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PORN AND SEXTING
Countering the impact of porn on children’s attitudes & behaviour and navigating sexting 

The facts about porn

  • 57% of teens age 13-17 sought out porn at least once a month (Fight The New Drug, 2017)

  • Almost 9 in 10 scenes in porn contain violence against women
     

  • Reports of child-on-child sexual abuse almost doubled from 2013 to 2017 (Telegraph, 2017)

The facts about sexting

  • 1 in 4 teens worldwide have received a sext before age 18

  • One-third of child-abuse imagery is now self-generated, with the majority of images being taken in the home, most often in a child’s bedroom. This includes primary-school children (from the NSPCC)

I WANT TO… safeguard my young child by talking about porn

What?

Explain that they might find scary or disturbing images online of naked people that they don’t want to see and that could hurt them. Say that this is called porn and, like sex, it’s for adults 

Why?

You might be worried about saying too much, too little, the “wrong” things or having it be uncomfortable. What’s important is that you are talking & there for your kids

How?

Know your own values & attitudes. Practise an exit strategy with your children: “Click away. Close your eyes. Think about something else. Talk to a trusted adult to help sort out your feelings”

  • Talking to kids about porn is incredibly hard. But try. Even if you find it uncomfortable, don’t ignore their questions, and talk about it regularly over time. Tell young children that porn is pictures, videos or cartoons with people with no clothes on. Let your children know why you think it’s a bad idea that they see porn.

    • It can hurt their brains and affect their ability to love others or make them feel bad about themselves.

    • It can train their brains and feel addictive, like a big magnet, and make them feel they don’t want to or can’t stop watching.

    • Porn doesn’t show healthy relationships, kindness, respect, different kinds of bodies, people empowered to have their own boundaries, says Protect Young Minds

  • To define porn, say… 

    • “You are growing up, so I think you are ready to talk about a really important thing. I know I can trust you to make good decisions when you understand how important it is”

    • “We have fun sharing our family pictures. But sometimes people share inappropriate pictures, videos or cartoons that show people without any clothes on. That’s called pornography. Have you ever seen anything like that?”

    • “In our family we only take our clothes off at home, in private or when we need help from someone like Mum, Dad or a doctor. Sometimes you might see pictures of people who are not wearing any clothes. When that happens, we look away and tell Mum or Dad straightaway. We can help you know what to do and how to feel better”
      (from 10 Easy Conversations by Protect Young Minds – free resources available here)

  • Tell your child that if they come across something online that upsets them they should close the window and talk to you about it. Reassure them that you won’t be angry. Curiosity is natural and part of growing up

  • When they first see porn, children report a mixture of emotions, including curiosity, shock and confusion. Those feelings diminish the more they watch it (“I Wasn’t Sure It Was Normal To Watch It”, NSPCC, 2017) and an adult can help them process those feelings

If children are curious, they will go down the rabbit hole. If they know what porn is, they may not go so deep into that rabbit hole

Anya Manes, educator and founder of Talking About Sex

  • If your child has seen porn, ask them if it made them feel “sick in the tummy” or “yucky”. Validate their emotions: assure them that you might have felt the same way if it were you in that situation. Remember to manage your own mood and continue to stay calm, as your child will mirror your emotions (from the COMPOSE Yourself technique – Calm, Ownership, Mood, Parent, Override, Strategy, Evaluate – from Culture Reframed)

 

  • Protect Young Minds lays out the steps children age 3-6 can take: Turn. Run. Tell – the CAN DO plan for children age 6-11 available here along with conversation starters, definitions and more. ​

 
I WANT TO… talk to my older child about porn

What?

Encourage the use of your teenager's rational brain by discussing the effects of porn analytically: emphasise the facts.

Why?

Porn is like a car chase vs real driving. It’s narrows young people’s possibilities for fantasy and sexual development.

How?

Contextualise and demystify porn. Encourage critical thinking about its manipulations, and what it doesn’t show: safer sex, mutual pleasure, intimacy, closeness, consent and respect

  • Normalise speaking openly about porn. Challenge yourself and bring it up whenever it seems relevant  – if you’ve seen something, if it’s in the news. Make sure your children know it’s not an off-limits topic
     

  • Why do young people look for sexual content online? To learn about sex and sexual identities, curiosity, for sexual arousal and pleasure, for “a laugh”, to break the rules, to be disgusted, to “freak out” friends and peer or relationship pressure (Online Porn, NSPCC)
     

  • Critical thinking and digital literacy are important ways to counter and demystify porn. Talk with your kids about how years of watching porn before they’ve even held hands with another person might affect young people in their real-life interactions (setting up unrealistic expectations and lead viewers’ developing sexuality and fantasies down roads they might not have gone down).​​​

If you don’t have the conversation about porn, the pornographers will. The best protective factor for anything to do with kids is having well-educated, skilled parents on the topic. Are you really going to hand your children over to the porn industry and let it decide their sexual templates? With my son we started scaffolding from a young age, saying: “You have to make decisions about watching porn. How do the images make you feel? Aroused. But when you’re finished, how do you feel? You will be the author of your sexuality. Porn will steal your sexuality and that’s an awful thing to give away”
 

Gail Dines – How To Talk To Kids About Porn podcast (June 2018)

  • The COMPOSE Yourself technique for when you’ve discovered your child has seen porn: 1) Stay CALM 2) Help your child take OWNERSHIP 3) Explore their MOOD 4) PARENT them 5) OVERRIDE the situation 6) Have a STRATEGY 7) Check in and EVALUATE – from anti-porn parent programme Culture Reframed

I WANT TO… bring up sexting with my child

What?

Teach your child to stand up for themselves if they are being pressured to be involved in sexting. It’s better not to trust anyone with your nude image. Discuss consent & coercion – and encourage resilience & critical thinking 

Why?

Young people can be pressured into sending a nude picture. Once they’ve sent it, it’s out of their control. Positive motivations can include increased self-confidence positive body image and flirting.

How?

Ask your child what is going on in their school and talk in a general or hypothetical way about the possible consequences. But also let them know that you will be supportive and understanding

  • Ask your child if people at school are sexting. Make sure they know that once they send an image, they will have no control over who sees it or where it ends up. Blackmail and bullying can result. It’s also part of their digital footprint and embedded online.

  • The other side of the story is: It’s never OK to sext, send nudes or share images without consent. When a nude image is shared without consent it is a betrayal. Trust has been abused and the sharer has behaved without empathy, kindness, consideration and respect for others.

What is sexting?

 

Sexting (or “sending nudes”) means sending sexually explicit messages, photos or videos. Though sexting by under-18s may be classified as child pornography, it can be considered a way to explore and express sexuality

Why do teens sext? To join in because they think “everyone is doing it ”, boost their self-esteem, flirt and test their sexual identity, explore their sexual feelings, get attention and connect with new people on social media. They may find it difficult to say no if someone asks for an explicit image and is persistent

How to talk to children about the risks of sexting – and what you can do to protect them (NSPCC)

  • Ask open-ended questions in a non-judgmental way, including hypotheticals: “What would you do if you get a nude picture?” “Do you think it was right for Nassim to share that photo with a friend?” Discuss any sexting news stories using opportunities from the media to start conversations

  • Make it clear that you’ll be supportive and understanding, advises the NSPCC 
     

  • So You Got Naked Online is a resource for young people. You can find more sexting info and advice for young people from ChildLine here which includes Zip-It, an app that provides witty comebacks in order to help young person say no to requests for naked images

 
 
More help with #Porn&Sexting
thinkuknow.jpeg
Aimed at kids age 14+ but brilliant for parents, this is excellent discussion – from the National Crime Agency’s CEOP command – about how porn is misleading and can influence on real-life sex, including scientific explanations  Go to Thinkuknow >

THINKUKNOW

Concise tip sheet to help parents have open, honest conversations about relationships, sex and porn from the FPA  Go to Let’s Talk Porn >

Let’s Talk Porn | FPA

yourbrain.jpeg

Inform yourself by watching videos – there’s one for kids too  Go to Your Brain on Porn > 

YOUR BRAIN ON PORN

The Culture Reframed Parents Programme is a complete best-practice toolkit which they say will help you raise porn-resilient kids; see also the Parents of Tweens Programme  Go to Culture Reframed >

CULTURE REFRAMED

Fight the New Drug.jpg

Fight the New Drug exists to raise awareness of the harmful effects of porn using science, facts, and personal accounts. Go to their conversation blueprint tool and choose “My child” to get prepared  Go to A Conversation Blueprint 

A Conversation Blueprint | FIGHT THE NEW DRUG

Remember: every child is different. Adjust these suggestions for the age and stage of your child. Children with special educational needs and disabilities, looked-after children and children who have experienced abuse may all need different support.

If you’re in doubt about your child’s development, you should seek the advice of a professional

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