5 Things Your Child Needs to Know About Porn

5 Things Your Child Needs to Know About Porn

By Amanda Grossman-Scott

When we were children, we had encyclopedias and dictionaries and we would giggle as we looked up words like “penis” and “sex.” That satisfied our curiosity because that’s all we had. Today’s children have the world (wide web) literally at their fingertips. If they typed either of those words into search engines, they would receive an unprecedented flood of results. They need to be prepared for what’s out there, because while it’s possible to limit your child’s exposure to pornography, it’s unlikely that they’ll never see it. Here are some things your child needs to know about pornography.

  • It doesn’t represent reality or healthy relationships.

It’s often filled with domination and aggression, whereas real-life sex is about the sharing and (hopefully!) love. Porn sex never addresses birth control, STD prevention, relationship issues, or emotions, which are all vital in real-life sex. Instead it features strangers “hooking up”. Pornographic images are always airbrushed; they’re not what actual people look like. Help your child become media-literate by pointing out that nearly all images of people are altered.

  • Curiosity about sex is normal.

Your children should know that it’s okay to talk to you about pornography and should feel comfortable coming to you with questions, and that you are their best source for information, not friends or the internet. If your child has seen pornographic images, ask how it made them feel. Explain that these images are meant for adults, not children. Use educational resources (like anatomy books for children, safe websites or articles like this) to answer questions and satisfy curiosity. Never make your child feel ashamed for being curious.

  • It’s addictive.

“It…lodges itself into your mind, like a parasite sucking away the rest of your life,” explained 16-year-old Malcolm in a 2007 study and who reported spending three to four hours each day on pornography. As with any other drug, addicts become obsessed with getting their next fix. In a statement before Congress, Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and physicist, warned about the effects of pornography: “It is as though we have devised a form of heroin 100 times more powerful than before, usable in the privacy of one’s own home and injected directly to the brain through the eyes.” This addiction can begin with just one look, but it doesn’t have to. Address the issue and figure out the best way for your family to handle it.

  • It’s damaging to relationships.

Children who are exposed to pornography young are more likely to experiment with sex earlier, have low self-esteem, and have unhealthy relationships later in life. Children who habitually view pornography often become secretive and withdraw from social and family life in order to watch it. Some feel ashamed and don’t know how to stop; others act sullen and don’t want to stop. If your child has been viewing pornography, try to handle it with a level head. “Kids listen to how we say things almost more than what we actually say,” says Elizabeth Schroeder, executive director of Answer at Rutgers University.

  • Children deserve to have their sexual experiences untainted by pornography.

If they spend their adolescence watching it, what will their expectations be for a real-life relationship? Will a boy expect to dominate his partner, having sex whenever he pleases, no matter what his partner wishes? Will he feel unfulfilled and continue watching pornography even when he’s in a relationship? Will a girl strive for the perfect porn body? Will she degrade herself by participating in sex acts she doesn’t desire, wanting love and acceptance? Children deserve to see themselves and their partners as natural, beautiful individuals, not as the thousands of altered images they’ve seen before they’ve ever actually experienced sex. Help your children know that they are more than a set of sexual organs for someone else’s gratification; they are better than porn wants them to believe.

It’s important for your children to hear these things from you because you are their most trusted source for information. Remember that the “sex talk” is not a one-time event. It’s an ongoing, ever-evolving discussion as your children grow and mature. You probably won’t have advanced warning when the questions come, so arm and prepare yourself. Your child is worth the effort.

For more information on this subject, check out our book How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography. It is also available in Spanish.