How to talk about porn with your kids (yes, it will be awkward).

January 22nd, 2020

One of the greatest concerns parents have as their children gain greater independence online is the potential for exposure to pornographic material. This is a real and relevant concern. Accessibility, either purposefully or accidentally, to online pornography is all too easy nowadays and the content is more hardcore than in previous generations.

The reality is that as our children become teenagers, our ability to control settings and manage every device they have access to becomes more and more limited. As much as we’d like to try, the research suggests that our children will see pornography at some stage. Rather than spend all our energy trying to stop this from happening, we need to equip our children with the values and knowledge that allows them to appropriately manage and make sense of the experience.

Accept the awkwardness

Anything to do with sex and porn and talking to our children about it is often going to be awkward. However, it’s far better to have awkward conversations about porn than to avoid talking about it at all to avoid that feeling.

If you accept it is going to be awkward, you can then call it out and say to your child, “I want to have a conversation. It is going to be awkward. Both of us will feel weird about it, but we need to talk about things like pornography and sex.”

 

Be generous and open

Make sure your child knows they can ask you about sex, sexuality or pornography at any time. Make sure they also know you might not have all the answers, but that it is important they share with you if they see something that disturbs them or frightens them.

 

Answer all questions honestly

When you child does ask questions, be honest. If you don’t know what a word means or you don’t understand something, tell them. I don’t know. And always use the right terminology for all aspects of sex.

 

Make sure they know porn isn’t real

Experts are very clear that we need children and young people to know that the way sex is represented in pornography is not real. We need to explicitly tell our children, “If you see videos or pictures of sex online that is made like a movie – it is not how it happens, you don’t have to do those things, that is not what love and sex is really like or about.”

We need to explain to them that pornography is used by people to help them seek sexual arousal or gratification and is made for people’s fantasies and doesn’t represent how sexual relationships happen in the real world.

Especially, we need to make both young men and women know that pornography does not represent respectful, balanced or consensual sexual relationships.

 

Bring your values into it

The best way to deal with these crucial issues of consent, power and expectations is to model and share the values you want your son or daughter to have. Tell them that it is important for sexual relationships to be consensual and to seek consent and ensure any romantic partner is also agreeable to the level and type of intimacy. Model being respectful. Model shared and equal roles for men and women in your household – in all aspects of life – so that your children grow and understand that they deserve that in their own relationships.

Ultimately, in our physical world we have designed it so that pornography is accessible behind closed doors where only consenting adults can see and use it. We have not yet done the same with the online world. If this concerns you, ask companies, politicians and those in positions of influence and power to change the way the internet is structured to ensure online pornography is not randomly accessible by children and young people, but only by consenting adults.