How to Talk to Your Tween or Teen About The Risks of Porn

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I try hard not to think about how much porn my children have been exposed to. But in reality I know it’s a lot more than I’d seen when I was their age (which was about none). And we also know that today’s porn is much more stylised than the stuff that was doing the rounds in the 80s.

Think Instagram filters but in porn mode.

But it’s not just about how porn looks today. It’s also the type of porn that is becoming prevalent. We’re talking hard core violence, degradation and misogyny – all of which can have a massive emotional and mental impact on young people who are exposed to it regularly.

The problem is that hard core porn is everywhere, and it’s impossible to shield your children from it as long as they – or someone they know – has access to the internet.

A recent UK study found that 65 per cent of kids aged 15-16 had viewed pornography online. And most of those 15-16 year olds had seen it by the time they were 14. This is especially scary when you consider it along with another study that found boys who are exposed early to pornography are more likely to express desire to exert power over women.

But most parents know very little about how much, and what type of, porn their kids are exposed to. And they have no idea of how different today’s porn is from the almost demure Playboy centrefolds of our youth.

Psychologist at the University of Arkansas Ana Bridges found that 88 per cent of scenes from 50 of the top-rented porn movies contained physical aggression towards women, and 48 per cent included verbal abuse or name calling.

It’s disturbing to think what message that sends to young men and women about their roles and relationships. And studies show that the younger a boy is when he is exposed to pornography, the greater impact it can have on their templates, behaviours and attitudes towards women.

A 2011 study of American male college students found 83 per cent had seen mainstream porn over the past 12 months, and those that had seen porn were more likely to say they would commit sexual assault if they knew they wouldn’t get caught. Another study of young teens found those exposed to porn earlier in their lives were more likely to be perpetrators of sexual harassment two years later.

And it’s not just young men being affected. A study of university-aged young women found those whose male partners watched porn reported having lower self-esteem, diminished relationship quality and lower sexual satisfaction.

The big question we all want answers is: what can parents do?

It’s natural to want to sit your kids down right now and lecture them about the dangers, and ban them from ever looking at porn online. Some of us might even want to burn the internet to the ground and go back to simpler times.

Or then there’s the option of sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting, “I’m not listening,” until it all goes away.

If only…

The most important thing parents can do is encourage open and honest communication with their kids, according to Gail Dines of Culture Reframed, a program that teaches parents how to help their children “build resilience and resistance to hypersexualised porn culture”.

  • Culture Reframed says important topics parents can cover include:
  • Pornography doesn’t represent “real sex”.
  • Porn can trigger a range of emotions, and that’s perfectly natural.
  • There is often a power imbalance between men and women in porn.
  • Just because something is arousing doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good.
  • Porn can rob you of your imagination.
  • Great sex includes emotional intimacy, which is usually missing from porn.
  • Women are not sexual objects or toys who exist to please men.

Culture Reframed has various references, resources and courses for parents and teens to tackle the cultural effects of porn. If you’re concerned about your tween or teen’s exposure to porn, it’s a great place to start.

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Being a mum to 3 kids (one of them full time at home with me) and trying to juggle everything became pretty crazy.

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