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Kids watching porn is not the problem
Kids watching porn is not the problem

Kids watching porn is not the problem

The online world has created limitless opportunities for young people to explore pornography.

 • Approximately 94 percent of kids have viewed porn by the age of 14. The average age of first exposure is 8 to 11.

 • Forty four percent of boys and 29 percent of girls who watch pornography say it gave them ideas about the type of sex they want to try.

 • Studies show repeated viewing of pornography can have a desensitizing effect on young people.

 • Studies also show that young people want to learn about sex and relationships the healthy and credible way.

According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 80 percent of teens aged 15 to 17 have had sex for the first time with no formal sex education. 

Only 24 states and the District of Columbia require public schools to teach sex education. In most states, how and when to teach this curriculum is left up to the individual school districts. 

Not only is sex education virtually non-existent in many states, but also those who have programs often start too late or focus on abstinence-only education. And sexual orientation is completely left out of the discussion. Ultimately, kids are educating themselves – often by watching porn.

 • Porn is not the problem – it’s the lack of appropriate sex education.

 • The responsibility for educating our children on sex and healthy relationships often falls on the shoulders of parents. 

 • Let’s face it: kids are going to watch porn and there isn’t a lot we can do to stop it. However, parents can provide accurate information and credible resources for their kids. 

Take a look at what is happening in the Netherlands, for example. It is one of the world’s most gender-equal countries. The Netherlands mandates that all students – starting in elementary school – receive some form of sex education that includes health, tolerance and assertiveness. The objective is to prevent sexual coercion, crossed boundaries and homophobic behavior, and promote inclusion.

Dutch and American teenagers have sex for the first time around the same age, but American teenagers give birth at five times the rate of their Dutch peers. STD rates in America for young people under the age of 25 are more than double that of the Dutch.

Dutch parents, educators and health care workers talk openly with children of all ages about their body, sex and relationships while in the US it still seems almost taboo to talk about human sexuality.

So, when do parents in the US begin the conversation, how do they discuss it with their kids and what do they say? 

I remind parents that it never is too late to begin the “sex talks.” Parents can make a big difference in helping their kids stay healthy and make good choices. I ask parents, “do you really want your kids to learn about sex by watching pornography?” 

Here is some advice I share with parents to help them start the conversations with their kids:

 • Set the tone. The way you introduce the subject for the first time can open up communication or shut it down. Set a goal of what you want to accomplish in this first conversation.

 • Choose the right time and place . Make sure you allow for plenty of time to talk and in a place that is comfortable for you and your child.  

 • To help ensure open communication, keep the conversation one on one , not with the entire family. 

 • Communicate openly and often. Kids need more than a one-time chat with their parents. The talks not only should be ongoing, but also age appropriate. 

 • Educate yourself so you can show your kids that what they are viewing can have a harmful effect on them and future relationships. Find reliable resources they can check out on their own to learn about porn.

 • Don’t provide information overload . Kids don’t want you talking at them or lecturing them. Pave the way to openness and honesty in a nonjudgmental atmosphere.  

 • Listen carefully to what your children are saying and asking. You can learn a lot about what they already know.

 • Be ready to answer questions – calmly, nonjudgmentally, without acting alarmed, and with support. You want the dialogue to remain open. Your goal is to help them understand the harm of learning about sex from porn but also to feel safe in sharing their thoughts. You want them to come to you with questions – not the internet or their friends.

 • Be honest . If you are uncomfortable about starting the conversation, it is OK to share your feelings. They will appreciate your honesty.

Parents are the most influential people in their child’s life when it comes to decision-making. Most teens report it would be easier to make decisions about sex if they could talk openly and honestly with their parents. In fact, teens who talk with their parents about sex are more likely to delay having sex, make healthy choices, and use a condom to prevent pregnancy and STDs.

In the digital world, kids will find porn – deliberately or accidentally. Watching it can confuse, scare and misguide them. Parents can help their children learn about their sexual health the right way. Sex education does not encourage sex; it provides realistic, accurate information about safe sexual practices they will not find by watching porn.

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