Online Porn: It’s Time We Talked to Our Kids

Online-Porn-Its-time-we-talked-to-our-kids

My eyes were opened to the danger our society faces with online pornography and its influence on our young people. You may be your teen’s best source of information when it comes to porn; online pornography: it’s time we talked to our kids.

I recently attended a talk given by Maree Crabbe, a researcher and internationally respected expert on the porn industry and how it is affecting children. The harsh reality, as Maree demonstrated, is that porn is a far more sinister and damaging prospect than most of us realise. In fact, the majority of parents have little idea about how destructive it can be.

Mainstream pornography is often dangerous and violent

You see, the truth is the comparatively innocent nude centrefolds of old have been replaced with extreme and often violent depictions of sex.

But the real problem lies in what online pornography portrays as being ‘normal’ behaviour. Women are often subjected to dangerous, violent and downright degrading acts. Physical and verbal aggression is depicted as being entirely normal, and even desirable.

And this is mainstream porn we’re talking about here, not some offering from the shadiest corner of the dark web.

The potential is there for any child to easily, and anonymously, access it on their smartphones and tablets. And with the average age of kids getting their first phone now just 10 years old; this will be a frightening prospect for most parents.

In fact, according to Crabbe, up to 90% of boys have viewed online porn by the age of 16, and an incredible 63% are accessing it on a weekly basis.

69% of sexually active young people have received a nude, or nearly nude, image of someone else.

Indeed, most youngsters are now using online porn as their primary source of sex education.

Sadly, what this means for today’s generation of young men and women is online porn has blurred the distinction between fantasy and reality. And it serves to normalise violence and aggression, particularly against women.

Online Porn It’s Time We Talked to Our Kids-Pin

It’s time we talked to our kids about online porn

Now, online pornography may not be the easiest topic to broach with your kids. Let’s face it, it’s an uncomfortable and embarrassing conversation for most of us, and probably a subject that’s avoided altogether.

But we can’t stick our heads in the sand and hope for the best. With New Zealand’s very poor record in family and domestic violence involving females, this is a societal issue we simply can’t afford to ignore.

So, what can we parents do?

After all, these are our precious boys and girls we’re talking about. Ultimately it’s our responsibility to do something to protect our own children. And this means we sometimes need to have those awkward, but absolutely essential, conversations with our kids.

If your teen is anything like mine (a monosyllabic, grunting hermit!) how do you start those all-important conversations?

Take advantage of a captive audience

Is a big chunk of your weekend taken up with providing a taxi service for your teenagers?

Then use the time they are trapped in the car with you en route to a sports practice or mate’s house and start off the conversation. They can’t easily worm their way out of the discussion when stuck inside the car. And don’t give up on the first attempt – sometimes multiple conversations are needed rather than just a single one.

Talk about the experiences of their friends

Sometimes teenagers find it easier to talk in general terms rather than personal ones.

Try starting off your chat by asking them what their friends are doing, what their experiences of online porn are. Taking the heat off them as an individual can see your teenager open up in surprising ways.

Use their communication channels

The everyday world of modern teenagers is vastly different to the one we experienced, so try to see things through their eyes.

YouTube, Instagram and podcasting are all new sources of entertainment for most teens. Find some educational vids, social influencers or podcasts that speak to teenagers in their language about the damaging influence of online porn, and the difference between what’s real and what’s fantasy.

Here’s 5 more great tips from ItsTimeWeTalked.com.au:

Limit their exposure

Young people’s access to pornography is mostly via technology, so limiting exposure will require limiting and managing their access to technology. For example, keep devices out of bedrooms and put a time limit on use.

Encourage critical thinking

We need to teach young people to understand and critique what they’re seeing. Media is often created to promote something as desirable and communicates messages about power, gender, age, class and culture. By discussing the underlying messages different media portrays, you’ll help your children learn not to let media unduly influence their thinking.

Equip them with skills

We need to help young people develop quite practical skills about what they could say and do to protect their wellbeing in situations such as when they experience peer pressure to consume porn or an intimate partner initiates unwanted porn-like sex. Remind your children that it’s never okay for anyone to pressure them to do anything sexual and affirm you will support them however you can.

Inspire them

We can model good practice by engaging in just and respectful gender relations in our homes, extended families, schools, communities and work places. We can seek to encourage ways of thinking and talking about sexuality that include communication, consent, mutual pleasure and respect.

Become an advocate

Talk with friends, family and other parents about the influence of porn and become an advocate for education about pornography at your child’s school.

You now have some practical tips for how to talk to our kids about online pornography. The bottom line is that no matter how you start the conversation, make sure you talk to your kids. We need them to know they can talk to us. And it’s up to all of us to work together to put a stop to the destructive, caustic influence that online porn pervades.

For more expert advice on teen health, check out our Teens: Health and wellbeing section.

Helen Borich

Helen Borich is a Director at Write Solutions Copywriting, Editing & Proofreading Services. A mother to three teenage children, Helen has a keen interest in the influence of social media and online behaviours on our young people. She has explored a number of themes in articles for the NZ Herald among others.

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