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The Question Parents Dread: How Much Porn is Your Child Watching?

Looking the other way is not the most helpful approach. Get the facts on what to know about your child’s exposure to porn and what you can do about it.

By September 23, 2021No Comments

This article contains affiliate links. Fight the New Drug may receive financial support from purchases made using affiliate links.

The unfortunate fact is that porn isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

Trying to make porn go away would be like trying to make cell phones go away—it’s not going to happen in our digital age. Even so, that doesn’t change that our culture generally regards porn as a harmless, personal pastime.

And as we all adjust to the never-ending availability of porn in today’s society, the real question comes to light: just how much porn are kids watching?

Related: For Parents: How To Update “The Talks” With Your Kids To Include Porn

If you didn’t know yet, while porn is often called “adult material,” many of its consumers are well under the legal age.Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2016). Adolescents and pornography: A review of 20 years of research.53(4-5), 509-531. doi:10.1080/00224499.2016.1143441COPY 

Studies show that most young people are exposed to porn by age 13,British Board of Film Classification. (2020). Young people, pornography & age-verification. BBFC. Retrieved from https://www.bbfc.co.uk/about-classification/researchCOPY  and according to a nationally representative survey of U.S. teens, 84.4% of 14 to 18-year-old males and 57% of 14 to 18-year-old females have viewed pornography.Wright, P. J., Paul, B., & Herbenick, D. (2021). Preliminary insights from a U.S. probability sample on adolescents’ pornography exposure, media psychology, and sexual aggression. J.Health Commun., 1-8. doi:10.1080/10810730.2021.1887980COPY 

That means that most young people are getting at least some of their education about sex from porn, whether they mean to or not. In fact, one study shows that approximately 45% of teens who consumed porn did so in part to learn about sex.British Board of Film Classification. (2020). Young people, pornography & age-verification. BBFC. Retrieved from https://www.bbfc.co.uk/about-classification/researchCOPY 

BHW - General

Similarly, survey results also show one in four 18 to 24-year-olds (24.5%) listed pornography as the most helpful source to learn how to have sex.Rothman, E. F., Beckmeyer, J. J., Herbenick, D., Fu, T. C., Dodge, B., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2021). The Prevalence of Using Pornography for Information About How to Have Sex: Findings from a Nationally Representative Survey of U.S. Adolescents and Young Adults. Archives of sexual behavior, 50(2), 629–646. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01877-7COPY 

It’s no secret that porn is wildly unrealistic and often incredibly toxic, yet survey results also showed that over half of 11 to 16-year-old boys (53%) and over a third of 11 to 16-year-old girls (39%) reported believing that pornography was a realistic depiction of sex.Martellozzo, E., Monaghan, A., Adler, J. R., Davidson, J., Leyva, R., & Horvath, M. A. H. (2016). 'I wasn’t sure it was normal to watch it'. London: NSPCC. Retrieved from https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/research-resources/2016/i-wasn-t-sure-it-was-normal-to-watch-itCOPY 

Related: How Early Porn Exposure Traumatizes Boys And Fuels An Unhealthy Perception Of Masculinity

In fact, 44% of boys who watched porn reported that online pornography gave them ideas about the type of sex they wanted to try.Martellozzo, E., Monaghan, A., Adler, J. R., Davidson, J., Leyva, R., & Horvath, M. A. H. (2016). 'I wasn’t sure it was normal to watch it'. London: NSPCC. Retrieved from https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/research-resources/2016/i-wasn-t-sure-it-was-normal-to-watch-itCOPY 

These stats only show a glimpse of the fact that our generation and the next are experiencing sex for the first time in a digital, fantasy world with no understanding of how these real images and videos of real people compare to actual sexual encounters.

But how much porn are kids really watching?

Chances are, your child has seen porn, especially if they’re older than 13. We can’t tell you for certain how much they’ve seen, though, that wouldn’t be possible.

But regardless, don’t panic—there are plenty of resources to talk to them about the massive but toxic world of porn. Open, honest, and ongoing conversations about porn and sex are key to a teen having healthy habits and avoiding porn and sexting. Research backs that up, actually.

If you have yet to have any sort of “talk” with your child about porn, and don’t know where to start, we can help. Check out our completely free, thorough conversation guide called Let’s Talk About Porn. Just click below to explore our step-by-step tips:

Conversation Blueprint

As for the nature of the content adolescents watch these days, there are entire “tube sites” (think YouTubes of porn) filled with every category and genre of porn. These sites contain literally millions of porn clips that are available for free with just the click of a button. Anything from your average male-female sex scene to brutal and violent categories that are far from average.

According to a 2021 study, 1 out of every 8 porn titles shown to first-time visitors to porn sites described acts of sexual violence.Vera-Gray, F., McGlynn, C., Kureshi, I., & Butterby, K. (2021). Sexual violence as a sexual script in mainstream online pornography. The British Journal of Criminology, doi:10.1093/bjc/azab035COPY  And according to studies analyzing the content of porn videos themselves, it’s estimated that as few as 1 in 3 porn videos (33.9%) and as many as 9 in 10 videos (88.2%) show acts of physical aggression or violence, while 48.7%—about half—contain verbal aggression.Fritz, N., Malic, V., Paul, B., & Zhou, Y. (2020). A Descriptive Analysis of the Types, Targets, and Relative Frequency of Aggression in Mainstream Pornography. Archives of sexual behavior, 49(8), 3041–3053. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01773-0COPY Bridges, A. J., Wosnitzer, R., Scharrer, E., Sun, C., & Liberman, R. (2010). Aggression and sexual behavior in best-selling pornography videos: a content analysis update. Violence against women, 16(10), 1065–1085. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801210382866COPY 

RelatedParents: If You Don’t Teach Your Kids About Sex, Porn Will

These studies also found that despite the levels of violence and aggression, the targets were almost always portrayed as responding with pleasure or neutrality. What type of message does that send to young people who turn to porn to learn about sex?

Many young people’s expectations regarding sex have been affected by porn without even realizing it. As one young woman related to us when talking about being sexually intimate with her partner, “We were having sex when, out of nowhere, he spit on me. I didn’t know how to react. He was embarrassed when he saw that he wasn’t getting the reaction he was expecting…. What he’d seen [in porn] had created unrealistic expectations for what sex would be like. He saw people do things to each other and get certain reactions, and assumed they’d transfer into real life.”Fight the New Drug. (2019). True story: What porn taught my husband to do during sex . Retrieved from https://fightthenewdrug.org/what-porn-taught-my-husband-to-do-during-sex/COPY 

Fortify

The best ways to take action: conversation, and common sense online tools

Given the stats, it’s highly likely most adolescents will be exposed to porn before they’re 15. And if they aren’t, their friends may be. Regardless of when, it seems to be only a matter of time before they’re exposed to porn, but the good news is, it will not “damage” them for life, even if it isn’t great news.

How every parent addresses this issue with their kids is based entirely on their unique parenting style.

Education and awareness are the best weapons to combat porn’s lies, any way you look at it, whether your child has been exposed yet or not. Through the uncertainties of how to approach kids about explicit content, one thing is for certain: porn is harmful and research is showing it.

Related: Parents: What’s Better Than Internet Filters? Direct Conversations About Porn

One important and fundamental lesson every kid should know right off the bat: porn does not show real sex, and porn is not real love.

Pornography is a hollow counterfeit that resembles an outward appearance of a sexual relationship but is the furthest thing from real, healthy intimate relationships that most every person desires.

If you’re a parent who wants to be an active voice in your child’s sex education, we recommend exploring our free conversation guide resource that will help you navigate the porn conversation while maintaining your unique family values and parenting style.

And to help curious minds from looking for answers in the wrong places, Fight the New Drug recommends tech-based solutions for anyone who needs help with web monitoring. While filters and monitoring devices are great helps to keep tabs on internet use, there’s no replacement for honest, heart-to-heart conversations between a parent and their child about the harms of porn.

But how do these conversations start, and how do they continue? This is where our affiliates at Bark come in.

Bark

Why Bark?

Bark is the internet safety solution that parents trust and children like, if you can believe it. Bark is an easy-to-use, smart tool that parents can use to help protect their children online.

Bark uses a filtering system and a highly advanced algorithm to alert parents when their children have visited porn sites, and it detects other potential threats or signs of danger, such as:

Bark is a common-sense tool that can augment a parent’s efforts to protect their children online. Parents trust Bark because it uses filtering software and advanced technologies to alert them to potential online dangers without them reading through all of their child’s online activities, preserving their valuable time (and sanity). Kids like Bark because they are free to continue their daily digital lives without their parents constantly peering over their shoulders.

Interested? Start protecting your children online today.

Society has come a long way since the days of foldouts in Playboy magazines. Unfortunately, porn is here to stay for now, so it’s up to us to raise awareness on its harms and be educated on the issue and equip and empower this generation and the next to make the healthiest possible decisions about porn.

It’s not exactly possible to guarantee that someone will never be exposed to porn, but with an open dialogue and a scientifically backed perspective, parents of the Playboy generation can help their kids of the PornTube generation navigate the online minefield they walk through daily.

How the porn industry wins

The porn industry would love to expose kids as young as possible to the world of explicit content. They want to make lifelong customers out of every generation.

Related: Can Women Get Addicted To Watching Porn?

Let’s take a stand and fight for love, and fight for our kids’ awareness. Everyone deserves to make an empowered, equipped decision about porn. Help your child, or your friends and family, make that decision for themselves before the industry hooks them and decides for them.

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