to guide your discussion might include:

What do you know about porn/sex?

Do your friends ever talk about porn/sex and if so, what have you heard?

How did you feel about what you saw?

When your child presents you with a question about a sex term or sex act (e.g. What is intercourse?), you can turn the
motherlode-teen-porn-tmagArticletables and ask him/her what s/he already knows. This is the perfect teachable moment to dispel any misinformation and learn a bit more about your child’s sources of sex information which may range from schoolyard friends and older siblings to the internet and television programs.

2. Fill in the blanks with age-appropriate information.

Depending on your child’s age and your comfort level, you can fill in as much or as little information as you deem suitable. Sex education is most effective when it is age appropriate; for example, a 4-year-old can understand the basics of reproduction (a man and a woman are needed to create a baby), whereas a 7-year-old can grasp the basic concepts of intercourse (the penis goes in a vagina). Answering your child’s questions about sex and porn from such an early age may seem counterintuitive, but research continues to confirm that learning accurate information about sex (including both positive and negative outcomes) does not lead to an increase sexual activity; accurate sex education, however, does lead to positive sexual interactions and relationships in the future.

Though experts can offer guidelines and tips with regard to how to approach this sensitive topic, as a parent, nobody knows your child as well as you do. You are the ultimate expert, so trust your own instincts and take comfort in knowing that you don’t have to have all the answers.

3. Draw clear lines between reality and fantasy.

Children can differentiate between reality and fantasy from a young age and learn to do so through various media. For instance, they understand that a character in a story is make-believe or that a film-based superhero is just an actor in costume.

3E4228EA00000578-4312226-image-a-12_1489492066638This is an important message to be drawn from porn: it is make-believe and the sexual experiences, expressions, and actions are simply performances by actors.

4. Clarify that a range of reactions are normal.

Whether you approve or disapprove of porn, it is possible that your reactions can be at odds with your moral viewpoint. This is an important point to reiterate to your child after has revealed his/her reactions to you. Whether s/he felt scared, upset, anxious, excited or turned on, offer reassurance that many reactions (including a mix of opposing feelings) are normal.

5. Dispel porn myths without shame.

Unfortunately, many young people learn about sex through porn.

The results of utilizing entertainment as education can be disastrous for our conceptions of sexual communication, negotiations, and experience. Reminding our children that pornography’s portrayal of gender, sex and pleasure does not reflect the diverse range of real experiences can lay the groundwork for fundamental critical thinking and healthy relationship skills.

6. Create an open dialogue.

Talking about sex can be tricky and it’s perfectly normal to feel uncomfortable with the topic. But the more comfortable you become, the more likely your child will come to you with questions and concerns. To increase your comfort with the subject and language, practice saying sex terms (e.g. orgasm, penis, vagina) over and over again in the mirror or with your partner. You’ll probably feel silly at first, but it will make the tough conversations that much easier when they do arise.

If your child comes to you with questions for which you don’t have the answers, fear not. Use this opportunity to admit that you’re not omniscient and look for reliable resources online that both you and your child can use in the future. You may want to start with SexualityAndU.ca as an adult resource that offers guidelines, suggestions and even sex and porn-related parenting scenarios.

7. Follow-up.

Gone are the days of having the talk with your kids about sex, porn, and other nerve-wracking issues. With technology changing the ways in which we learn, interact, date and hook-up, discussions related to sex need to be ongoing. If the topic of porn comes up in conversation, be sure to follow-up at a later date to ask if your child has learned anything new or had any further interactions with adult material.

By keeping the lines of communication open an ongoing basis, you’re more likely to have conversations about sex, porn, and other difficult topics before problems arise. Accordingly, these discussions are more likely to be constructive as opposed to reactionary, as you’ll have time to prepare for and shape the dialogue as you see fit. Whatever approach you embrace, know that you can always revisit the conversation and don’t be too hard on yourself. You don’t have to cover everything in one sitting and you’re already a great parent for even considering the sensitive and awkward topic of porn and parenting.