Teens and Pornography

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Despite many of my own and my colleagues daily experiences, helping young people to grapple with the negative effects of pornography, there is a push by some groups for schools to become ‘porn positive’. Yup, I am not making that up! Their view is that porn is a ‘great resource for teaching young people about sex.’ Yet, the impact of pornography exposure on children and teens self-worth, socialisation and mental health are very real.

Some parents believe that talking to teens about STIs, sex and pornography is giving them too much information too early. However, they do not realise how much exposure their children have already had, either directly or through peers that have seen porn.

This statement by one young man sums it up, “I think if parents and schools don’t educate, then the only thing left is for pornographic videos to educate, simple as that.”

We also need to be aware of how much ‘pornified’ culture has infiltrated our children’s world, thus normalising some behaviours among their peers already.

I have previously written about the conversations we need to have with our children on sexuality and development. In summary, talking about sex does not simply involve the physical aspects of ‘what goes where’. There are key emotional and mental qualities of sexual relationships, which we often leave out of discussions with children.

These include the role of sex within relationships, appropriate sexual behaviour, lust, how to treat a person of the opposite sex, respect and unselfishness in sex – these need to be taught and debated at home, often.

May I emphasise that these discussion will not cause your child to go out and try sexual behaviours. Quite the contrary.

A World Health Organisation literature review concluded there is no support for the contention that sex education encourages experimentation or increased activity. If any effect is observed, almost without exception it is in … postponed initiation of sexual intercourse… (Grunseit A, Kippax S. Effects of Sex Education on Young People’s Sexual Behaviour, Geneva, World Health Organization, 1993, p.10.)

Studies have found that sexuality education programs at school result in increased parent-child communication about sexuality. (Alford, S. ‘Parent-Child Communication: Promoting Healthy Youth’, Advocates for Youth, September 1995.)

May I urge every parent to watch the video below, with their children. I especially love the teen voices in this piece. I am so proud of these young people and thankful to their parents for raising awareness of this issue.

“Parents should assume that their children will see porn,” Dr Flood said.

“And parents should begin the conversations with their children so that when they do, they’re more likely to say ‘this is rubbish’ or ‘this is sexist’, or ‘this doesn’t teach me what I need to know about sex’.”

Liz Walker (seen in the video) is a friend and colleague and is the founder of Youth Wellbeing Project.

Liz regularly runs #SexEdOnline Courses for therapists, teachers and principals, wanting to know how best to talk to teenagers about sex and relationships. I personally use many of Liz’s resources in my own ‘Sex, Choice and Ethics’ seminars with teens.


The #SexEdOnline Course: Sexual Health for Teens in a Sexualised Culture will start on Tuesday February 18th, 2014 on WizIQ and run for 8 weeks.

The course focuses on equipping participants in the roles of educator, youth worker, school based youth health nurse or counsellor.

Concepts include:

  • sexual health from a ‘whole-person centred’ approach
  • how to best equip teens living in a sexualised culture
  • understanding sexuality, sexual health and diversity
  • the impacts of porn
  • exploring research
  • balancing best practice sex education with child protection obligations
  • proactive intervention of coercive and sexually abusive behaviours.

Participants will be equipped with tools to encourage youth in self-reflection and thinking ahead.

Please read more about #SexEdOnline Course on the Youth Wellbeing Project website  and access the full course outline here.

#SexEdOnline is a must for anyone who works with young people.

 youth wellbeing

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