Talking to your child about porn: age-appropriate conversation starters – Sex Education Australia

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As your child gets older and has more independence online, the conversation should evolve to incorporate more nuance and support your child’s critical thinking.

Recent research from Common Sense Media found that 45% of the US teens surveyed thought pornography provides helpful information about sex. Statistics like this can be a good starting point for a conversation with teens about how pornography might be helpful or relevant and how it might also be misleading and harmful. You might say:

  • ‘I’ve read a recent survey that says young people think pornography provides helpful information about sex. I wonder what you think about this?’
  • ‘Some people say that porn can be a safe way for young people to explore their sexuality. What do you think about that?’
  • ‘Commercial, mainstream porn has a lot missing that doesn’t send a good message, and has things in it that also aren’t good. It’s important to remember that while porn sex is real sex, they are performers being paid, and usually heterosexual porn is centred around male pleasure, doesn’t show consent being asked for and given and doesn’t show safer sex practices like using condoms.’

You can discuss how pornography doesn’t always show people consenting or engaging in sexual acts that would be pleasurable in real life, while the bodies in porn do not reflect the diversity of bodies and genitals. It may also be helpful to approach the topic from a mental-health perspective. Watching pornography regularly can wear down the brain’s dopamine reward system and contribute to depression; talking with your teen about pornography’s effects on the brain can help them manage their mental well-being (to make it easier, we’ve written about the effects of pornography on the brain here). You might start the conversation by asking them what they know about how our bodies use dopamine (rather ironically, this is a pretty popular topic on TikTok, so they’ve probably heard of it) and whether they know about pornography’s effect on the brain

Talking about pornography with your child isn’t something that just happens once; parents should check in regularly about pornography and technology use as part of an ongoing—and evolving—conversation about safety and healthy relationships.

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