It’s been said that we are the first generation that must talk to our children about pornography. Like many, you may not feel ready to have that conversation. You may even wonder how relevant this issue is to your own kids. Explore the answers to these five important questions and we promise you will be ready to start talking today!
#1 —Are my children really at risk of being exposed to pornography? The answer is YES. Research demonstrates it is not a question of IF… but WHEN children will be exposed to pornography.
- 11-years-old is the average age when kids are first exposed to pornography.
- Nine out of ten youth between 8 and 16-years-old have been exposed to pornography.
- 80% of unintentional exposure to pornography occurs at home.
- There are more than 3200 deviant forms of porn available online.
- Research shows that minors do encounter materials online which depict: anal sex, group sex, physical and verbal abuse of women and children.
- The porn industry aggressively targets children and teens by blitzing social media with vulgar pop up ads, sending them provocative emails, and giving their favourite cartoon and anime characters erotic narratives.
#2 —Why should I be concerned if my child sees pornography? There are various reasons for asking this question; but there is one irrefutable answer to every situation. Science has shown that pornography affects the brain. This is serious cause for concern —especially during childhood and adolescence when the brain is in a natural period of intense growth and development.
- Viewing sexualized images floods the feeling centre (limbic region) of the brain with the same chemical rush it can get from illicit drugs.
- Pornographic viewing habits can form in as little as one exposure to hyper-sexualized images.
- Children who view pornography have been known to act out sexually towards younger children.
- Over time, viewing pornography will rewire the frontal lobes —the reasoning area of the brain.
- Over time, viewing pornography will change a person’s sexual set-point —meaning the individual requires more explicit imagery to become aroused.
- Pornography addiction can be harder to overcome than addiction to hard drugs.
- Pornography addiction claims both male and female users.
- Pornography provides a distorted view of sexual intimacy and reinforces stereotypes of male domination and female subordination.
#3 —Won’t talking with my children about pornography just make them more curious to go out and find it on their own? This is a valid question and probably the number one reason parents shy away from this conversation with their children. Yet, the answer is an unequivocal NO.
The truth is, pornography will find our children whether we talk with them about it or not. Like cigarettes, alcohol, and narcotics, pornography is a dangerous and highly addictive substance. Parents have an ethical responsibility to warn, teach and protect children from these risks during their formative years.
- Children are naturally curious; it is how they learn. Curiosity combined with the fact that all humans are biologically inclined to be attracted to sexualized images acts like a powerful magnet. A child who sees pornography will often want to return to look again and again.
- A child will feel a strange mix of emotions when exposed to pornography. This may include any or all of the following: pleasure, fear, anxiety, stress, excitement, or shame. Leaving children to deal with these emotions on their own is unkind and negligent.
- Without being coached to speak up about traumatic online experiences, children are most likely to keep their exposure to pornography a secret, even when the experience causes distress or anxiety.
- Children who have been taught to tell a trusted adult when they have been exposed to pornography know they have a safe emotional outlet they can turn to for help.
- Children who learn to define pornography early and understand its dangers are more likely to respond responsibly when exposed to it (i.e., look away, tell a trusted adult).
- Children can be taught to reject pornography.
#4 —When should I talk to my children about pornography? The answer to this one is easy. Start today! If your child is old enough to use a smartphone, tablet or computer then it’s time to start the conversation.
- Move away from the concept of “The Talk”. Rather work to create an ongoing and layered conversation about privacy, modesty, and healthy relationships within the context of daily life.
- Reinforce with children that the body is very good. Because bodies are so special they should be protected and treated with respect.
- Encourage your children to direct the content of the conversation by first asking what they think about the topic you want to discuss with them.
- Ask your child to define what he thinks the word pornography means. Help your child fill in the missing pieces.
- Create a simple but accurate definition of pornography. Here is an excellent example from the read aloud book Good Pictures, Bad Pictures by Kristen Jenson:
“Pornography is pictures, videos, or cartoons of people with little or no clothes on…Pornography shows the parts of the body that we keep private—like the parts we cover with a swimsuit.”
#5 —I know my children are vulnerable to online pornography but how do I start this conversation? You are not alone in wondering how to get started. It can feel intimidating to forge new ground like this. Just keep in mind that you are THE BEST PERSON to talk to you own kids about pornography. To get started, find a resource you can relate to, then bravely open your mouth and start talking. Here are some resources we love!
- Good Pictures, Bad Pictures by Kristen Jenson, in her read a-loud book for young children, shows us how to help children create an internal filter and learn to reject pornography.
- Not sure how to break the ice? Educate Empower Kids has got you covered. Check out 30 Days of Sex Talks and How to Talk to your Kids about Pornography,
- Creating an Internet Safety Protocol with your family is a simple way to get everyone talking.
- Learn more about pornography addiction and how it changes the brain. Fight The New Drug has done extensive research in this area. Check out their easy to navigate website.
- Overcoming a habit of pornography use is difficult. Fortify is an accountability program for teens and adults that will guide you every step of the way.
The birth of the Internet in 1993 was a game changer for the porn industry. Today, with wireless Internet and handheld devices, hard-core pornography can be accessed by anyone, almost anywhere.
There are currently no protocols in place to prevent and protect children from exposure to online pornography. The porn industry is more than happy to keep it that way. For them, younger viewers mean longer lifetime subscribers. In other words —a bigger paycheck for them!
Parents today often find themselves scrambling to keep up. Sadly, many families are now trying to help children reverse months, or even years of damage caused by repeatedly viewing pornography. The end cost isn’t worth delaying the conversation until we feel more comfortable. Our children are waiting for us to stand up and protect them today.
We would love to hear back about how you have started the conversation in your own family! Please contact us!
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