Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

When Should I Talk to My Kid about Porn?

Amy Lang and Jo Langford, two sex educators from Seattle, bring you their own unique, real-world advice to help you brave up and embark upon these important conversations.

de0f.jpgAmy: Yesterday!

Jo: I know, right?! Depending on the age of your kid, there’s a good chance they’ve already seen it. With the average age of porn exposure right now being 10-and-a-half or 11, the kid that makes it through middle school without seeing it is now extinct. In fact, most kids have seen pornography by the time they enter puberty.

Amy: Porn is a harsh fact of modern tween life. Sadly, for us as parents, we have to talk about it before we are ready, which means starting that conversation around 7.

4fn6.jpgJo: Easing into the pool for younger kids, for sure. The biggest issue I have is the information kids glean from it – they think that’s how sex is supposed to go. They don’t think they can drive a car after playing Mario Kart, but they think they know how to “do” sex after watching porn.

Amy: (laughs) Easing into the conversation is simply saying there are pictures and videos of naked people doing sexual things on the Internet.

Jo: So I guess they should know what “sex” is by then, too …

Amy: Oh, yeah! AND – just be clear – be clear with them that it is not OK for kids to look at that stuff, because sex is not for kids. I’m curious, Jo, what you think about older kids in terms of damage? I think it messes kids up!

Jo: Using it as sex ed is the biggest problem I have with it. AND, it can also really interfere with creating and maintaining relationships. Incorporating porn into an already-established sex life as an adult is totally different than creating a sexual lifestyle out of porn – which is what I see happening more and more.

Amy: And we think of porn as being a boy problem, and really it’s a problem for girls as well. Girls access porn, and we can’t forget that girls could develop parts of their sexuality and body image based on porn stars, too.

Jo: And the boys who are looking at the porn contribute to this. These kids are navigating a totally pornified culture. It’s everywhere. Sexting for example – girls take pictures of themselves in those poses and send them to the boys so frequently, because they think/know that’s what the guys will respond to.

Amy: You can’t assume your kids won’t see it anymore. It’s not an “if” at this point, it’s a “when,” and the sooner you talk about it the better.

Our Bottom Line

  • Assume your child will see porn at some point, and don’t be afraid to address it directly.
  • Start conversations about what they may encounter online at around age 7.
  • Have active conversations about adult vs. child content by age 9.
  • Discuss real world vs. fantasy sexuality and relationship factors by age 12.
  • Parental controls are your friend.

Jo Langford is the author of The SEX EDcyclopedia, the only modern guide to healthy sexuality for boys and their parents. He is also a dad, a Master’s-level therapist and sex educator for tweens, teens and parents, in Seattle, Wash. More about his work with youth, parents and professionals to promote healthy, positive and safe sexual behavior can be found at his website, www.beheroes.net.

With Amy Lang’s help and support, parents discover that talking to kids about “it” doesn’t have to be scary, overwhelming or tedious. Through her Seattle business, Birds + Bees + Kids,® Lang helps parents of all beliefs have easy, open and effective conversations about sexuality, love and relationships with their kids. Learn more at www.birdsandbeesandkids.com.

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