Today I want to respond to a sincere question I received on a recent blog post. The reader brought up a concern that I’ve heard several times before:

Won’t talking to kids about pornography make them even more curious to search it out?

The answer is: I don’t think so. I doubt anything you say could make kids more curious about seeing naked bodies than they already are. But if they do go looking for pornography, they will at least have some warning about the potential damage it can do to their brain.

And although I only have my life experience as a mother to back me up on this, I believe that the kids who are going to go seek it out because you warned them it was dangerous are the same kids that learn 95% of everything they know from their own (sad) experience. (At least they’ll go seeking it having learned that it’s dangerous versus most kids who have no idea.)

I believe the other kids, the ones who learn by instruction or by observing the sad experience of others, will be much better protected if you talk to them early.

puzzled momXSmallSo here’s the choice:

Teach your kids about pornography and risk increasing their curiosity about it

OR

Say nothing and take the risk that your children will develop a lifelong addiction to Internet porn, affecting their future relationships and employment, as well as allowing the porn industry to provide them a warped and premature sex education.

Kids are curious, but we still warn them about all kinds of other dangers. Do parents feel that warning kids about the dangers of smoking or doing illegal drugs will propel them to seek these things out? I don’t think so.

The Effects of Porn on Kids

Studies show that a majority of kids are exposed to pornography by age 11, and that age is falling as more and more kids get mobile devices. Research out of England reported that 75% of teachers worry that “easy access to hardcore pornography through mobile phones and the internet is damaging their students.” A third of those teachers surveyed believe that the majority of their students ages 16 and under regularly viewed hardcore pornography.

As a result, these teachers are seeing the results:

  • Children as young as 11 are becoming over-sexualized and feel under pressure to “perform sex acts.”
  • Overly sexualized language is “becoming the norm” among students
  • “Awful” behavior of boys towards young women is attributed to watching pornography.

In the end, I believe what really helps kids to stay away from pornography is the open and informative discussions they have with their parents or other trusted adults. (For some ideas about how to get started, see my post “Porn-Proofing: Where Do I Begin?”)

But this begs another question: Do you need to explain sex to a child before you warn them about pornography?

I’d love to get your feedback on this question.

Have any of you warned your kids, even in a very simple way, about “bad pictures” or pictures of people “without clothes on” before you’ve talked to them about sex? How did it go and how did you feel about it?

Kristen Jenson
Kristen A. Jenson is the founder of Protect Young Minds and author of Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids. Kristen enjoys speaking, writing and anything else that will help empower kids to reject pornography. Kristen earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, and a master’s degree in Organizational Communication. Kristen currently lives with her husband in Washington State, where she enjoys growing a vegetable garden, watching Masterpiece Theater, and taking long walks with friends who tolerate her incessant talking about you know what. Above all else, her husband and three children are her greatest treasures.
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