With digital technologies becoming more pervasive for our kids, unexpected encounters with pornography are a reality. It is time to talk about it.
This might come as a shock, but kids are gaining access to pornography at an increasingly young age. A study from the Burnet Institute reported the average age of first exposure to pornography in Australia is declining to a median age of 13 for boys and 16 for girls. The knock-on effect of this early exposure is that teenagers are becoming alarmingly desensitised to graphic (and often aggressive) sexual images or videos.
Author and sex educator Row Murray says it’s naïve for parents to assume their kids aren’t being exposed to pornography. Even if they aren’t actively seeking it, they can be exposed via accidental Googling, for example, and through peer pressure.
“They are viewing it on handheld devices – it’s not on the home PC or school laptop,” Row says. “It’s usually a friend’s device and it’s not at home, but at a friend’s house or in the schoolyard.
“With the pervasive nature of porn, parents need to take a more proactive role in ensuring their kids have porn literacy because it’s warping our kids’ ideas of sex.”
While it might seem overwhelming to have to talk to your kids about porn, Row says there are some clear tactics parents can employ to make the conversation easier.
What to do
- Have the talk: Parents need to have conversations about porn with their teenage kids to reinforce that what the kids are seeing is not necessarily real life. It is important to approach this around the age of 12-13 when kids are starting to view pornographic material.
- Be realistic: Row believes parents need to be very realistic and understand that from the age of seven, kids can be exposed to porn and by the age of 12-13 almost all of them will have seen it or will be viewing it regularly.
- Make sure you’re the right person: While this is an important conversation, Row says parents are not always the right people to have these conversations. It might be beneficial to ask a really cool older cousin or an aunt or uncle to have this conversation with them.