The Dreaded Question: Is My Child Watching Porn?

Fight the New Drug
6 min readApr 1, 2021

You might be surprised to know how young children are when they’re first exposed to porn. Sources suggest the average age is 8–11 years old, but for some children, it’s as young as three. A study published in 2021 has found that 84.4% of males and 57% of females ages 14 to 18 have been exposed to porn. This means the chances are good that your own child has already been exposed to it — but don’t panic. Fight the New Drug has your back.

What should I do first?

What should you do first? Have open, truthful, kind, shame-free, and ongoing conversations about both sex and pornography.

Why do we suggest that? Because it’s the key to helping children and teenagers develop healthy beliefs and habits surrounding these topics.

Do you know how to start? Click through our conversation blueprint, Let’s Talk About Porn. This free, step-by-step resource walks you through everything you need to know. Its helpful guidance is tailored according to:

  • Who you want to talk with
  • What you want to talk about
  • Why you want to talk about it
  • What would help you be best prepared

You’ll learn tips on what to do, along with what not to do. You’ll also have access to a ton of resources such as suggestions for conversation starters, articles, and videos with the facts, plenty of personal experiences, and inspiring success stories.

You’ll have everything you need to get the conversations going!

How much porn do children and teens watch?

To answer the question and give you a glimpse into the scope of the issue, here are a couple of facts about sexting (sending or receiving sexually explicit pictures or messages over text message) from a JAMA Pediatrics study reported in Time magazine:

  • 27% of teens report receiving sexts.
  • 15% of teens report sending sexts.

And here are a few other facts about kids and their online actions, published in CyberSafeIreland’s 2019 Annual Report:

  • 26% of boys and 18% of girls have seen something online that they don’t want their parents to know about.
  • 16% of kids say they’d do things differently online if they knew a parent or caretaker was monitoring their actions.
  • 39% of boys and 11% of girls report playing games that are rated for 18+ adults.
  • 61% of children have been contacted by a stranger through an online game.

All of these things can easily lead to being exposed to pornography, which is only becoming more ubiquitous. If your child has yet to be exposed, know that it’s probably only a matter of time before they are.

What should I do if my child is watching porn?

There are plenty of things you can do if you discover that your child is watching porn. There are also things that may not be helpful for you to do.

First of all, if your child has been exposed to porn, there’s no need to panic. It is increasingly likely the older that they get. There are countless porn sites across the web, and the number of visits to Pornhub alone equaled over 42 billion in 2019, with 32% of visitors being female. And according to this research, over 70% of tweens and almost 90% of teens have “encountered nudity or content of a sexual nature.” Considering these staggering numbers, chances are high that your child has already seen porn or will someday soon.

So what should you do if (or, more likely, when) your child sees porn?

  • Make a plan now so you can prepare yourself and your child for such an eventuality.
  • Don’t shame them. They may already be feeling it, along with embarrassment, anger, or fear over what they saw. Keep your voice calm and your heart open. Be ready to help. Ask good questions about how they’re feeling, what they encountered, etc. Make sure they know they aren’t in trouble.
  • Explain how pornography is often unrealistic and doesn’t represent healthy sex and real love.
  • Talk about the negative effects porn can have on their developing brain and body.
  • Support them by using internet safety tools.
  • Continue the conversation on an ongoing basis.

Now here’s what we recommend avoiding, should you find out your child is consuming pornography. Keep in mind that both young girls and boys can find themselves looking at porn out of curiosity.

  • Ignore them, dismissing looking at porn as healthy and harmless.
  • Shame them and make them feel like they are “bad,” “dirty,” or unlovable because they looked at porn.
  • Make assumptions guided by fear and suspicion.
  • Use inflammatory language such as:
  • The words always or never
  • Exaggerations
  • Extremes
  • Omitting information
  • Using opinion instead of fact
  • Calling names
  • Cut off access to devices. This is isolating and doesn’t teach them how to handle making their own choices and learning from their mistakes.

Take to heart the fact that taking the best approach with your child can make all the difference in the success of these conversations.

How can I protect my child from seeing porn?

How each parent decides to address the problem of their child seeing porn is unique to both their own parenting style and their child’s personality and circumstances. However, we believe there are some powerful tools you can use that tend to work well no matter the situation. They can be categorized as conversation, education, and internet safety solutions.

Conversation

A surprisingly easy and effective way to protect your child from porn’s problems is to simply have an ongoing, honest, shame-free, and open dialogue with them about it. Such conversations are ideally best had before your child is exposed to porn and regularly throughout their childhood years.

We already mentioned how to talk about porn, but here’s where you learn why it’s so important and why talking works. Having honest, empathetic conversations about pornography is important (and works!) because they:

  • Give your child correct answers to their questions and solutions to their concerns
  • Build a trusting parent/child relationship
  • Offer a safe space for relief, acceptance, and love
  • Connect loved ones together on a deeper level

These talks are very important for everyone, but perhaps especially for at-risk youth. These groups of people are often marginalized and degraded (sometimes severely) in porn videos.

Education

Being educated and aware will help dispel uncertainties when faced with the problems of porn. Knowing how to approach your children about explicit online content can guard against porn’s research-proven harmful effects.

Your child is probably already curious about pornography, and you certainly don’t want them looking in unhealthy and unhelpful places for the answers to their valid questions. You need to have knowledge regarding what’s out there and how porn can rewire a person’s brain and can harm their relationships. Understand for yourself the difference between sex in real life and the sex that is often shown in porn so you can best explain it to your child. But most importantly, approach all of these topics with a shame-free mindset, tone, and language.

Another important thing to understand and teach is that porn is not a victimless production. Sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, and sex trafficking are often both the product and byproduct of the porn industry.

Internet safety solutions

In addition to conversation and education, Fight the New Drug recommends using tech-based internet monitoring tools for your child’s web use. There are many options out there, but one of our favorites is Bark. That’s because both parents and kids like this easy-to-use solution.

Here’s what Bark can do:

  • Manage screen time per site and by browser.
  • Filter search results according to the limits parents set.
  • Proactively monitor email, text messages, YouTube, and 30+ apps and social media platforms.
  • Detect potential threats such as cyberbullying, internet predators, and sexting.
  • Be on alert for signs of depression and suicidal thoughts.
  • Automatically send alerts to parents if something seems suspicious.
  • Pass along expert advice from child psychologists for addressing potential issues.
  • Keep up with kids via location check-ins.
  • Protect family data and keep it secure with encryption.

Parents approve of Bark because it saves time having to check every browser history, text message, and social media app across multiple devices. Kids like it because it still allows them to continue their daily digital lives without parents constantly looking over their shoulders. It’s a win-win solution.

Don’t let the porn industry win

The porn industry is in the business of churning out explicit content with the intent of making billions, regardless of the toll it can take on others. Rather than letting porn producers win your child over, take a stand and fight for your child’s right to experience real love without the influence of porn.

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Fight the New Drug

Fight the New Drug exists to provide individuals the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography by raising awareness on its harmful effects.