Parents, pornography no longer comes in a paper bag

Nor, does it come in a cellophane wrapper and our ability to understand this new landscape is important.  Pornography is online, highly accessible and proliferating. It appears with innocent search terms and provides a plethora of content with a search of intent.

Accessibility to pornography is no longer on a dodgy VHS tape or a walk to the rear of the newsagent to see a glossy magazine in clear wrap with ‘Adult Content’ across the cover.  From ‘Gonzo’ Porn, ‘Mormon’ porn to ‘Make love not porn’ it is all online.

It is home made, semi-professional or professional with delivery via a website or an app. If you have a mobile device and the internet, there is access to pornography and there is going to be a high probability our teens are going to view it.

Easy creation and easy viewing pique our fears in how to support our teens. Recent headlines like ‘Pornographic website targeting schoolgirls exposes ‘terrifying’ fears facing girls online’ and ‘Wenona bans social media app over concerns about risks to students’ escalate our fears.

Like many parents I have immediate concerns as I hand over a new phone for my son’s thirteenth birthday. A digital ‘right of passage’ I can feel the childhood innocence in him slipping away as sexual exploration is fast on its way, amplified by access.

So what can we factually draw upon to assist ourselves?

The Australian Institute of Family Studies bring some emerging objectivity regarding the impact of the increasing volume and accessibility to pornography.

‘Research shows that there are harms associated with early exposure to pornography, but appropriate sex and relationships education can help.’

The ‘frequent and routine viewing’ of pornography may, ‘reinforce harmful gender stereotypes, contribute to young people forming unhealthy sexist views of women and sex, as well as contribute to condoning violence against women’.

None of these are aspiring pillars of a healthy, functioning community. Our readiness for objective knowledge and our ability to talk openly with our teens about pornography can make a difference. Sex and relationships education is even more important now than it was in my teen years.

Talking about online ‘porn’ is not just a good idea it is essential.

Mums and Dads you do not have to understand the nuances of every app but you do need to get the basics in place.

In this online world, what do the basics look like for us as parents?

Remember the newspaper articles we read are just the tip of the topic. Gain an objective understanding with a little research. The Australian Institute of Family Studies researchpaper is brief to read and reassuring. So too, is the latest from the Australian e-Safety Commissioner. The IParent portal is full of great information and is easy to navigate.

Be aware that you are going to have a conversation about pornography sooner than you may expect. Use research to guide the topics of your discussion and what is appropriate to your family values. Set your boundaries with your teens.

Understand that any social media app which has text, audio, video and photo capability can create, access and share pornography. Even the ones you deem as innocent and friendly. A quick hashtag search will often uncover a bare body, a sexual proposition or even a sex act.

Deal with pornography in a developmentally appropriate way that is relevant to the age of your teens. Treat the process like sex education, seek to deliver the right amount of information for the right age. It may be unwise to be discussing how to make your partner climax with your twelve-year-old son or daughter, but the process will need a label in conversation. ‘Son it’s an orgasm’!

Banning and filters are a short-term fix. For every filter that is set-up, a quick internet search on how to get around it will exist. While a ban may help sending a clear message of what is appropriate the shelf-life will be short. Teen curiosity will overpower a ban and we need to be preparing our teens for what they will encounter.

Pornography is the depiction of erotic behavior intending to cause sexual excitement. The content is creative, monetized and in demand, so it is important that we debunk the stereotypes of pornography. Society needs strong sensitive men who perceive women as their equals and do not see pornography as an appropriate model for their behaviour.

In looking to master the online world with my son, I cannot help revert to placing my trust in a face-to-face conversation to prepare, strengthen and guide his awareness around pornography. This process will need to be fluid as I watch him transition from boyhood to manhood where access and connectivity are the norm.

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