THE PORN CHAT 

1. Talk with your child

2. Porn filter

3. Come together with others

PORN CHATS WITH NINA RUNG

Nina Rung is a children’s rights expert as well as criminologist. She is one of Sweden’s leading experts on children and pornography. Here are Nina’s suggestions on how we speak about porn with children across a variety of age groups. 

EARLY CHILDHOOD AND THE FIRST YEARS AT SCHOOL (approximate age: 4-7 y/o)

Children are exposed to and begin consuming porn at a young age

Children are on average 12 years of age when they actively begin to consume internet porn, but some children begin even earlier than this. Children are also involuntarily exposed to porn and this is often done by an older friend or sibling showing them or telling them that it is exciting and what to search to find it. Exposure also often comes through simple keywords that have nothing to do with sex or porn but nevertheless easily leads them porn due to the enormous amount of porn in the internet. One example is Pornhub, which has one of the biggest collections of porn available with over 4 million movies. Children can also be exposed to porn through linked movies and pictures or ‘pop-ups’ that can appear when the child, for example, plays games.

Porn - The Word

Do not use the word porn or pornography. There are many children in this age group that aren’t familiar with the word porn. If the word is introduced to the child’s vocabulary it can increase the risk that the child will google the word. That’s why children need to know that there are pictures and films with naked material on the internet, that children shouldn’t see it and what they should do if they do see it. 

Private Body Parts

If you haven’t already had conversations with your child on their body, particularly when thinking about safety, then it’s important that you take the time to do that now. You can start by telling them that children have private body parts eg. vagina, penis, bum, and breasts. It is important that the children know that no one can touch their private parts or do anything that the child feels isn’t ok. Tell them that if anyone, even if it is hard to talk about, should touch a child’s private places, the child should say ‘stop’ and then speak with an adult that they trust. It is important that the child knows that they should also speak with an trusted adult if someone asks them for pictures of private parts or sends pictures of private parts to the child. Make sure you tell the child that they are fully in charge of their own body and that no one can force them to have a hug, kiss or make them sit on their lap. The child also needs to know that they too have a responsibility to not do something against someone else’s will. Everyone needs to ask for and respect it if the person says ‘no’. 

Helping the child identify a safe adult

Ask the child which adult they feel safe with and if something should happen they would feel ok talking to that person. It could be eg, a grandmother, aunt, a friend’s mom, an older cousin, a preschool or school worker. Occasionally practice together and repeat the name of the person so that the child remembers who it is. Sometimes after a time the child will change who they prefer as their safe person. When this happens, remember that you have prepared the child that if something does happen they know who it is and are prepared that they should tell one of the safe adults that they have identified. It is like memorising the emergency exits in a building before the building burns so that we know what to do in such a situation. If the child has not been prepared through the repetition then it increases the risk that the child will keep to themselves what it is that has happened. 

Even though they are young, the damage is great

Research shows that the younger children are when they are exposed to porn, the more damaging it is for them and therefore it is important that they have a safe adult that they can talk with about what they have seen. It can be enough to simply ask the child how they felt, give them an understanding of what has happened and that there are things on the internet that are not good, for neither adults nor children. 

If your child has seen porn

If the child tells you that they have already seen pictures or films with nudity it is important to discuss it with them in order to help them to process it. It is helpful to ask what it was that the child saw and how they felt having seen it. Calmly clarify that it was wrong that the child had to see naked pictures or films but that it was never the child’s fault, even if they were curious and searched for the material themself. It is the adult’s responsibility to see to it that children don’t see pictures and films in which adults show or touch each other’s private parts. Explain that it is important that the child told them (or another adult), ask questions so that the child understands that they are welcome to talk about what it is that they have seen and how they felt. After all, porn is often violent, sexist, and racist so it is important to be responsive to the child’s story and need to work it through together. It is important that you don’t give scary details about porn. Tell the child how many of the adults who are in the pictures and films don’t feel so well and have to do things that no one feels good about doing. In summary: keep calm, listen to the child, explain things as objectively as you can and say that you will do your best to help the child so that it does not happen again. 

PRIMARY/ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CHILDREN (approximate age: 8-12 y/o)

Private body parts

Speak with your child about their bodily autonomy. Don’t make it into a big deal, more like a regular conversation. Explain that children have private parts that no one else has a right to see or touch eg vagina, penis, breasts, and bum. Explain that children decide totally over their own body and that no one should force them to give a hug, a kiss or that they should have to sit on someone’s knee/lap. Neither should the children do that to someone else against their will. Everyone should ask first and respect if the answer is ‘no’. 

Who is who on the internet?

Explain that it is not possible to know who is who on the internet. Even if it seems like someone is a nice person of the same age, it could also be someone else for example an adult. Explain that some adults unfortunately want to hurt children. Therefore it is important that children tell a trustworthy adult as soon as possible if something happens that doesn’t feel right, or someone shows or sends naked pictures or videos to the child. The same goes for if the person asks the child for pictures or that the child will show themselves in front of the camera. 

Helping the child identify a safe adult

Ask the child which adult they feel safe with and if something should happen they would feel ok talking to that person. It could be eg, a grandmother, aunt, a friend’s mom, an older cousin, a preschool or school worker. Occasionally practice together and repeat the name of the person so that the child remembers who it is. Sometimes after a time the child will change who they prefer as the safe person. When this happens, remember that you have prepared the child that if something does happen they know who it is and are prepared that they should tell one of the safe adults that they have identified. It is like memorising the emergency exits in a building before the building burns so that we know what to do in such a situation. If the child has not been prepared through the repetition then it increases the risk that the child will keep to themselves what it is that has happened. 

Children are exposed to and begin consuming porn at an early

Children are exposed to and begin consuming porn at a young age. Children are on average 12 years of age when they actively begin to consume internet porn, but some children begin even earlier than this. Children are also involuntarily exposed to porn and this is often done by an older friend or sibling showing them or telling them that it is exciting and what to search to find it. Exposure also often comes through simple keywords that have nothing to do with sex or porn but nevertheless easily leads them porn due. One example is Pornhub, which has one of the biggest collections of porn available with over 4 million movies. Children can also be exposed to porn through linked movies and pictures or ‘pop-ups’ that can appear when the child, for example, plays games. 

Porn - the Word

Some children in this age group are often online by themselves whilst some are less exposed. Regardless, it is important that all children obtain knowledge and understanding of what to do if someone shows them porn, sends nude pictures or asks for naked pictures – that they always tell an adult that the child trusts. When you talk about porn, you will probably notice if the child knows what you are talking about. If the child themself uses the word ‘porn’ – then continue the conversation using the word. If the child does not use the word ‘porn’ then it is best to avoid introducing it into the children’s vocabulary because it increases the risk of the child googling the word. You know your child best and know what level to talk at. Explain to the child that there are both pictures and movies with naked adults and that it is not good to see those kinds of images when you are a child.

If the child has been exposed

Explain calmly that you naturally understand if the child has been curious or has already exposed. Let them know that it is important that they tell you or another trusted adult if they have seen porn. Listen to what the child has seen, ask questions that make it safe for the child to share what it was they saw and how they felt having seen it. Since porn is often violent, sexist and racist, it is important to be responsive to the child’s story and their need to process it with someone. It is however best to avoid telling your child too many details about some of the terrifying components of porn to the child. 

Also explain that many adults who are in the movies feel bad and do things that no one feels good about doing. It is important that the child understands that what is shown in the porn is not sex because it lacks consent and often contains violence that causes pain and can harm others as well as other behaviours that are not respectful. Make sure that the child knows that it is never something they should be ashamed of seeing, but that what they have seen can be both frightening and unpleasant and at the same time exciting. Explain that it is something that children should not see because you think it is unpleasant, partly because those who are in the films many times feel bad and partly because it doesn’t show respectful and realistic sexual relationships. In summary: keep calm, listen to the child, explain objectively using the above guidelines and let them know that you will do your best to help your child so that it does not happen again.

THE TEEN YEARS (approximate age: 13-18 y/o)

Porn versus sex

Most people at this age have somehow come into contact with porn and so it’s natural that you refer to it as porn. Ask if the children have come into contact with porn, where they did and what they felt about the experience. It is helpful to explain to them that porn is not sex. In sex, there is above all consent and reciprocity, that two people come together and respectfully ask one another what feels good for them. In porn, this is not present at all. This is something you can refer too often because in the majority of all mainstream porn, there are in fact various forms of violence against women. According to research, almost nine out of ten scenes in porn contain various forms of violence against women. Often it includes beating, strangulation, hard anal penetration and pulling the women by the hair. Many of those who are involved in porn material don’t feel very well, have previous trauma of abuse and are very vulnerable. Explain to your children that the more one watches porn, the more likely one is to get aroused by things related to violence and that those who consume porn become more positive about sexual violence against women

Porn is young people's foremost sexual knowledge

Tell your child that wanting to learn about and know how sex works and how to do it, is natural. However, if they think they should have sex like it is portrayed in porn, then there is a risk they will committ abuse. Tell them you want them to feel good, both in relationships and eventually also in sex. The best way to do that is to explore your own sexuality so that you know what feels good for your own body before doing it with anyone else. Hollywood porn producers should not dictate the sexuality of your children. Your children should do that themselves, that’s why they need a counterbalance to porn being used as the main source of sexual knowledge. Please note that porn criticism is not included in the school curriculum, so most children do not get the chance to academically discuss porn at school. It is also crucial that adults seek to limit the impact of the porn industry through the use of porn-free internet at home and also on mobile phones. This can also act as a way to prevent our children from developing porn addictions.

Avoid the risk of abuse

Talk about research showing that boys believe they need to do what they have seen in porn and also that they believe their friends do what they have seen in porn. This leads boys into thinking that they should do things certain ways, things that in reality can mean abuse. The last thing you want is for your children to be abused or to be an abuser. Therefore, make sure you tell girls that they never have to put up with things they have seen in porn, or things the boys want to do, for fear of being “boring”. What is terrible is when they meet someone who does not seek consent and who does not ask what is nice or what the partner likes. No one should have to put up with things they don’t like or feel comfortable about. And that is why the children need different guidance than what porn provides. This guidance can and should include acts of consent, reciprocity, closeness and warmth.

If it’s difficult to have the chat

Don’t forget that most young people want to talk about the elephant in the room – porn. Remember that if you do not talk to your children, the risk will increase that the porn producers will steal your children’s sexuality – and that becomes a much more difficult conversation. Good luck! 

It is incredibly important and brave to dare to talk about this difficult topic! To ensure you provide safety, take the next step and install a porn filter.

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