We know that talking to your teenager about porn can be an overwhelming prospect. Maybe you’re tempted to give it a miss altogether, too embarrassed or afraid of saying the wrong thing. But in today’s digital space- a world steeped in damaging messages that create insecurities, exploit vulnerabilities and fuel addictions, our kids desperately need us to be willing to engage, support and guide them. Here are a few things that will help you do that well!

Tip #1

ACKNOWLEDGE THE AWKWARDNESS

Acknowledge that the topic is awkward- you don’t have to pretend this is easy for you if it isn’t! As well as letting your teen know that this is an important chat, let them know it’s as difficult for you as it is for them. Try and inject a little bit of humour at this point, “ I remember when your Nan and Grandad sat me down to talk about this stuff, I wanted the ground to swallow me. It’s not much better as a parent!” Break the ice and set the tone for the conversation- it’ll make it much easier for everyone.

Tip #2

use tone & posture to avoid shame

Do whatever you can with your verbal and body language to avoid making your teen feel this is something to be ashamed of. They need to know that it’s okay to talk to you about porn without feeling like it’s 20 questions that leave them feeling rubbish. It’s really important to do your best to ban shame in this conversation because you want to be able to keep talking about this. These first conversations are vital.

Tip #3

Keep the conversation abstract, not personal (and try messaging!)

Instead of saying “I want to talk to you about what you’re looking at”, which may feel to the teenager like they’re in trouble, talk generally about the wider damaging effects of porn and how it affects society and people in general. Try waiting for an open opportunity, like if porn is mentioned on a TV show you’re watching together. (‘Friends’ will give you plenty of opportunities!).

Additionally, lots of young people communicate primarily through messaging. You’ve probably noticed that they rarely speak to their friends on the phone – it’s all done through messaging. So, if you see an article that would be a good discussion starter, try messaging them the link and asking what their thoughts are. It will give them the heads up that a chat might be coming, but also allows them some time to think about the issue first. Side note; make sure you’ve had the conversation about being safe opening links (even from people you know) first!

Tip #4

Make the conversations little and often

Don’t sit your teen down for an hour-long intense conversation – you’ll lose their attention quickly! Instead have regular, short conversations. Teenagers change quickly, and what they’re interested in changes even faster, so regular chats will be more helpful for everyone. Remember that a change in behaviour is probably an easy sign that it’s time to have a quick check in!

Tip #5

Don’t focus on the rules

Focus on the ‘why’ rather than the ‘what’. By all means set your boundaries (we’re big fans of parental control apps and house rules to keep your teenager safe) but they need to know that you’re not just being a killjoy! Talk about the bigger picture- explain that blue light in bedrooms isn’t good for their sleep, as well as the damaging impact that porn can have on them. Explain what your family values are, so that they can understand the ‘why’ behind the rules. Lastly- lead by example and leave your devices downstairs! This will have much more of an impact on them than any rule you set. 

Remember- the most important thing is that your teenager knows that you’re on their team, and that your goal is to help them stay safe, know their worth and live in freedom. You’ve got this! 

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