teens

I caught my son watching porn. What do I do? 3 parents weigh in.

The latest Australian research of nearly 2,000 15-20-year-olds shows that the average teenage boy sees porn for the first time at age 13, and the average teenage girl is age 16. But it can be much younger.

For many parents of pre-teen and young teenage kids, this is challenging news.

So, what exactly should we do next? 

Watch: Bad mums translated. Post continues below. 


Video via Mamamia

As the co-hosts of Help! I Have A Teenager Dr Ginni Mansberg and Jo Lamble explained, this is often our kids' first proper visual representation of what sex is. And like with many other parenting issues, our kids really need our guidance when it comes to porn.

In the podcast episode, the co-hosts and co-authors of the book The New Teen Age explained how parents can talk to their children about porn.

"Use the conversation as an opportunity to discuss the differences between porn and real life sex. Point out that in real life, the bodies are completely different, the sex acts are different, and there's consent. 

"A normal sex life might look really boring on a porn clip, but it is important to know the difference as porn gives kids completely unrealistic expectations."

Explaining the difference between porn sex and real life sex was important for mum Kylie after she realised her 13-year-old son had seen some adult content.

"We didn't catch him in the act, but we saw his browsing history," Kylie told Mamamia

"He said that his friends at school had shown him so he was curious. 

"My husband talked to him about the fact that porn isn't real life and that like action movies with fast cars and fight scenes, they are over dramatised."

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Listen: Help! I Have A Teenager on kids watching porn. Post continues below.

 

The type of sex that kids see on screen when viewing porn is also problematic, as Jo Lamble explained on the podcast.

"The first sex they are seeing is threesomes, anal sex, absolutely non-consensual sex, or sex that incorporates some sort of violence particularly from the man towards the woman. This is not only unrealistic but blatantly harmful," she said.

And as Dr Mansberg explained, some of the harm that stems from kids watching too much porn is not necessarily what you would think. 

"When the world wide web first began and the porn industry really embraced it, there was an expectation there would be an enormous amount of increase in sexual violence. 

"But actually what we are seeing are a lot of young 16-year-old boys who can't get an erection with their normal, beautiful 16-year-old girlfriend. I see 16-year-old boys with erectile dysfunction.

"Realistically, I don't think we can get rid of porn from our kids' lives. It's there. But us parents need to have a conversation about how to look at [porn], that acting, that movie, and put it into a context of what is normal."

Mum Annabel* told Mamamia that her son was 10 years old when she discovered porn in his browsing history.

"We told him we’d seen what he’d watched and asked him if he had questions or wanted to talk about anything," she said.

"He didn’t have any questions, but it was all a bit... awkward. We asked him to wait until he was an adult before deciding to view that sort of content. There were no angry words or recriminations. 

"We felt he was too young to have known what the impact of viewing that would be. His browsing history showed he’d only looked once and kids at school had told him about the site.

"He’s 30 now and a beautiful, kind and gentle man - I think he probably has no long-term damage."

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Dr Ginni Mansberg and Jo Lamble recommended getting the awkward porn chat started with your teens by asking them to check out some of the resources on It's Time We Talked. 

It's Time We Talked is an Australian organisation and violence prevention initiative that supports young people, parents, schools, government and the community sector to understand and address the influence of pornography. 

"They have unpacked the many influences of porn and on the site they have actual interviews with actual porn stars commenting on porn they have made and saying, 'Well that was incredibly uncomfortable, I hated that and that is not the way I would have sex with my partner.' 

"It's hard for kids to always hear that sort of information from us as, let's face it, they don't ever want to know that their parents have had sex! But they are interested in hearing it from the porn stars themselves. 

"And even if you just sit next to them while they have a look at the information on It's Time We Talked, it's a great way to start a conversation."

Australian expat and mum-of-two Natalie* shared that being open with her kids about porn is the best approach for their family.

"We lived in the US and Europe while our son, who is ASD and ADHD, was aged between nine and 18," Natalie said.

"We always talked about sex with him from a very young age and then when porn came into the chat, we talked about it as well. We talked about how porn isn't real and that when you access it, it is one of the chief reasons that viruses and hackers get into your phone and computer. 

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"We talked about the type of porn that he watched - straight porn, gay porn, etc. We talked about the difference between self-made porn, professionally made porn, anime porn, etc, and how none of it was real or how people in real life have sexual relations and consent."

Natalie, who has since moved back to Australia, said that while her son used to watch porn more, he has gone off it recently after turning 19. She said that doesn't mean the conversation about porn is over, especially now their daughter has turned 15. 

"Our daughter is three years younger and if she was around during conversations, she would get included although she says she doesn't watch porn. 

"It was good in a way having a self identifying girl and self identifying boy in the house and discussing how differently the sexes are portrayed in porn - particularly around issues of consent, control, and satisfaction related stuff. 

"My husband and I had to do a few sessions on Pornhub to understand what was out there and what kids were seeing, because it has changed a bit since back in the day when we saw a flick or two via VHS!"

Unlike this open parenting approach, Dr Ginni Mansberg and Jo Lamble agreed that one of the most common mistakes parents make is snooping on their kids' phones to find out if they have seen porn. 

"You don't need to snoop on their phone, just assume they have seen it," Lamble said.

"The Australian research says they've seen it and in far more graphic detail than we have. But if you're really worried about them seeing porn, then just ask them outright. 

"And even if they say, 'No, of course not!' then you say, 'Well if you do see it, then there's some things I want to talk to you about'. And then start that all important conversation or direct them straight to the It's Time We Talked website."

*While these women are known to Mamamia, the names have been changed for privacy reasons.

Feature Image: Getty.

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