PARENTS

Worried Your Child Is Accessing Online Porn? Advice For Parents From The FPA

Don't just turn on the firewall ⛔️

13/09/2017 15:40 | Updated 5 days ago

Long gone are the days of parents worrying about their children stumbling across dirty magazines, now young people have smartphones and computer access meaning they can anonymously search the internet for inappropriate material.

And with Childline reporting a 60% rise in children contacting them about online porn, parents may be concerned about the impact this acccess is having on their children - whether they’re seeking it out themselves, or being shown it by their peers.

Either way, Jo Hinchliffe, who runs an FPA sexual health program for young people in Wales, wants to reassure parents that it is unlikely your child is watching X-rated material whenever they’re unattended. 

It’s easy to worry about what your children might be looking at online, or while they’re gaming. Despite the headlines, it’s not inevitable that they’ll come across pornography, either by accident or by deliberately looking,” he told HuffPost UK.

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However, Hinchliffe advises that whether your child has seen explicit porn or not, it’s still a good idea to have open conversations about pornography and sexuality.

“It’s worth remembering that sexual imagery can be found everywhere, from adverts, films and games, to magazines and biology textbooks,” he said.

So how should you broach the topic of porn with children?

With a younger child (under 10):

If you’re worried your young child has been shown porn by other people, for example by classmates, or by someone online, this can be very distressing and you are likely to want to address the situation with your child.

1. Find out more about the situation.

Your starting point should be to try and find out more about the situation and to ask yourself - what is making you think that this is the case?

For example, did their teacher tell you? Or another parent? Start by asking your child in a calm and neutral way if anyone has shown them any pictures or videos with naked people, or people having sex.

Hinchliffe said: “By digging a little deeper, you can get a better understanding of how serious the situation is, and whether it’s causing your child any worry or distress.”

2. Be willing to tackle questions openly and honestly.

Being shown porn could leave your child with questions or things they’d like to discuss, but might feel embarrassed or awkward about raising with you because of the nature of the issue, and how their questions have arisen.

Mel Gadd, a sexual education coordinator for young people, wrote in a blog hosted on HuffPost UK: “Before you get too worried, just remember that you don’t have to be a sex education expert. You just have to be a parent or carer who is willing to discuss the difficult stuff.”

3. Consider turning on safety guards on their devices.

If your child is young and has their own devices, you might want to consider turning on parental controls and safety guards, to help you manage what your child can consume online.

But be wary of just using this as a catch-all solution to the problem.

“Just blocking certain websites doesn’t mean that your child won’t come into contact with sexual imagery or ideas, either online or offline,” said Hinchliffe.

“And telling your child they should never look at sexual images might mean that they don’t feel able to talk to you about their concerns if they do.

“Parental controls should never replace open communication with your child about topics such as sex, porn, consent, communication and body image.”

Nick David via Getty Images

With an older child (over 10): 

Even if your child is older, you are likely to feel just as distressed about the possibility that they are consuming age-inappropriate materials online, but the way you handle the situation will need to be a bit different to parents of younger children.

1. Don’t immediately assume the worst.

If you stumble across something of a sexual nature in your internet browsing history, the first conclusion you jump to may not portray your child in the most favourable light. Remember to give them the benefit of the doubt and don’t automatically assume they have the worst intentions. 

“Older children may also come across porn by accident – but they might also make an active choice to access it for a variety of reasons,” Hinchliffe said.

“It can often be a surprise when you realise your child is growing up and might be developing sexual desires. But remember that it’s a perfectly normal part of their transition to adulthood.”

2. Try to put your personal reservations to one side. 

For lots of parents, discovering that your child is looking at porn can bring up issues related to your own experience with it or reservations about it.

“However you feel about sex or porn, try not to let any strong feelings affect how you discuss these subjects and how you support your child,” Hinchliffe said.

“That could mean your child won’t come to you for information or advice and will get it from other, possibly more unreliable sources.

“If they know they can come to you to discuss anything – even if it’s awkward – they’ll be more likely to turn to you if they’re having a difficult time and need help.”

3. Approach conversations in a non-confrontational way.

It’s best to avoid approaching a conversation about porn with your child in a confrontational way that makes them feel like they’re being accused. They’re already likely to feel pretty embarrassed about the subject.

“You could bring up subjects when the opportunity arises, such as seeing something on television or hearing it on the radio or in music,” said Hinchliffe.

“You could also talk more generally about how your child feels about topics like porn and sexting, or ask what their friends say about it.”  

4. Don’t let embarrassment get the better of you. 

Lots of parents may choose just to ignore the subject altogether, but this is missing a chance to have important discussions and lay groundwork for other conversations that may impact their wellbeing in future.

“If you’re concerned for your child’s safety or wellbeing, then never avoid asking questions to get the information you need to help and support them,” said Hinchliffe.

“But by developing trust and open communication with your son or daughter, they’re more likely to come to you for help when they need it – both now and in the future.”

5. Make sure you discuss porn in the context of safe, consensual sex.

For children who only see sex through the prism of pornography, safe and consensual sex can be overlooked in their education, so Hinchliffe advises using this discussion to talk about these other issues relating to real-world sex and relationships.

“This will give your child an opportunity over time to develop a better understanding of what healthy and happy relationships, and sexual experiences might look like for them, and mean they can ask you their own questions as they arise,” he said.

If, after speaking to your child, you still have concerns about what they are consuming online, refer to Think U Know and CEOP for some next steps.

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