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Pornography

Pornography

To better understand

Adolescence is a time of profound change. Teens are discovering their identity and exploring their needs, desires and preferences, especially when it comes to their sexuality. In an attempt to learn more or simply out of curiosity, some teens may turn to pornography. But not all teens will be interested in or use pornography.

Teens view pornography for many reasons: to accompany masturbation, to figure out what excites them, to learn more about sex, to overcome boredom, and more. While teens may watch sexually explicit material voluntarily (alone or with friends), they can also be exposed to pornography unintentionally, for example through advertisements or video games.

Since the advent of the Internet, pornography has been much easier to access. Often, sexually explicit material is only a few clicks away. In addition to videos, teens may also be exposed to pornographic stories or drawings (e.g., comic books).

However, pornography is meant for adults 18 years and older, not for teens. Watching porn can cause teens to develop unrealistic expectations about their sexuality and feel pressure to perform. It can also taint their views of sexuality and relationships, since consent isn’t always portrayed. Teens might also compare themselves to the porn stars and develop complexes about their bodies. Some teens might even become addicted to pornography.

It’s not uncommon for teens to watch porn, and it’s perfectly normal for them to be curious about it. As a parent, you can open up the conversation about different ways they can express and explore their sexuality and help them develop critical thinking skills. Porn isn’t real life!

Pornography and teens

According to the PRESAJ study (Precursors of youth’s sexual and romantic relationships) among 2846 secondary 3 (grade 9) teens in Québec between 2019 and 2021, two-thirds had already had their first encounter with pornography by age 14. As for frequency, half of the teens indicated that they’d watched pornography at least once a month over the previous three months.

To better support

Communication

  • Have an open, non-judgmental conversation with your teen about their views and opinions on pornography.
  • Talk about the reasons for watching pornography and the potential impacts on a teenager’s sexuality. If you think they might be receptive, make comparisons with their life.
  • Demystify pornography for your teen. Explain that the actors are following a script and the videos aren’t accurate portrayals of real-life sexual encounters. The scenarios in pornographic stories and drawings (e.g., comic books) are also fictional and not true to life.
  • Educate your teen about gender roles, norms and stereotypes portrayed in pornography.
  • Since most pornography involves little to no talking and focuses mostly on the genitals, talk to your teen about consent and the components of an equal relationship.
  • Since condoms rarely feature in pornography, talk to your teen about healthy behaviours and the importance of safe sex.

Supervision/Guidance

  • With input from your teen, set up security settings and parental controls on their devices and the home wi-fi account.
  • Monitor your teen’s online activities while still giving them some privacy.
  • Find out what your teen is viewing online. Restrict the use of devices to family rooms.

Support

  • Help your teen to develop their critical thinking skills about the images and messages portrayed by pornography.
  • Don’t make your teen feel guilty for watching pornography. It’s normal for teenagers to be curious about porn. Express your concerns calmly and gently, while explaining the potential impacts of watching pornography. If your teen feels judged, they’ll be less likely to confide in you in the future.
  • Point your teen to various sex education resources where they can get reliable answers to their questions (e.g., Tel-jeunes).

At home

  • Talk about sexuality openly at home. Your teen will be more likely to ask you questions and confide in you as needed.

Tips and tricks

  • Use the media as a springboard to talk to your teen about pornography or ask them about a sex education class at school as a conversation starter.
  • Here are some topics you can discuss with your teen:
    • What do they already know about pornography?
    • If they’ve watched pornography, what do they think about what they saw?
    • What did they notice about the porn stars’ bodies?
    • What do they think makes for an equal relationship?
    • Do they think pornography portrays an equal relationship? If yes, why? If no, why not?
  • Discussing these topics calmly and kindly will help develop your teen’s critical thinking skills.

In brief

  • With the Internet, pornography is only a few clicks away, and many teens are exposed to it, willingly or not. It’s normal for them to be curious! But watching pornography can cause teens to form unrealistic expectations about sexuality, so it’s important to help your teen develop their critical thinking skills about the messages and images portrayed in porn.
  • Respect your limits and your teen’s limits! If you’re uncomfortable talking to your teen about pornography or if they seem uncomfortable talking to you, it’s important not to push. Point them to reliable sex education resources (e.g., Tel-jeunes) where they can discuss the subject openly with a trusted adult.

Resources and practical tools

1. For support:

Do you have concerns about your teen’s development or behaviour? Do not hesitate to reach out to a support worker or a healthcare professional:

Info-Santé/Info-Social 811, 24/7 service

Community organizations: family centre, youth centre, etc.

Some community organizations offer support programs for parents of teenagers. Call your local organization for information.

School staff members are also good allies

2. To learn more:

  • Ligne Parents : thème de la pornographie (French only)
  • Pause ton écran : Pornographie en ligne : comment en parler avec votre ado? (French only)

Latest updates: december 2022

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