Kids and Porn – What Parents Need to Know

By Guest Blogger Kristen Daukas, Thought Leader on Social Media, Technology and Parenting Teens

I’m not sure exactly when porn first became a thing in the world, but I do remember the first time that I came across it. It was one summer while I was visiting a family member and just happened to come across a stack of magazines in their garage. I don’t think I was more than 8 or 9 and when I decided to check it out, I had no idea what I was getting into. I remember being in awe at the images that were hidden between those covers and it was inconceivable to me what they were for.

Fast forward a few years to high school and the opportunities to get our hands on porn was a little bit easier. All you had to do was find a tape or a video store with a “secret” back room or  someone with an older brother and you were in business. I’ll never forget my freshman year when my high school made national news because someone in the senior class decided to ‘edit’ the tape Annie and splice in a pornographic scene that was showing for an assembly. That assembly was definitely one for the memory books and to this day I’ve never seen faculty run so fast to stop a tape.

Today, however, our kids have to do very little to find porn – either because they’re looking for it or they just innocently come across it. And needing a credit card to get access to it? Forget about it. There is an abundance of sites (including YouTube and Tumblr) where they can access it all for free.

What are the dangers of kids watching porn

Studies have been done and the statistics are alarming. One study revealed that 51% of males and 32% of females claimed to have viewed pornography for the first time before they were 13 years old – many of them before the age of 9. There are concerns as to the alarming rise in the number of young men experiencing ED (Erectile Dysfunction) because of too much exposure to porn. When teens take part in stimulating or potentially addictive habits, such as porn, there is a flood of dopamine to their brain. Eventually, the brain becomes rewired to crave the same effect – essentially, they crave more and more porn to get that same ‘happy’ feeling. The more they watch, the more desensitized they become to what they’ve seen in the past and continue to look for more and more graphic imagery to keep getting that rush.

Some of the other problems with exposure to porn:

  • Concentration problems
  • Low motivation
  • Depression
  • Social anxiety
  • Negative self-perceptions (physical appearance and sexual functioning)

Another big concern with kids watching porn is that it sets a very unrealistic image of what love and a healthy sexual relationship look like. It’s the equivalent of thinking the body images our kids are served by the media is the way girls (and boys) should look like and nothing could be further from the truth.

How can parents keep their kids safe from porn?

As parents, our primary concern is to keep our kids safe from anything that could possibly harm them, but it can be a daunting task when it comes to anything related to the internet and technology. There is just so much out there that they can get access to and every time you find something, the next day there is something else to be worried about. While you can’t watch their every single move, there are things you can do to limit the chances that they can get to porn on their own will or by accidentally stumbling on it:

  • Install filters on all computers in the house that blocks sites that have porn
  • Monitor the shows, video, and computer games that they’re watching and playing
  • Don’t let kids sleep with their phones in their rooms – especially the younger ones
  • Install monitoring software on their computers and devices
  • Consider not letting them have computers in their rooms but rather in a central location
  • Coach them on what to do should they stumble on a site that has porn
  • Install software that blocks ads and popups – a lot of porn sites are hidden behind seemingly innocent ads marketing videos and games to kids who play them

How to talk to your kids about porn

Wow. Talk about an uncomfortable conversation, huh? But it’s a conversation that you must have. I always say that I want to be the one that my kids get their information from. While they may not seem to listen, at least they have something tucked into the back of their heads to internally reference when their friends are giving them their version of “information”.

Experts agree that the conversation should begin around age 9 – maybe earlier if they have older siblings. As with all conversations with younger kids, keep it simple and discuss until they stop asking questions or stop showing interest. A good starting point is to tell them about something you read or saw on the news or even tell them a story about the first time you saw porn – like the story that I opened this article with.

If you have teens, the conversations need to happen regularly as most teens, by the age of 16, have already been exposed to more hard-core types of porn. Teens especially need to understand the concept I mentioned earlier – that porn is not what actual love and healthy sexual relationships look like and that there is a difference between healthy and unhealthy sexuality. Don’t expect this to be a long, drawn out conversation… the likelihood of either of you being able to handle that is small. Just little snippets at a time should be enough to give them something to think about and process.

The most important thing when it comes to this discussion (or any big ones like this) is to remember to never judge them. If they admit or if you discover that they’ve watched porn (chances are great that they have, remember?), keep your poker face on and have an honest and mature conversation. Like many things, how you react to them in these situations will determine how open they are to you.

And the one thing we want is for our kids to be very open with us. Especially with the big things like this.

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Thank you, Kristen for this insight that so many of us need to know! Readers, be sure to check out Kristen’s blog at www.kristendaukas.com. You can also visit her website here for more valuable advice on the topic of children and social media. 

 


3 thoughts on “Kids and Porn – What Parents Need to Know

  1. Jessica

    This is a great article and such a necessary conversation. You would not believe the things my *4th grader* tells me kids talk about at school that they’ve seen. And tell each other to go watch!! Parents, if your child has access to a smartphone or other device that is not locked down – or a friend’s device – chances are they’ve seen porn. This is one of the reasons I don’t allow sleepovers. Because there are too many kids with their own phone who will say, “Now that the parents aren’t here, let’s watch ___ on YouTube!” And the parents have no clue. It’s so damaging to our children.

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  2. Anonymous

    Good Lord – this topic completely scares me. I agree it is a good idea to come right out and ask your child if he/she has seen this, and have that conversation. That is a tough one, but you offer great advice on how to approach. I want to know if they know, but then again, I don’t. Thank you for bringing this topic to the forefront. Great blog topic TMoM!

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