As an opener to this piece I should tell you that, I am a big believer in allowing your kids high levels of access to the online world–along with regular guidance on the wrong and right ways to behave online.

The internet has opened up a world of learning for my children and while it brings with it challenges, such as managing screen time, I believe that when managed well the benefits will outweigh the potential negatives.

That said, I recently found myself wading through foreign territory when a spot audit of my 14 year old’s browsing history revealed his exploration of a number of online pornographic videos.

My first instinct was to rant and rave and pretend that someone else had used my baby’s phone to access this material. Nice theory, but unfortunately not based on reality!

Instead I gave myself some time to plan. Time to strategise about the best way to engage my son in what was sure to be an awkward conversation...both for him, and for me.

After chatting with my husband, we decided that I was the best equipped to have the initial chat. We had discussed both of us being in the room but didn’t want it to seem like we were ganging up on our son. We agreed on a follow up conversation with his dad in a weeks’ time.

Framing the conversation was a challenge, but luckily I'd recently been working with some of the best minds in the country, both from a parenting and an 'impacts of porn' perspective!

We talked through a range of issues and some of my questions included:

  • What attracts you to it?
  • Do you think that a real relationship looks like that?
  • What is missing from it (intimacy, consent, respect)?
  • How do you feel about the way that women are treated?
  • What are the alternatives?
  • Is that what women really want?

Ultimately, what we ended up with was 45 minutes of uncomfortable, but necessary, conversation which helped my son understand some key things about the differences between what he sees in porn and a real, respectful relationship.

Being the realist that I am, I don’t think that our conversation has necessarily meant that he will never again watch pornography. However, I hope he will approach pornographic content in an informed, and critical, way.

Throughout the discussion we addressed issues of gender, power imbalance, body image and pornography’s influence on popular culture. While I recognise that I may be starting from a more informed place than most, it is important for parents to address this issue alongside the basic 'birds and bees' talk.

There are a number of great resources, which I leaned on quite heavily, available to parents and young people that can help guide and even enhance any conversation that you want to have with your kids.

It’s time we talked is a resource developed for young people, with supporting information for parents about how to broach the topic. It gives not only the facts and figures, but also gives your kids a place to explore, the possible effects of pornography on their relationships. The Line is also great and is focused on discussing issues about relationships and respect.

For parents who need some guidance, Parentline is readily available to chat about concerns, along with Kids Helpline who are available for the 5-25’s.

I know it’s not easy, and I know it can be embarrassing, but if your children have devices at their fingertips, the content that they can access is not always up to you.

If you would like further information on ways to manage devices in your household, see the Safeguards section on our iParent portal.

Author: Mother of a 14 year old boy

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