The huge amount of online pornography online means that children who use technology are likely to see sexually explicit images and content. Children may seek out this content, or that they may accidentally come across it. The accidental viewing comes because advertising on websites can unknowingly lead children to explicit sites. This advertising is regularly seen on many children’s sites and apps, but not all.
Pornography sends messages that can negatively affect both boys and girls. Regularly viewing pornography can affect the way they understand sex, their body, the role of each gender, and the ability of all children to form healthy relationships.
Talking to children about pornography
It’s important for parents to talk both your sons and your daughters about sexually explicit content. You can help protect your child from the possibly damaging effects of pornography by talking with your child about what pornography is.
You might feel embarrassed talking with your child about pornography, but it can just be part of talking about sexuality and respectful relationships. And it’s the best way to protect your child from the influence of pornography.
What to say
You could start talking about pornography when your child is around seven years old, but it depends on how mature your child is, whether you think she’s ready and how she uses the internet. For example, if your child is using free children’s games sites, which often have sexualised advertising, it’s a good idea to talk with her.
If your child has seen pornography, it’s important to let them know that it’s normal and OK to be interested in sex and sexuality and that they not in trouble. If they have questions about sex and pornography, try to answer them as honestly and openly as you can in an age appropriate way. You do not need to go into explicit details.
Teens may think that pornography shows them what sex and bodies should look like. They don’t always understand that the sex in pornography is not like real sex – it focuses on the mechanics of sex and not the feelings and relationships. You can explain to your child that actors in pornography are being paid. So they have to look like they’re having a great time even when they’re not – and even when the sex is violent, disrespectful or made to look non-consensual. And real bodies aren’t the same as porn actors’ bodies. For example, the actors might have had their bodies modified or enhanced in various ways, just like in magazines and ads on TV.
I’ve written factsheets for Raising Children Network on what to say in these conversation for all age groups.