Talking to your child about pornography
For Family & Friends, Teachers, Workers
Children entering puberty and adolescence may be curious about sex and sexuality. They may hear things in the playground and they might want to know more – but asking mum or dad can be embarrassing, so they turn to online information, which can include pornography.
While having these conversations may be difficult or uncomfortable it is important to maintain these discussions, otherwise your child may seek out information from less reliable sources.
Children as young as 9 are being exposed to pornographic images and videos, so if your child is of this age or above, it is vital to introduce this sort of discussion.
Tips for how to start these conversations with your pre-teen
- Build trust – investing time in your relationship helps your child feel loved and accepted. Discussions about sexual matters will be more effective when you have a trusting relationship.
- Prepare – figure out what you want to say and how you want to say it. Plan ahead and make a discussion outline for what you want to talk about.
- Take the time – one on one is the best environment for these sorts of discussions, being in a neutral environment can make things more comfortable for both parent and child.
- Ask lots of questions – avoid lecturing, instead have a discussion in which you ask lot of questions. This will help avoid your child tuning out or becoming defensive. If you know that your child has been exposed to or is viewing pornography, it is best to let them know this, rather than get mad at them for lying.
Beginning the conversation
These are some questions to get the conversation going, letting them know that you would like their opinion on the topic – reassure them that they are not in trouble
- What do you know about pornography?
- Do any of the kids at school ever talk about it?
- If you had seen pornography how did it make you feel? (children at this age may feel “yucky” but they may also feel curious or scared.
- What do you think is the best thing to do if someone tries to show you pornography?” - Let your child suggest some options. Discourage them from seeking it out, or looking at it if someone does show it to them.
- Can you tell me what you’ve seen? – Let them know that pornography often teaches unhealthy attitudes and behaviours towards sex. You can discuss how some pornographic content can be detrimental (lack of respect and consent, violence and dangerous sexual practices).
You might talk about your ‘house rules’, to avoid your child's exposure to these sites, such as not deliberately visiting these sites, avoiding searches with potentially dangerous keywords, using devices in open areas at home and not behind closed doors, being offline by a particular time of night, and any other ideas they can think of. You might want to update ‘safe search’ on all devices and let your child know if you plan to install device-level filters that can block adult content.
Let them know it’s okay to come to you if they have any questions.