​The average age of a child’s first exposure to pornography is 11-years old, so most parents should consider having the porn talk with their children before middle-school.

The average age of a child’s first exposure to pornography is 11-years old, so most parents should consider having the porn talk with their children before middle-school. In fact, pornographic searches increase by 4,700% during non-school hours, according to Google Analytics.

For many children and teens, their interaction with pornography goes beyond just the casual encounter. Research from NPCC Childline indicates that 10% of children in the 7th grade are watching enough porn to be concerned they may have an addiction to pornography.

Experts believe this is a result of desensitization at an earlier age and mobile accessibility. 

“Young people are turning to the internet to learn about sex and relationships. We know they are frequently stumbling across porn, often unintentionally, and they are telling us very clearly that this is having a damaging and upsetting effect on them. - Dame Esther Rantzen, founder of ChildLine.

Mobile Phones Have Forever Changed Access to Porn

Teens’ ownership of smartphones has been surging, with eMarketer estimating 84% of teenagers will own a smartphone. Smartphones have changed all of our lives by allowing instant access to loved ones through text or FaceTime and instant Google search access for fun or school projects.

This immediate access also creates an opportunity for your children to instantly access pornographic sites – either accidentally or on purpose. Pornhub, one of the nation’s largest porn sites has stated that currently about 72% of worldwide traffic to Pornhub comes from smartphones and tablets.

 

What Should You Do If Your Child Has Seen Porn

First, be careful not to over react or choose language that may cause shame. There is nothing that can be done to help your child “unsee” what they have “seen.” It is also natural for your child to be curious about human bodies, so the best course of action may be to have an age appropriate conversation on pornography, sexting or inappropriate images.

It’s also never too soon to have a conversation about what is and is not appropriate to post online. If your child is old enough to understand, let them know it is illegal to send or receive sexually explicit pictures, videos or pornography of a minor, even if the sender or receiver is also underage.  


How to Start a Conversation on What They Have Seen

Most likely, your child is unaware of how repeated viewing of pornography can create unhealthy perceptions of romantic relationships and how it can have detrimental effects on their brain health. Because of this, it’s important to have an open conversation about what they have seen. Having early conversations about love and sex, that is age appropriate, can help your child embrace healthy and happy romantic relationships in the future.

  • Talk to them about what they have seen without shame or blame. Let them know it’s natural for them to be interested in the human body but ask them questions such as:
    • Does it seem like those people are in love?
    • How can you tell? 
  • If the images your child has seen were sexually explicit or violent in nature, point out to that this type of interaction is not a sign of a happy and healthy relationship. Reinforce the idea that sex is something that should be an expression of love, respect and commitment.
  • Make sure your child is aware that sexting with any minor is illegal. A report by Drexel University states that 40% of teens sext, and of those who do, 61% were unaware their actions have legal life-changing consequences. Additionally, make sure your child is aware of the sexting laws in your state.

 Help your child understand that porn can actually have a negative effect on healthy brain development.


Your Child’s Brain on Porn

The limbic region of your child’s brain during the teenage years is in a critical brain development phase and is particularly sensitive to certain types of stimulation such as pornography, drugs, and gambling. 

The effects of repeatedly viewing porn during adolescence activates the “fight or flight” response which can trigger the hormone dopamine. Stimulation such as pornography tends to release more dopamine causing the brain’s neurons to fire faster craving more of the pornography stimulant.

It is important to recognize the addictive nature of pornography in your child’s brain so that a causal interaction does not become a habit.

 

Other Negative Effects of Your Child Watching Porn

Various studies throughout the years have documented concerns in their research of negative effects that is most likely linked to adolescent’s repeatedly viewing porn.  Some of the key findings include:

  • Desensitization to sexual situations which can lead to acting out sexualized scenes or situations they viewed from the porn.
  • Teens often receive the majority of their sex education from watching porn with no context that introduces the concept of mutual love and respect.
  • Most porn shows the objectification and violence towards women creating an unhealthy view of a sexual relationship.


 It’s not a question of “if” your child will encounter porn, but “when.” The best course of action to support your child when this happens is to keep an open line of communication without any shame.  Having an adult to talk to that they can trust and to address their questions is essential for their healthy transition from adolescent to adult.

If your child feels comfortable having a conversation with you, even if at times it will be uncomfortable and awkward for you both, they are less likely to go to sources for education that could be dangerous or reckless. 

By educating your teens about what a healthy relationship is and discussing when sex is appropriate, parents can help their child to be better prepared when they do encounter pornography.


About ​Chris Rothey

Chris Rothey, President of Zift, is a father of four and enjoys figuring out ways to strike up more conversations with his kids.

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