Countless parents are daunted by the thought of having conversations about sex or porn with their younger children, and it’s completely normal to be anxious about the “p” word if you are starting from scratch.

Unfortunately with the proliferation of online porn, kids are showing other kids hardcore violent porn as young as age 6 or 7, with these probabilities increasing the older they get. “Keep them innocent” translates to “making them vulnerable” to the stories that porn tells them, with little or no clue of how to implement safety responses or boundaries when a peer bursts their “innocence bubble” by talking about, showing, or in extreme cases, copying what they’ve seen online, and engaging in child-on-child sexually abusive behaviours. Yes, it’s confronting—but now more than ever, it’s essential to prepare kids for the world they are navigating. 

In an ideal world (which of course, parenting is not!), it’s helpful to talk about sex and porn well before the age of 8 (a commonly used phrase at Porn Resilient Kids is “eight is too late”). Sex is not something to protect them from—predators and distorted representations of sex (porn) is what they need protection from. And by “protect”, we mean that beyond filters, the best form of protection is knowledge so that they develop their own internal filter.

For some parents and caregivers, these conversations will start with challenging personal hang-ups or working through past negative experiences. Becoming informed and comfortable with tricky topics is essential for the sake of keeping our beautiful kids safe.

To keep it simple, we suggest having regular conversations underpinned by three main aims: prevent, protect and prepare. For example, we can aim to prevent shame and secrecy, protect our kids from developing unhealthy ideas about sex, and prepare them to exercise critical thinking.

We suggest starting with ensuring your child knows all the correct anatomical names for body parts. From there, it’s a much easier progression to speak with them about what people do with those private parts. Depending on the age, this may include more information than “penis in vagina” sex.

Then move onto protective behaviour education—giving them permission to voice their personal safety boundaries. This includes teaching kids that they are the boss of their body, providing them with skills to know what to do if someone tries to (or does) touch them inappropriately, and discussing who their safe “go-to” people are if they find themselves in a tricky situation or just need to talk. With all the foundational concepts in place, it’s then much easier to talk about porn – or for younger children, unsafe pictures or movies. And as illustrated by the Porn Resilient Kids logo, we can also teach our kids about the ways pornography can negatively impact the brain.

At Porn Resilient Kids, we are not a fan of using the language “good or bad” pictures or movies. This is because “bad” pictures can sometimes make a child feel “good”—children can be aroused by pornography at a very young age—hence, the “good and bad” terminology may be confusing. Our caution in using this language is in no way intended to minimise the effectiveness of the much-loved children’s book, Good Pictures Bad Pictures. This exceptional resource (and the Jr. version) are books that we recommend. If you’ve read these to your child, parents could use the difference between “good and bad” and “safe and unsafe” as another opportunity for conversation.

There’s an extensive list of resources to help you with these conversations on the Porn Resilient Kids website, including great books on body safety. Protective Behaviours video training by Holly-ann Martin from Safe 4 Kids (and other books and resources) are a brilliant place to start. Cath Hakanson from Sex Ed Rescue and Jayneen Sanders at Educate2Empower Publishing also offer great strategies and resources. Or, if you are looking for parent coaching (particularly to work through personal obstacles preventing you from having these conversations), Anya Manes from Talking about Sex offers a wealth of support and resources. 

The odds of kids in the playground oversharing or showing your child porn, or perhaps them stumbling across it by accident, increase the more that they spend time away from your watchful eye. Silence breeds vulnerability, whereas preparing your kids in advance for inevitable exposure to pornography, provides them with the necessary knowledge and skills so that they become porn resilient kids.

Liz Walker

Author Liz Walker

Liz Walker is an accredited sexuality educator, speaker and author, dedicated to culture-shifting initiatives that respond to pornography harms on children & young people. To learn more about Liz, visit lizwalkerpresents.com. To access educational resources and support for schools visit youthwellbeingproject.com.au.

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