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It’s Time to Talk to Your Teen about Porn

by: Michal Greenberg-Cohen
There are so many important and challenging topics we need to cover with our teens: drugs, alcohol, safe driving, safe sex and so much more (personal hygiene anyone??) The goal is to raise responsible, thoughtful and healthy adults which is why we need to add a discussion about porn to the list.
Why this talk matters
You might be thinking “ Porn? Really?? Sure they might watch sometimes but do we have to talk about it?” What comes up for you when you play out this discussion in your mind? Awkward? Insecure? Hesitant? All normal feelings but putting in the work on this is worth it.
The average age of teens who watch porn in the U.S is 13. Yup. You heard right - 13! The smartphone revolution has granted kids immediate access to the internet with just a few taps on their smartphone. Where they can get easily (and often unintentionally through pop up ads and image searches) exposed pornography. You can bury your head in the sand, or simply look away - our lives are so busy it’s not so hard to ignore this issue. The reality is that by the age of 18 100% of boys and girls will be exposed to porn, at least once. The question isn’t if your teen will get exposed to pornography but when.
Porn is visual and built by its very nature for you to want to watch more. In the case of teenagers, who don’t get exposed to it elsewhere and are going through puberty - it’s power and pulls are amplified, as puberty causes them to be curious about their bodies and sex. Porn is a great resource for young adults looking to explore, especially with how easy it is to access.
Yes, it’s going to be an awkward conversation, yes, it might feel very uncomfortable, but this conversation can affect the influence of porn on your teen’s sexual behavior and choices for the rest of their lives.
How to have the chat
First, the basics- remind your teen that porn isn’t real, it’s videos that are created for adults and not for teens, and that the people they are watching are actors who are getting paid. This might seem obvious but a teen’s brain is still developing and it isn’t always clear to them that this isn’t “real sex,” because they see naked people having sex. They don’t know that this isn’t how they should be or act in reality. Here are some other topics to cover:
    1. Body image - talk about the fact that porn displays specific body image types - not all breasts look like that, and penises size varies. Teens want to know that they are normal, that their body is normal, so reinforcing that their body is normal and they shouldn’t compare it to what they see is very important.
    2. Contraception - people having sex in porn often don’t use contraception. Teens can get the wrong idea that it is OK to have sex without using condoms and other contraception. You should reinforce the importance of using contraception, especially condoms, to prevent unplanned pregnancy and possible STIs (sexually transmitted infections).
    3. Consent - while teens learn consent in school, and hear about it all the time, it’s important to address the fact there is little to no verbal consent in porn. Explain that even though they don’t see the moment of consent take place it’s already happened behind the scene between the performers and directors. Reiterate that in real life consent needs to be asked and given during the act all the way from kissing, touching private parts, to having any kind of sexual activity - oral, anal, and intercourse. Remind them you can say no at any time, even if you said yes before. Even if it looked nice and pleasurable on screen.
Take a big breath. This isn’t an easy or comfortable conversation. Start with thinking about how you would like this conversation to happen and how you’ll effectively communicate with your teen, so they can make responsible sexual choices.
To better support you, I created a free guide on How to Open up The Conversation about sex: Exposure to Sexually Explicit Content, so you can start having powerful conversations with your child TODAY! Click here to download the free guide
Michal Greenberg-Cohen
The Porn Talk Expert and Sexuality Well-Being Advocate. In the past six years, I have helped hundreds of parents to start conversations about sex and sexuality and to deepen their relationships with their children. I believe that every parent should have the information, the tools, and the support to start the conversation TODAY!