Do I really need to talk to my child about pornography?
Experts have found that the age of first exposure to pornography has lowered in recent years. With easy access to internet-enabled devices such as smartphones, children as young as 8 years old are getting exposed to pornography. As a parent, you can take a pre-emptive step to protect your child by helping them to understand what are ‘good pictures’ and ‘bad pictures’. Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids by Kristen A. Jensen and Gail Poyner is a child-friendly read-aloud storybook that you can use in the primary school years. Let your child know that if they do come across any pictures or images that they don’t understand or feel confused about, they can ask you about it.
As your child enters their teenage years, you can expect them to start experiencing curiosity about love, romance and sex – which is perfectly healthy! This is also the best time to have an honest and open discussion with your teen about pornography, and the false ideas it portrays. You could say, “The people who are shown in pornographic images do not reflect what most people really look like – they may change their bodies through surgery and other ways to have a more exaggerated appearance. But that isn’t real”. Also, “The sex shown in pornography isn’t real either. The language and the persons’ attitudes towards each other doesn’t show the reality of sex. In real-life, sex is only one part of a healthy romantic relationship, and the two adults will have an attraction to each other’s character and personality, not just their physical appearance.” Have a plan on what your child can do if they come across pornography – first, move away from the situation, and then, speak to you about it.
At this age, your child is getting to closer to dating and relationships – find opportunities to emphasise respect for others and personal accountability. If you haven’t yet, share with them about how pornography shows a false idea of what sex is. You may say, “Real sex is not just a physical act, but involves the real emotions of two people”. Your teen may also perceive pornography use as ‘normal’, not realising its harmful effects. Tell your teen about how pornography has been proven to be addictive. You may say, “Research has shown that porn affects your brain in the same away as other harmful substances such as tobacco and addictive drugs. It triggers the same chemicals in your brain and makes you crave more of it.”
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Check out the Talk about Sex series for more essential conversations with your children.