Parenting

Your Teen Or Tween Is Probably Watching Porn—Here’s What To Do

A friend, as he was handing me two pornographic DVDs almost 20 years ago, told me this: “No one buys porn. You just acquire it.” I realize there were holes in his statement, but for me it was true. It still is. From my early teen years, to that mid-20s exchange, to this past summer when a hotel desk clerk opened the browser on my phone to enter the WiFi code and saw an unclosed tab to a free porn site instead of a search engine, I have never purchased the porn I consume. To be clear, I don’t watch a ton of porn, but it’s something I enjoy from time to time. And because I was snooping around my parents’ bedroom when I was a curious kid looking for dirty magazines, I fully expect my kids to do the modern day online version of this when they are older.

A University of New Hampshire survey reported that before they were age 18, 93% of male college students and 62% of female students revealed they had viewed online porn. Another study concluded that 42% of 10-17 year old internet users saw online porn. This study also pointed out that 66% of those viewers said it was accidental or unwanted exposure. If you have a tween or teen, they are likely watching porn too. Here’s how to handle it.

Check In Without Shame

Perhaps you “stumbled” across your kid’s internet history or overheard them to talking to buddies about things they could have only learned by watching porn. There are lots of free porn sites, folks. With lots of categories and lots of stuff to see. If your kid has access to the internet, they have probably found porn. I suspect many parents would panic and try to shut that shit down. Don’t. Monitor your child’s internet use with parental filters, but know that they likely have unrestricted internet access with some of their friends. Use this as an opportunity to have a really important conversation about sex and sexual identities.

We want our kids to ask us questions and come to us with tough topics. As hard as it is, if we can find a way to be comfortable when talking about sex, we will allow our kids to be more comfortable too. If you haven’t had the sex talk yet with your tween, do that now. If you haven’t had it with your teen, also do that now. If you have had the talk with your child, have it again. Kids talk about this stuff and if we want them to get the correct information, we need to be the ones giving it.

A teen who is comfortable talking about sex doesn’t necessarily equate to one who is having lots of it. But hopefully it will lead to safer sex because they have been given accurate information.

So if you discover that your child is viewing porn, instead of yelling at or punishing your child for what truly is a normal and natural rite of passage, ask them questions. Find out why they are watching it. Most likely it’s out of curiosity. They want answers, and if they aren’t getting them from their teachers or you, they will find them—accurate or not—in other places. Our schools’ sexual education is failing our kids, especially our LGBTQ students. Teens know there is more to sex than abstinence and penis-meets-vagina intercourse, and they’re naturally going to be curious about what all is out there.

So, as parents, it is our job to be informed. Don’t just put a blocker on your WiFi and assume your kids aren’t watching porn. This is denial and it helps no one, least of all your kid. Ask your child if they have any questions about what they have seen. Leave space for them to admit what they don’t understand or what doesn’t make sense. Or even what seemed interesting to them. Do your best to not be uptight, and be prepared to listen. Be prepared to not know. And be prepared to learn together. Oh, I get it. It’s awkward as fuck to Google “reverse cowgirl” with your 16 year old, but at least you are both informed.

Again, curiosity doesn’t have to mean action. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy survey done in 2010 found 13% of young men 15 to 22 said porn influenced their decisions about sex; this was also the same number of men who said sex education influenced their decisions.

Elizabeth Schroeder, a sexuality education expert says this: “There isn’t a true causation of ‘I saw this in porn, and therefore I’m going to do it.’ Are there examples of that? Absolutely. Just like examples of kids who saw this violence on TV and … acted on it, but there are so many kids who see the same kind of violence or porn and don’t act on it that we can’t really say there’s a causation.”

When I was a teenager, same-gender sex was never discussed in health class. I knew I was queer at an early age, so I turned to porn and poorly made girl-on-girl romances to see what my version of a sexual relationship might look like. Ask your kids what kind of sex they are curious about. Are they trying to find representation? You may have a queer kid and finding their porn history may indicate something about their sexuality or gender identity. Tread lightly if they haven’t come out to you yet. Let them know you love them unconditionally, but do not force them out of the closet.

Educate Without Shame

After gathering information, you will want to stress a few things to your child. First of all, make sure you get a sense how much time they are spending watching porn. Be clear that school work, extracurricular activities, family time, and friendships should not be put at risk or damaged because of the amount of time watching porn.

It’s also a good idea to let your teens know that what they are seeing are romanticized ideas of sex, fetishes, and unrealistic expectations—especially for women. Women like porn too, but most of it is made for men and the videos often show women in positions of submission and being used at a man’s discretion. Lesbian porn, or threesomes with two women, are made for men’s consumption and are not accurate portrayals of what most queer women want when it comes to sex. Let your straight sons know that what they are seeing isn’t necessarily a product of healthy and loving sexual relationships. Don’t shut down the porn, per se, but shut down the idea that women are their playthings.

Not only could tweens and teens see unrealistic sexual relationships, they will likely stumble across illegal abuse and rape. Gang rape, child rape, and other awful acts of depravity can easily be seen. There is a dangerous side of pornography that needs to be addressed too.

This should lead to talks about protection and consent. A lot of porn does not include birth control or STD protection—condoms and dental dams are not part of foreplay or intercourse in pornos. However, they must be a part of our child’s sexual experiences. Consent is a must, too. Whether your sexuality active son or daughter is having standard, missionary style sex or engaging in other kinky acts, there has to be agreement on both sides. There also has to be an understanding that protection is non-negotiable and if one of the people involved decides they are not comfortable, then game over. Consent happens before, during, and after sex.

Oh, and tell your kid to avoid the pop-up adds. That shit will wreck your phone or hard drive.

Kids will acquire the information they seek. Make sure you help them navigate sex in all its forms, porn included.

Sites like Planned Parenthood and Sex, etc., a site for teens by teens, are great resources for you and your child to get the information needed to make all of this a little easier to talk about and a lot safer to do.

The post Your Teen Or Tween Is Probably Watching Porn—Here’s What To Do appeared first on Scary Mommy.

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