Talk to children about porn long before they turn 10, teens warn parents 11 months ago

Talk to children about porn long before they turn 10, teens warn parents

It's a talk most of us are putting off until much later than we should, apparently.

As parents, it is our job to protect children's innocence and their right to not be exposed to things and situations until they are mentally and emotionally ready.

However, as we live in a world where children – on devices – have access to the entire internet at their fingertips, the reality is that many children are exposed to things like pornography long before they should.

In fact, recent studies from the UK shows that half of under-11s have seen pornography.

And this means, parents, that the talk you didn't think you needed to have for years yet might need to happen sooner. A lot sooner.

Recently, the Children's Commissioner for England worked with a group of older teenagers to create a guide on how parents could best deal with sex-related issues – and the conversations – tricky as they may be – need to start, the teens point out, before children get phones.

A panel of young people, working with Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza, shared their advice on the things they wish their parents had told them before they entered the online world.

The overriding message?  These conversations need to take place much earlier.

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"I feel like the best time for parents to have a conversation about porn is a bit earlier for boys than girls," one boy, who was on the panel, explained.

"From my experience of male friends, they definitely see porn earlier than my female friends. I mean like early - Year 4, Year 5, Year 6."

Another one pointed out:

"At that young age you don't really know what's right and wrong and you just follow whatever you see on porn sites."

The report also revealed that many children stumble across pornography online accidentally. And while under the current law, it is illegal for shops to sell DVDs, videos and magazines to under‑18s, there is a major gap in the law around online pornography, which is freely available.

Parents should remain calm

On sexting - the sharing of nude or sexually explicit images - the panel said young people shared these pictures and videos for a number of reasons, such as peer pressure, for validation and as a relationship milestone, as well as a result of coercion or manipulation.

And while it can feel shameful and distressing to parents to realise your child has been sending naked pictures of themselves to others, now is the time to remain calm and approachable, the panel of teens said.

Their advice was that parents needed to be careful not to jump to conclusions.

"A lot of parents might just blame the child instantly instead of trying to support them," one person said.

The report said: "Calmly ask your child open questions, and try to understand the context in which the picture/video was taken and shared. This will help you to work out how to respond."

As well as sending nudes themselves, girls on the panel also spoke about being sent porn by older boys at school.

"This can be scary and distressing and they would like to be able to talk to their parents about it."

"They also feel that parents of boys should be talking about why this kind of behaviour is not OK," the report said.

Online sexual harassment includes pressuring someone to share nudes, forwarding them to others or sending someone explicit content for which they did not ask.