Helping Parents, Families, & Caregivers

Pornography: 6 Tips For Talking To Kids About Porn

Pornography
Photo Credit: Tyler Merbler

If you had to talk to your kids about pornography would you be ready? Would you know how to explain porn and sexting? If not, don’t feel bad as you can join the millions of other parents who struggle with this topic and hope to never have to discuss it.

What makes this topic 100 times more important to discuss with our kids today is the new trend of kids sharing pornographic photos with other kids. This is sometimes done to get back at someone or to reduce their social status (“revenge porn”). Sadly, our kids are largely uninformed about how pornography, sharing photos, and sexting can harm them in the long-term. In fact, our kids fail to recognize that pornographic images are not “time limited” (i.e., only available as long as the photo is online or on someone’s phone), harmless (i.e., believing that no one but the receiver will see the picture), and acceptable (i.e., especially if no one find out).

Although our kids today are extremely tech savvy and smart, they may not be as smart as they’d like to be about technology and the negative consequences of the World-Wide Web. This article will briefly review this ongoing problem among our youths today.

NOTE: when I refer to “kids” or “child”  in this article, I am referring to both children and adolescents. These terms are used interchangeably.

Despite tools to monitor access to pornography, why is sharing photos unsafe for kids?

Most kids today hope that the images or messages they post online will be visible to the person they intend to have the message or image. They believe that if the image or message is erased, no harm can come of it. What kids often fail to realize is that pictures remain online for long periods of time and even when deleted from the platform it was posted to (or deleted from), it is still somewhere out there online. In fact, Google is often a sneaky culprit. You can search Google for almost anything (even “deleted” information) and can find it without a problem. Unfortunately, because of our kid’s lack of knowledge about the truths of the Internet and their social media sites, some kids need to be monitored.

A modern “tool” for parents was created by a psychologist, known as TeenSafe,  who wanted to make online engagement for youths safer by allowing parents to monitor a child’s cell phone usage. Parents can install the “gps-like” device on the kid’s phone to “track” interactions and receive alerts when inappropriate behavior is occurring on that child’s phone such as sexting or posting inappropriate pictures. Parents can also retrieve deleted information.

Despite tools like TeenSafe or parental controls, sexting and access to pornography is a growing public health concern. Many mental health professionals are trying to figure out the best way to educate families and punish/deter youths involved in viewing or distributing child porn.

Child Porn is not just sexting, it is distribution:

Child porn is the distribution of nude pictures of under age individuals. What adults need to keep in mind is that sexting is not just sharing a nude picture with someone the teen may know. It is engaging in and distributing child porn. Child porn can be viewed by any pedophile online. In fact, some pedophiles search Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or other social medial platforms used by teens to find vulnerable and unwise kids sharing nude pictures. Even if a child does not post the nude picture themselves, others might. On many social media platforms, users can right click an image and download it to their computer to alter or share it. There is ABSOLUTELY no privacy or safety online for kids anymore. It is safer if kids keep all personal photos, especially those pictures which show more skin than usual, among trusted friends and family.

Adults should address youths maturely and kindly

Take the first step to ensuring your child is not being influenced to engage in unsafe exposure of their bodies is to talk to them about it. Even if your child is not engaging in the behavior discussion should still occur between you and the child. Some ways to ensure your child is safe is listed below. There are tips for how to start the conversation and what to do following the conversation.

How to start a conversation:

  1. Being casual but firm: You don’t want your child feeling overwhelmed by you bursting into their room or stealing their phone to see if you can find any trace of porn or sexting. You want to let your child know you respect them and only want to ensure they are safe. If you decide to install TeenSafe, you may find it helpful to have an open discussion with your child that you think this service may be helpful to the safety of your family.
  2. Working to maintain your relationship: After you have your discussion or express your concerns, do something to keep you connected. For example, go out for pizza, go shopping, play a game, catch a movie, or do something similar together. You want to build a relationship with your child, especially if you are concerned they may be pressured to engage in sexting or the sharing of nude photos. If the child feels close to you as the parent, they are less likely to be pressured by peers.
  3. Getting comfortable with the topic of pornography: It has been a long complaint among parents that the “sex” talk is the worst part of parenting. I agree. But it shouldn’t be. You should see this conversation as a healthy way to give kids information on how to have healthy relationships, when the time is right or appropriate. Wouldn’t you want your child to understand sex from your perspective and not from the jaded perspective of uninformed peers and sometimes even other adults? You don’t have to barge into their room saying “time to talk about sexual behavior.” But you can offer to answer questions or bring up the topic, casually. We’re adults and we should be able to talk about this subject in a respectful and helpful manner with kids.

What you can do to help:

  1. Getting rid of smartphones or using parenting controls: I hate to say it but kids DO NOT need smartphones. Can they have a flip phone? Yes! A flip-phone (despite how embarrassed your child claims they will be) is a great way to avoid all the smartphone traps and still provide ways for kids to communicate. This, of course, should be a last resort option for your family. A smartphone can be “the devils workshop” with all of its apps and sophisticated tools. Kids can survive without a smartphone. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to the smartphone if you must. Some parents make is very clear that they will only purchase a smartphone when the child shows a consistent level of mature behavior.
  2. Leading by example: Kids may not talk to you about romance or relationships (or even sexual topics) but you can point out positive examples. For example, instead of directly broaching the topic of sexual behavior, you can find opportunities to discuss it. You can comment on inappropriate behaviors found on social media, in movies, or in other aspects of life. If you and your child are watching TV and Ariana Grande comes on with an inappropriate dance move or lyric, use that opportunity to ask your child how they feel about that and how their peers may feel about it. Also, don’t be afraid to lead by example by using your own marriage as an example of trust, love, and respect.
  3. Gauging values and views on romance: It can be very difficult to talk to younger people, especially your kids, about romance or dating. But if you don’t talk about it, they will either assume things or talk to others who may have skewed perceptions. It’s okay to watch a movie and then ask your kids how they would respond or how they view relationships in the movie. It is okay to ask your child, during a relevant game, questions about his or her friends to help you understand how they relate in the world. In other words, search for opportunities to discuss relationships and values.

Call to action

Now that you know the dangers of social media and porn, what do you think your next move should be? Are you going to broach the topic with your child? Are you going to use TeenSafe or parental controls?

Do you have any ideas about this topic? What would you do as a parent?

Looking forward to your thoughts, concerns, or stories.

   
As always, I wish you well
Tàmara 
 
Share