teens

Charlotte was shamed by her parents for watching porn. She believes their reaction was wrong.

Charlotte* was just 15 when she first started looking at porn in the safety and privacy of her home.

“I was very innocent in that I didn’t have my first kiss until I was 19 years old, but I was curious. I began looking at lesbian porn in an experimental way and unfortunately for me, my parents found out as I hadn’t efficiently deleted my search history,” Charlotte says.

“They were horrified and they shamed me for it in front of my younger siblings, saying I could no longer be trusted to stay home alone as they ‘weren’t sure what I’d get up to’. 

“It really affected my relationship with them and while I understand now that they needed to set boundaries, it was how they went about it that bothered me. They showed no compassion at a very vulnerable time in my life.

“It made me stop wanting to confide in them at all.”

How do people watch porn around the world? Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

At 27, Charlotte has moved out of home and after many conversations with her peers, she believes her parents’ reaction was wrong.

“I know that my online behaviour was normal for my age, but it has taken years to come to terms with my parents’ response and feeling ashamed. My roommate told me about his mum who discussed sex openly, helping him to understand it was natural to be curious.

“The ironic thing is that my younger brother was also caught looking at porn on his phone recently. My parents told him, ‘don’t worry its normal’; making me feel even more hurt and wondering if perhaps it was more a gender-based issue for them.”

Charlotte is one of many teens who admit to viewing porn.

A joint study in 2016 by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), Middlesex University and the Children’s Commissioner in the UK, looked at the impact of online pornography on the values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of children and young people. 

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From a group of 1,000 secondary school students, the research found that by the age of 11, 28 per cent of the surveyed children had seen online pornography; by the age of 15, 65 per cent had seen online pornography.  Of those who had, boys were more likely to view online pornography through choice than girls (59 per cent of boys compared to 25 per cent of girls).

“We know that parents are more worried than ever about their kids accessing porn online,” says Rob Hardy, Manager Health Promotion at Family Planning NSW.  

“This worry is often part of a greater concern involving sexting, social media and online dating. 

“We offer educational programs and resources that cover all of those big issues. But first we give them context by educating them about the foundations of sexuality and healthy relationships, their changing bodies, consent and safety.”

“We encourage parents and kids to keep the communication lines open. Don’t just have the one ‘birds and the bees’ talk, but have many. 

“Kids need to know they can come to you anytime to discuss anything in a safe way without feeling ashamed.”

porn
“Kids need to know they can come to you anytime to discuss anything in a safe way without feeling ashamed.” Image: Getty.

Mum-of-two Julie* was pleased, if not a little shocked when her 13-year-old son told her he had seen some porn on a friend’s phone at school.

“We were having dinner at the time and my 10-year-old daughter was present, so we quickly changed the conversation and then I sat down with him to chat later that night,” Julie says.

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“He has always been happy to talk to my husband and I about anything, so he described how he saw 'two girls humping’ on his friend’s phone, and that a crowd of kids had gathered around to watch in the school yard. He said he just giggled and walked away.

“The first thing I told him was that it was most definitely inappropriate to watch this kind of thing at school! Secondly, I told him that porn is very different to sex in real life and that it can be violent and depict women in negative ways. I also told him that he can always ask me anything.”

Julie realised that while she has always been open with her son, there are other parents who are not.

“My son might be happy to come and ask us awkward questions, but there are many kids and parents where this is not the case. It made me think about how there is an absolute need for formal and regular sex education programs in schools, otherwise how else will the kids learn what is appropriate?”

Rob agrees that open communication from both parents and schools with students and young people is key when it comes to encouraging a healthy attitude to sex and sexual relationships.

“We need to teach kids to think critically about what they are seeing online - not just in porn but in the media generally,” Rob says.

“The stereotypes, the fake elements of porn where women and men do not look real. Why people watch it and also why some people dislike it. They need to know that porn is not reflective of real-life sexual relationships.

“We want to keep our kids safe, so yes, we can limit their access online, but as the research shows, most of them will view porn online eventually.

“This why education and support are so important in giving the next generation the skills to make the right choices and decisions about their sexual health in the future.”

Family Planning NSW recommend the following resources for teens and parents who wish to know more about healthy and safe sexual relationships.

For young people:

  • You, Me and Us provides magazine-style content on pornography, sexting and online relationships (all within the context of healthy relationships).
  • Body Talk is a website designed by Family Planning NSW for young people. It provides relevant and accurate information about bodies, relationships and health.

For parents:

*Names have been changed for privacy reasons.

How do you feel about talking to your kids about sex? Are you embarrassed or do you encourage your kids to talk to you? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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