The use of pornographic images is not a new thing, however access to it used to be highly restrictive and accessing it was considered taboo. As practically every home in Ireland has access to the internet, today’s access to pornography is quick and easy.
What age are children accessing pornography?
Parents have great difficulty believing that their child could be accessing pornographic images but the reality is that pornography comes looking for them well before they go looking for it. The evidence indicates that children as young as 9 are seeing pornography online and this develops into them searching for it by the age of 11.
Key studies in the past decade have shown the average age of exposure to pornography dipping lower and lower as technology has become more accessible. Because of this, kids have been facing the realities of online porn at lower ages and in greater numbers. On the whole, chances are if your child is aged 13 or over they have seen pornography, and the question is then, how much?
Why is pornography damaging to young minds?
Contemporary pornography is damaging to young minds because it portrays an unhealthy and inaccurate version of
- sexual intercourse
- what a man desires when he is having sex,
- what a woman desires when she is having sex
It also portrays unhealthy images of
- How a females body should look
- How a males body should look
- How are males expected to perform sexually
- How are females expected to perform sexually
Young people are exposed and learning all this inaccurate and unhealthy information regarding sex and sexual relationships and other evidence indicates that this information is not being combated by healthy information on sex and relationships and intimacy. In Ireland, our constitution states that parents are the primary educators of the children however parents tend to shy away from conversations regarding pornography and sex. Schools are accepted as being the educators of children however schools also shy away from these topics with evidence indicating that many schools do not teach the curriculum content relating to these matters, leaving major holes in what is supposed in the SPHE curriculum.
Evidence indicates that pornography is a drug and affects the brain in the same way that any other drug does. This means that as time goes on, the person using the pornography needs more and more, and harder and harder pornography to achieve the same level of satisfaction-just like any dug. This means that some young people access progressively more hard-core pornography depicting violence, gender based violence, in some cases rape, racial abuse and in some cases moving onto one of the hardest forms of pornography, child pornography. Some researchers talk about how adult pornography is a gateway to child pornography, as addictive pathway in the brain is stimulated, like any drug, the brain will need more of it and harder forms to reach satiation and research suggests that that means child pornography.
Talking about pornography is particularly challenging for parents as their generation did not have as much access to it and therefore retain a lot of shame around the idea, particularly discussing it. However, if we don’t discuss it with our children and young people, we are leaving them incredibly vulnerable in terms of what others may expect of them in a sexual experience, or how they conduct themselves during a sexual experience, what is normal behaviour when we have a strong rape culture, the damage of sexting and use of sexual images-our own, or others. In cases where the use of pornography ends up in accessing child pornography, this can result in a criminal record and potentially detrimental effects on the individuals family and the young person and family whose images have been used in a pornographic manner.
How can I help my child?
- Explore your own values in relation to pornography and identify which ones are likely to infringe on a conversation with your child about this topic. The more you can speak about the topic without becoming offended or upset or disgusted, the more likely your child will engage in a conversation with you. These short videos can inform and support a conversation with your child.
We need to talk about pornography: https://vimeo.com/200804644?embedded=true&source=video_title&owner=5488638
How watching pornography can affect a child? https://vimeo.com/200804489?embedded=true&source=video_title&owner=5488638
How to react to your child seeing pornography: https://vimeo.com/200804153?embedded=true&source=video_title&owner=5488638
- Talk to your children and let them know you support them. Don’t shame them or this will shut the conversation down. Fight the new drug have free templates to support conversations around pornography between parents, children and others such as romantic partners and strangers. It provides tips for navigating this tricky topic.
More information on pornography and its effects are available here.
Let’s Talk About It
Do you find it difficult to have these conversations with your kids?