kids and porn

The Sex Talk and Your Teen: What’s Porn Got To Do With It?

Written on October 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm , by

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman offers advice on having “the sex talk” with kids for Planned Parenthood’s Let’s Talk Month.

Pornography: It’s the reason kids are uncomfortable talking to their parents about sex.

That’s what immediately came to mind when I read the Planned Parenthood and Family Circle survey finding that while half of all parents are comfortable having the sex talk with their kids, only 18% of teens said they feel very comfortable having the sex talk with their parents.

I thought this because I regularly talk to tweens and teens. I know how common it is for them to have questions about sex, so they type “kissing” into YouTube and a few seconds later they’ve clicked onto a porn site. I know that boys regularly show each other favorite porn sites—like their dads did with Playboys and Penthouses a generation ago.

According to Family Safe Media, the average age at which children are first exposed to pornography is 11—earlier than most parents think they need to talk to their kids about sexual decision making. Ninety percent of kids between 8 and 16 have seen pornography, usually while doing their homework.

Before you think, “Where are the parents?” or “Why don’t those parents have filtering devices on their computers?” realize that both questions are irrelevant. Kids have regular access to devices that allow them to research and share topics they’re curious about. And sex has always been and always will be a topic kids are curious about.

If you’re a parent and don’t know any of this, you’re going to approach the sex conversation from an entirely different context than your child. Imagine: You get over your discomfort and sit down with your child to impart your deeply held values about healthy sexual decisions—without keeping in mind that there’s a good possibility they’ve seen graphic, up-close sexual intercourse and oral sex.

Of course kids don’t want to tell us they’ve seen these images. What are they supposed to say? If they admit what they’ve seen, you’re probably going to respond by asking in a very intense, accusatory tone, “Who showed you those? Where were you? What exactly did you see?” They don’t want to have that conversation with you. Plus, they think if they tell you, you’ll react by taking away their phones or computers.

You can have all the filters on your computer you want, block the TV and take away their phones—it won’t matter. You can’t take away every portal to the Internet in your child’s life.

This is what I say: ”I know that if you want to see those pictures, you’re going to figure out how to do it. I could take away every computer in the house and every phone and it wouldn’t make a difference. Here’s why I don’t want you to watch porn. It brings you into a really complicated world where you’re being exposed to really messed-up images and messages about how men and women interact sexually. It’s also all fake. It’s a performance where women are supposed to look a certain way and always like whatever the guy wants to do and the guy never cares about the woman he’s with. I think you deserve to have more accurate information than what you’d see there. But you do have the right to have information about sex in a way that’s accurate and appropriate for you. If you have questions about sex, I want you to ask me or another adult who we both think is a good person to answer your questions.”

As a mom, it upsets me that I have to raise my children in a world where pornography is readily accessible to them. As a teacher, it upsets me that porn is giving our girls and boys unrealistic and often very unhealthy messages about sexuality that will influence them to some degree. But as upsetting as it is, we have to face what our world is like and respond in an informed way. If we don’t, we can’t be relevant in our children’s lives when they need our guidance the most.

Read more about having “the sex talk” with your teen here.

Rosalind Wiseman helps families and schools with bullying prevention and media literacy. Her book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” inspired the hit movie “Mean Girls.” She writes the Ask Rosalind column for Family Circle, and blogs about parenting tweens and teens on Momster.com.