The internet has made it a lot easier for children and young people to access porn online. Most online porn is free of charge and doesn’t require any kind of age verification. Children may stumble upon the content accidentally or may look it up intentionally out of natural curiosity.

As a parent, it’s normal to feel concerned about the effect seeing porn may have on your child. Although it’s not always easy, the best thing you can do to help keep your child safe from some of the dangers of pornography is to talk with them about it early and often.

To help you out, we’ve put together some key things you might want to talk to your child about in relation to online pornography.

Things to talk about:

Porn vs reality

It may seem obvious to you, but a lot of young people don’t realise that porn is not usually the same as sex in real life. Research shows that when young people think porn is similar to reality it can impact their self esteem, body image and mental health. You might want to talk about the fact that many porn actors may have altered their appearance and that porn scenes are heavily choreographed.

Consent and respect

Research shows that a lot of online porn shows scenes that include sexual aggression, and that it’s rare for porn to show scenes that include the actors clearly giving consent. Porn also frequently shows sex as being about one person’s enjoyment over the other, rather than something that both partners can enjoy equally. It’s important to talk to your child about how consent works and the importance of mutual respect.

Peer pressure

It’s common for teenagers to feel pressure from their peers to ‘fit in’ and pressure to watch porn can be a part of this. Talk to your child about the fact that they don’t have to do or watch anything that makes them feel upset or uncomfortable – even if they feel like everyone else is doing it. Let them know that they can always talk to you if they are worried about something they have seen online or if they need your help.

Addiction

Although over-consuming porn is not technically classed as an official addiction in New Zealand, there is evidence to suggest that some people can become overly reliant on watching online porn. It’s a good idea to talk about about the fact that some young people can use porn to avoid things in their every day life and or in a way that makes them feel unhappy or out of control. Let them know that if they are concerned that porn may be impacting their every day life then they can talk to you about it. If they don’t feel comfortable talking to you about it let them know there are other support services such a Youthline who can support them.

Let them know they can talk to you

It’s important that young people know that they can always turn to you if they need help with something that is happening to them online. You might also want to talk to your child about making an online safety plan about what both you and your child would do if something were to go wrong online and they needed help.

What to do if your child has seen something online that has upset them:

If a young person comes to you about something they have seen online, the most important thing you can do is take what they are saying seriously. Try to stay calm and provide them with comfort and reassurance. Make sure you them know that they did the right thing by talking to you about what they have seen. You can view our advice for Helping Young People Exposed to Upsetting Content.

Online filtering systems:

Although online filtering systems can seem like an easy solution to the problem of young people accessing sexual or upsetting content, research shows that most filtering systems are relatively ineffective in stopping young people seeing online porn. If your child is young, a filtering system may be more effective in keeping them safe from upsetting content but it’s important to remember that no filtering system can provide complete protection. If you decide to use an online filtering system, make sure you also take the time to talk to your child about some of the challenges they may face online and let them know that they can always talk to you if they need help or feel upset by something they have seen.

If you’re worried about your child’s porn use:

If you think it is possible that your child is exhibiting porn-viewing behaviours that may be more problematic (such as excessive porn viewing), you may wish to seek further external guidance around this. Below are other organisations that may be able to offer further help around this issue.