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Worried about your child and online porn?

Worried about your child and online porn?

It’s no secret that pornography is readily available online. Should you be worried about your children accessing it?

Parents text content

Many parents worry about online porn - its easy availability, the nature of the content and the effects it can have on young people. 

The good news is that, despite the worrying picture, there are things that parents can do that make all the difference. 

Understanding why

Young people access pornography online for many reasons.

They may actively seek it out for pleasure, stumble across it as a result of another search, or be shown it by a friend.

Whether they’re a boy or a girl, adolescents are likely to be curious about sex and with pornography so easily accessible it's natural they might use the internet to explore this.

Should I be worried?

For many young people, accessing pornography will have little or no impact on their long term development.

It is important to know, however, that pornography can have unhealthy consequences for young people.

What does science say?

There is now a substantial body of research into the impact of pornography on sexual attitudes and behaviours.

Read more about it on the NSPCC website

Parents text content

It's important that you're aware of what research has found about the potential impact of pornography on young people:
  • Watching porn often makes real-world sex less enjoyable
  • Porn often makes people feel less happy in their relationships
  • Porn can lead people to think about sex a lot more. This can make it harder for them to enjoy their friendships and other interests.
  • Porn can lead to people viewing others, especially women, as ‘sex objects’. This means we only see other people as things to have sex with, not as people with intelligence and feelings. This means we respect them less. Everyone gets less out of life and relationships if this happens.
  • Over time, porn can shape the types of things you get turned on by. There’s some pretty weird porn out there so if you train your brain to be turned on by the things you see, you could have trouble enjoying real sex.

Ways to respond

If you have found out that your child has been looking at pornography, stay calm and try not to respond in a way which may distress them. Remember, children will already feel embarrassed, especially when speaking to their parents about this.

Reassure them that it’s ok to be curious about sex and use this as an opportunity to talk about sex and healthy relationships.

  • Offer support. Tell your child that they can always speak to you if they have questions or are worried about anything they have seen online.
  • Reassure them. Tell them it’s normal to be curious about sex and to find sexual images and videos exciting. Explain why pornography isn’t a good way to learn about sex and show them other sources of information like Brook.
  • Keep it real. Make sure they understand that what they see in pornography isn’t what real sex is like. They shouldn’t compare themselves or their boy/girlfriends to the actors. Explore the young person's Thinkuknow site with your child. 
  • Don’t put them on the spot. Try to take out some of the awkwardness by not making questions too personal. Ask your child what they think other young people might think about pornography, or talk about a news story about a celebrity who has shared sexualised content online.
  • Put it in context. You could discuss how easy it is to access pornography today. Ask your child about what pressures young people face because of this.
  • Signpost to more supportBrook is a fantastic source of advice on sex and relationships. For older teens TheSite.org also has a wealth of information about sex, relationships and more. Children can always talk to ChildLine if they want to talk to someone confidentially.

Parents text content

Can I stop them from viewing it in future?

Although you can never guarantee that your child won't be able to access pornography there are things you can do to control access within your home and on your child's devices. 

There are many useful ‘parental control’ products which parents and carers can use to limit what their child is exposed to on the internet. You should consider using them to restrict access to pornography, particularly if you have younger children. 

They come free with most contracts with UK Internet Service Providers (ISPs). You can find out how to set them up across all the devices in your home with this interactive guide from Internet Matters

Remember, parental controls are only part of the solution. The best thing you can do is talk to your children about healthy relationships, maintain a trusting relationship and help them manage their thoughts and feelings about the things they might see online.