Have you spoken to your tween about porn yet? Here's why and how
Thanks to the wonders of technology it has never been easier for young children to see porn online – accidentally or otherwise. Here's how to have the other "talk" with them.
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To say that porn is everywhere might seem like an exaggerated statement, but the numbers don't lie. 

According to their annually released statistics, major porn site Pornhub, which offers free pornography, found that during 2017:

  • 28.5 billion people visited their site,
  • 595,482 hours of pornographic footage had been uploaded to their platform (which amounts to 68 years!), and
  • South Africa made Pornhub's list of top 20 countries who most frequented their site. 

And that's just one website. 

Birds, bees and smartphones 

You may be wondering why all this would matter to parents of tweens who may not even have gotten around to explaining the birds and the bees, let alone introducing the subject of porn? Our kids are innocent, and good, we reason.

The answer lies in one of the most popular inventions of the last few decades — the smartphone. 

According to American research, the average age a child receives their first phone is 10.3 years old, and access to a smartphone means access to the Internet, where 2 out of 3 children aged 10 to 17 come across porn online completely by accident (another study found).

This could be via run-of-the-mill internet searches or while innocently watching video content on YouTube or other social media sites. 

Or it could be intentional: a UK report revealed that while the majority of young kids come across adult content unintentionally, there is a small percentage (3% of children in primary school) who actively seeks out x-rated content. 

Needless to say, the impact of seeing porn at a young age can be detrimental. Years of research proves that early exposure to sexual images may stimulate children to try sexual acts with other children, impacts their development and identity, and molds their sexual beliefs and morals. 

Considering all these findings, the need to prepare your child for this becomes essential. 

But where to begin? 

We asked clinical sexologist and psychotherapist Catriona Boffard to share the correct way parents can approach the subject.  

How can parents approach the topic of porn with their pre-teens? 

First and foremost, without shame and judgement! Try to create a safe, non-judgemental environment for your children so that they feel safe to open up and talk to you about their concerns. It is in no way an easy topic, so try to remain objective and stick to the facts, giving them permission but set suitable boundaries.

Curiosity about sex is completely normal, and with the (frighteningly) easy access to porn on any device at any time, it’s better to have this talk with your kids before they see something violent, scary or particularly unusual. 

Are there specific bits of information we could highlight when having this talk?

Yes there are, such as explaining what porn is (people acting out sex), that is isn’t a true depiction of what sex is really like, that it's not appropriate for tweens to be watching. 

What kinds of questions should we ask our tweens about porn? 

You should ask your tween if they know what porn is, if they’ve ever seen any and if they have any questions. Even if they say they know what porn is, do still explain it (don’t assume a yes means they really know). 

What should we avoid when having this discussion with our children? 

Avoid blaming, shaming and naming! Try not to discharge your anger at the situation onto your child: this will only lead to shame and guilt. Be aware that the way you handle the situation can have a profound impact on your children, so it’s important to remain objective and open to any questions they might have. Your reaction can help shape your tween’s understanding of sex and how they develop sexually as an individual. 

Should we approach it differently for boys and girls? 

When talking about porn to your tweens, it’s important that the same information is relayed to both boys and girls: porn is acting and it’s not a real depiction of what sex is like between two consenting adults. Unfortunately, in porn women are often degraded and objectified. Ensure you explain to your tween that real sex shouldn’t be like this. Remember to set clear boundaries with them, but give them permission to ask questions and be curious about their sexual development. 

Has your tween accidentally seen porn online? What did you say and how did you explain it to them? Tell us your story by emailing to chatback@parent24.com and we could publish your letter. We'll keep your letters anonymous.  

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