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Parents

Porn For Parents

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Porn For Parents

People worry a lot about young people watching porn. The most important thing is to keep a conversation going.

Why bother?
Although there is a lot of worry about young people watching porn it’s important to remember that many, or even most, young people aren’t interested in it. Young people are more likely to be interested in porn if they are interested in sex and generally this happens at an older age. Also young people are critical and literate consumers of all media – including sexually explicit media.

So why talk to teens about porn? Sadly as sex and relationships education in schools is so patchy young people are often not given a great grounding in how to have mutually pleasurable, safe and consensual sex. The only other alternative for people is either porn, or actually having sex. Neither are ideal. So it’s a good idea to talk about it, just like you would want to teach teens about anything.

What’s right, what’s wrong
There’s nothing to stop a parent from saying what they think is right or wrong, telling their child what they personally think about porn and how they want their kid to behave. However I think this needs to be done within a context of active mediation, an open dialogue about sexually explicit media and really great sex education.

Like most things to do with sex many people can have very powerful and conflicting values about porn. Discourse around porn is also very two sided at the moment so it’s easy to get drawn into a side of being very pro or very anti porn.

My advice to parents is to think carefully about your values about porn and to let your kids know what you think, what your concerns are, what would bother you about them watching porn. But it’s also important to speak for yourself. Not everyone is going to share your values and your values may not tally with what we know from research. Be honest that this is about you and what you think. You’ll also need to acknowledge that whilst your kids may well think that what you have to say is really important, they are also building on their own values.

To give you an idea of some of the areas you might want to think about visit my piece Porn: Is It Legal, Is It Right?

Keep a dialogue open
The best way for any talk about sex is to remember that it’s a conversation. Just shouting and not listening is simply not effective, even if it makes the parent feel better. It will shut down the conversation, the young person will clam up, the parent won’t get any more info from them, the young person will hide their porn consumption, the parent won’t know what they are watching so they will less likely to be safe – precisely the opposite outcome of what the parent wanted to achieve with the shouting.

This active engagement can actually make kids safer online. Research from the extensive ‘EU Kids Online’ project shows that active mediation is the most effective way of reducing the risks of harm for kids online as well as increasing their online opportunities. The more opportunities a young person has online the more resilient they become to risks. Active mediation means talking about the sites they are visiting and sharing online experiences together (though this may be more problematic around porn use). Contrary to what you may have heard, young people broadly welcome parental input in their use of the internet. Link

Keeping an open dialogue means that we can also be alert to red flags. For instance to make sure that someone is not being forced or coerced into looking at images. Also we need to make sure that teens aren’t making and sending their own images. People also need to be aware of the law around the kind of images it is legal to watch (for instance in the UK, you have to be over 18 to watch porn).

Speaking of legality we should be very careful about recommending porn sites to young people. In the UK it’s illegal to show someone porn (for the purposes of sexual gratification) (s12 Sexual Offences Act 2003). Porn can be used as a form of, or in the process of, sexual abuse. Recommending actual sites may be considered a little problematic.

Perhaps a different approach might be to have a conversation about internet skills: how can you tell whether a site is good or not, is a site free, if so who pays for the site, how to deal with pop-ups, how can you trust a link, is it an appropriate site, how can you update the virus software.

Filters can prevent young people from seeing pornographic material and they can be tweaked so that you can block certain sites you wouldn’t want them to see. (Though interestingly research indicates that just using filters is not an effective way of reducing harm for young people online). Search engines also have settings which can be tweaked so that sexually explicit images don’t turn up in results (though young people are pretty good at finding workarounds).

Another way to actively mediate young people’s use of porn, and their use of the internet in general, is to moderate their use of the internet. One of the reasons that I think young people’s use of porn is not as problematic as some people suggest is that many don’t have enough private time to sit in front of a computer to look at porn. This is because they may not have a computer in their bedroom (although increasingly young people do) but also because they are busy doing other things – like using social media, homework, gaming or actually having sex and relationships in the real world.

However prohibiting porn use (or private use of the internet) is unlikely to prevent a porn keen teen from watching what they want. Internet access is becoming increasingly prevalent: a young person could simply watch porn at someone else’s house, or on their phone. Additionally porn and sexual imagery is prevalent on TV, magazines, films and in even in some newspapers.

Do great Sex Ed
Finding out that your kid has started watching porn is also an opportunity to do some seriously good sex education. Young people learn a lot from porn, some good some awful. Unfortunately where young people are not taught high quality sex education, they don’t have the baseline knowledge and understanding to be critical and media literate enough about the images they see. For example boys often say to me that they think women in porn are screaming because the sex is hurting them. I have to explain that this is just bad acting and that sex should feel really pleasurable, not painful.

Being able to talk about porn with kids gives an opportunity to talk about: self esteem, body image, sexual decision making, boundaries, pleasure, consent, orgasm, communication, safer sex, sexual safety, the law, feminism, equality, list and love, emotions, relationships, masculine norms, sex scripts, sexuality and oppression.

Many people’s sex education from parents is simply ‘don’t get anyone pregnant’ or ‘don’t have sex till you’re older.’ Talking about porn is a great way to introduce big topics that young people want to talk about. Asking questions like ‘why does the camera always seem to focus on the woman in straight porn’ or ‘why does sex end when the guy orgasms’ or ‘what do you think about the language used to describe people and sexual activity in porn’ brings up areas that might not otherwise be discussed.

The ability to throw in an open question about porn at the right time can encourage critical thinking, which will stand them in much better stead than simply telling them what to think.

Five quick tips
Talking about any aspect of sex might not be easy and perhaps talking about porn is even harder. However it can be made easier by trying some of the following quick tips:

  1. Try to do more listening than talking. Listen hard, allow the young person to talk about their experiences, concerns, worries, attitudes. Ask open questions to get them to think about what they are seeing and how this compares with real life.
  2. Talk in the third person. Talk about references to porn or sexually explicit material the media. Talk about the politics of porn maybe (‘lots of people think porn is harmful, why do they think that?’) or about sex scenes in TV shows and films, discussing the difference between idealised images of people having sex and real life.
  3. Set boundaries. You could say that you will never ask them a direct personal question about their use of porn and that you won’t talk about your own experiences. You could agree to talk generally about some of the themes in porn rather than what you are both into.
  4. Ask it basket. Put some slips of paper by the computer and a little box to post them in. They can ask questions about what they’ve seen and you can provide answers to them as best you can.
  5. Cheat. Put this website as the homepage for the web browser.

0 Got any other tips?

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© Justin Hancock, 2015

Title: Porn For Parents

Category: Parents

Tags: Parents Porn

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4 Comment(s)

  • Sharrow says:

    Reblogged this on Insane Mutterings and commented:
    Many good points and things to think about.

  • bishtraining says:

    Ace, thanks!

  • jlmjjh says:

    This is a great post and very informative. Nice to read a different opinion about children and porn, thank you for posting.

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