How to Talk to Your Kids about Porn

A father and son in a hug

When it comes to porn culture, there is a lot to consider when trying to keep your kids and teens safe. Below are a few tips on how to keep your kids safe and how to talk with them about porn.

1. Know your own feelings. When talking to kids and teens about porn, the first thing to do is examine your own understanding and beliefs about the topic. This is important because our personal belief system plays a huge role in how we communicate information. Do you watch porn? How much porn are you watching? How do you think porn represents men? How does it represent women? What is healthy sex? Does porn represent healthy sex?

2. Learn the facts. Porn today is not what it was in generations past. Today’s porn is easily accessible and filled with themes of domination, rape, humiliation, and hurt. It is important to be familiar with the porn that kids and teens are exposed to and the ways in which they are accessing it.

3. Be proactive. Approach it before it becomes an issue. Talking to kids and teens early about appropriate and inappropriate digital media, technology use, and intimacy a must. It’s easier to be proactive than to react to something that has already become a concern. Encourage your kids to come talk to you if they encounter sometime online that they feel is inappropriate. These conversations can be preventative and arm them to further exposure.

5. Internet safety. A big part of keeping kids and teens safe is monitoring what they are browsing and watching. Kids and teens should not be surfing the internet without supervision. Let your kid or teen know that there is material online that you do not want them seeing. Kids and teens benefit when parents and adults are monitoring what they are accessing and using parental controls. Let your kids and teens know that visiting porn sites is not acceptable.

6. Devices. Computers, game consoles, laptops, tablets, smart phones, OH MY! It is important to be monitor and place parental controls on the devices your kids and teens are using. Monitoring app downloads, social media, gaming, messaging, texting, and email is something that should be done regularly. Tell your kids it is important for you to have usernames and passwords for all social media, and that you will check routinely as a way to keep them safe. Discussions about sexting and sending or posting inappropriate content are a must!

7. Teach about sex. Sex is a curious topic and one that kids and teens research often. Sex is something that is naturally wired within us, and kids and teens want to understand and explore it. The more honest and educational you are about sex, starting at a young age, the less likely your child or teen will look for answers elsewhere. And if they do, they will likely be more critical and discerning of what they find. Being open and honest with kids and teens about sex helps to protect them from believing in harmful myths.

8. Consent and boundaries. When talking to your kids and teens about sex and porn, teach them about healthy boundaries and consent. Tell them about the importance of having trust with the people they are or plan to be close to emotionally or physically. Let them know they always have the right to refuse to be touched or to do sexual or intimate things that make them feel comfortable. Also, when a partner says “no,” it means “no,” and they must respect others’ boundaries.

9. Let’s Talk Media. Talk with your children about the different sexual messages that are portrayed in the media. From the degrading and sexual exploitation of girls to the hyper-masculine pressures put on boys, talking about these media messages is a crucial part of keeping kids and teens safe.

10. Use teachable moments and listen. If your child comes to you about pornographic material or if you catch your child or teen looking at pornographic material ask questions and do a lot of listening. As parents and adults, the best thing we can do is to ask questions to understand the “why” and listen when our kids and teens give the answers. It is likely that your teens will not want to have an in-depth conversation about the topic, if this is the case enlist another trustworthy party to have a more in-depth conversation.

11. Do not Shame. Sexuality is a most malleable thing, mixing sexual curiosity and shame is never a good thing. If your child or teen feels shame or guilt about their sexual thoughts, curiosity, and drives, you will be very unlikely to hear from them when legitimate issues arise.

12. The Brain. Childhood and adolescence is a very tricky time for the brain. Not only is the brain under construction (the prefrontal cortex, which controls impulsivity, is not completely developed), but the neuroplasticity of the brain is at an all time high (meaning “what fires together, wires together”). This means the brain is extremely impressionable and children and teens could become preoccupied or addicted to porn.

13. Know the warning signs. For some kids and teens, especially teens, it is important to know the warning signs of potential porn preoccupation or addiction. If you find your child or teen spending ours at a time on any sort of device, skipping meals or activities, spending a lot of time in their room, staying up late, locking their door, it might be time to look through their search history or have a talk. If any evidence is found, it is important to go back to tips 10 and 11, use this as a teachable moment and ask questions and discuss without condemning or shaming.

14. Seek help if needed. If you are concerned that your child or teen has been harmed by exposure to, consumption of, or participation in pornography, talk to a trusted mental health professional. Young people often need professional therapeutic and social support to help them talk about and heal the harms they have experienced through pornography.

©Kristen Horvath-Broda LPC-CR
Signature Health Inc./ Culture Reframed