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Parents shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk to their kids about porn

Parents surveyed for research on their attitudes to children viewing pornography has shown some are embarrassed to talk to their children. Family Planning National Health Promotion Advisor Amanda Hargreaves gives some tips on approaching the issue of relationships, sexuality, and pornography with your children. 

On Monday, NetSafe released a report on parents’ attitudes and views about their children’s experiences around pornography.

Netsafe conducted a quantitative survey with parents and caregivers of children aged nine to 17 years old across New Zealand.

They worked alongside the Office of the eSafety Commissioner in Australia and the Safer Internet Centre and University of Plymouth in the UK to find out how parents think about and engage with their children when it comes to pornography.

This is the first time parents’ attitudes have been researched. The report says exposure to pornography is recognised as a real risk for children online, ranking highly alongside cyberbullying and contact with strangers.

The report acknowledges the important role parents and caregivers play in protecting their children from risks online. We couldn’t agree more.

But the finding that around 22% of parents in New Zealand and 25% of parents in Australia reported that they would feel embarrassed about broaching this subject with their children highlighted the need to support parents.

Family Planning’s focus is on supporting young people, their parents, and educators to navigate these issues. We believe in the importance of empowering young people with comprehensive relationship and sexuality education that looks at the whole picture, including pornography, and all of the things young people might face as they grow.

Here are some tips for starting this important mahi as a parent or caregiver.

Talk to your children about pornography

While pornography can feel like a difficult topic to raise with your child, it’s an important part of talking with them about healthy relationships, consent, media and sex in the digital age, as well as being a critical consumer of information. If you are already talking to your child about these things, talking about pornography won’t be so challenging. It’s all about getting a good foundation down first.

As you prepare to talk with your child, you may find the following talking points useful:

  • Pornography doesn’t usually show bodies that are like yours or mine.
  • Pornography doesn’t really show sex that most people have so it’s not a reliable way to learn about relationships, sex, sexuality or safer sex.
  • Pornography is a performance with actors. It’s not “real life”.
  • Consent is generally not sought or given.
  • Safer sex practices like condom use are usually ignored and that’s not respectful or safe.
  • Pornography often shows women with little power and/or as victims of violence – this is not what anyone wants from a positive relationship.
  • Let’s talk about any content that makes you feel uncomfortable or worried, I’m always here for you.

Family Planning has resources on our website about this. Remember, it’s not one conversation, it’s many.

Contact your child’s school and get involved

Ask your school about their relationship and sexuality education programme. All schools in New Zealand are required to consult with their school community on health education every two years. This includes relationship and sexuality education.

While every school is required to deliver relationship and sexuality education within the framework of the curriculum, guided by the Sexuality Education Guide, they should be working with the wider school community for the best results. You can support your school to deliver quality relationship and sexuality education.

Support relationship and sexuality education because it works

Research shows that when people have access to comprehensive relationship and sexuality education, and health services, they are more likely to delay having sex, have fewer sexual partners and use condoms or contraception.

We do a disservice to our young people when we send them into the world without context for what they’re seeing in the media, and without the tools they need to navigate their world.

Listen to young people

The NetSafe report is a helpful addition to the quality research and information we have on this issue. Like the Office of the Film and Literature Commission report last week, this research is telling us we need to listen to young people. As Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond says: “The voice of young people is being heard on this issue and they themselves are saying they need more and better sexuality education.”

Use the resources available to you

The NetSafe report echoes what the OFLC report on pornography found – that many parents would also appreciate support in navigating these issues with their children. They have said that the report could serve as an opportunity to promote relationship and sexuality resources and make them easy to find.

Family Planning has resources on our website that we provide free to schools and parents. Check them out and print them for free.

Catch up on the research to understand what your kids are facing

Netsafe’s report is just one of many on the effects of pornography on young people. Helpfully, it covers parents and caregivers in New Zealand as well as overseas so it’s specific to our country, which is important. Read the report, but also consider other reports that touch on the same subjects.

In September the Education Review Office published a report on sexuality education in New Zealand primary and secondary schools. The report showed there has been little change in over a decade in the area of sexuality education in New Zealand. This is despite many experts and health promotion agencies like Family Planning loudly calling for action.

And just last week the Office of Film and Literature Classification published the NZ Youth and Porn report on the results of a survey of more than 2,000 New Zealanders aged 14-17, on how and why they view online pornography.

Evidence clearly shows that relationship and sexuality education is best when it is delivered by qualified teachers and where trust, diversity, equality and inclusiveness are reinforced through the wider school culture. Educators need you, as a parent, to be part of this. They need you pushing for and supporting high quality and comprehensive relationship and sexuality education in schools.

Knowledge is power. We know comprehensive and high quality relationship and sexuality education is what best serves young people. So as parents we need to do our part too to ensure that young people are getting the support they need to navigate their way through their younger years. Our children need us to set an example – to talk about these issues without shame and judgement so that they know they can come to us with any questions they have. We can learn so much from their questions and it’s better to have a gauge on where their thinking is at, rather than no idea at all.

Related

What parents really need to know about the ERO sex education report

What the censor’s report says about teens and porn – and what should happen next


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