There is no pretending that teenagers aren’t being exposed to pornography. According to Covenant Eyes, 93 percent of boys and 62 percent of girls are exposed to pornography by age 18.
And it’s happening at increasingly earlier ages. The US Department of Health & Human Services reports the average age of first exposure is 14 for males and 15 for females.
So as a parent of a teen, what should you do about it? Talk about it openly and honestly with your child. Don’t leave the task of sex ed to your student’s school, it’s your responsibility to help them form healthy ideas about sex and relationships. Here are some tips and information you can share.
1. CREATE A SAFE, COMFORTABLE ENVIRONMENT FOR DIALOGUE
Before you get into any specifics about the effects of porn, begin by acknowledging that you know they have probably seen porn and that is ok. Stumbling upon it it at this point in life is normal and explain that they can talk to you about it without feeling ashamed or getting in trouble. Pornography addiction often begins and even festers in environments with lots of shame and secrecy. Tell them that they can talk to you about anything they see and that you are here to help them navigate and understand these adult topics.
2. EXPLAIN FANTASY VS REALITY
Whether you think it is acceptable to look at pornography or not, it’s important your teen knows that the situations and body standards they are exposed to in pornography are based on fantasy and not reality. If your teen’s only experience with sex is pornography, they will be confused and possibly even disappointed by a real sexual experience. Pornography also shows a one-dimensional view of sex. It doesn’t show the people involved as human being with thoughts, feelings and emotions — all of which are very important in a real relationship.
3. HIGHLIGHT NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF TEEN PORNOGRAPHY USE
If your teen is looking at pornography on a regular basis, it is having an effect on his or her brain. The statistics prove it. Sexual health experts have found that teens viewing internet porn are more at risk for sexual dysfunction issues.
Another study found that teens who view porn regularly are less activated by reward circuitry than those who don’t view porn. When reward circuitry becomes weaker, it can affect the prefrontal cortex and lead to impaired decision making skills.
4. SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP IF YOU SUSPECT A PORNOGRAPHY PROBLEM
If you feel that your teen’s pornography use is hindering them or affecting their daily life negatively, professional help can be extremely helpful. Therapists and experts can help you determine if it is in fact an issue and how to deal with it. Early intervention and professional guidance can work wonders.