When a porn star complains she’s sick of teaching kids about sex, maybe it’s time to face the facts about pornography online.
28-year-old Nikita Bellucci has publicly accused parents of shirking their digital duty of care to educate their children about appropriate online behaviour after receiving numerous explicit requests from teen boys, some as young as 12.
“Reflect on your actions, do your homework and don’t contact me again” Bellucci scolded one school boy who sent her explicit messages - adding that she’d send his parents a screenshot if he didn’t leave her alone.
In a Twitter message to mums and dads, the French pornstar fumed, “Stop offloading your responsibilities onto sex workers. There is a complete lack of teaching and prevention, and it’s not our job to educate your kids.”
Fears that online porn is fast becoming the new sex education for our children may or may not be alarmist. But the prevalence of sexual content online - and the inevitability that children will be affected by it - is beyond dispute.
The average Australian child is exposed to pornography online at age 11.
“It often begins as accidental exposure - a pop-up on a gaming website, for example. And kids might be curious, even though they haven’t been actively searching for it,” explains psychologist and cyber expert Jordan Foster of ySafe.
Nevertheless, experts agree, the impact can be devastating.
“When a child is first exposed to the concept of sex via pornography, they are beginning their education and experience with a total misrepresentation of reality,” explains cyber expert David Kobler of Protect Our Kids consultants.
“A child will not be able to understand that what they’re watching is not reality, and may develop their own misguided values on sex and relationships based on what they’re seeing in the videos.”
And what they’re seeing is violence - specifically, violence against women. In one recent study, nearly 90% of popular porn videos were found to feature acts of physical aggression toward women.
So what’s a parent to do?
Top tips from the experts
It’s never too early to talk about it
Kobler strongly advises parents to raise the subject with kids before they have a chance to see porn for themselves.
Says Kobler, “The videos or images will still confuse them as there is no way to prepare them for what the world of pornography contains, but if you’ve made them feel comfortable coming to you about it then you have the opportunity to set them straight.”
Create an atmosphere of openness
“Making your children feel comfortable talking to you about these topics is vital,” says Kobler. How? Basically by not avoiding the topic of sex as it arises naturally in the context of everyday life . These ordinary “teaching moments” can help kids build a healthy understanding of positive sexuality and relationships before they are exposed to unhealthy, negative images.
Foster agrees. She notes too that sitting a child down for a big “porn talk” can be awkward for all parties - and is likely to be a case of shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted anyhow.
Remember: more information = LESS activity
Parents often fear that raising the subject of sexual relationships early will encourage children to become sexually active. That’s understandable, notes Foster. But the research is clear that it is also completely wrong. “In fact, it has the opposite effect. If we talk to young people about positive sexual relationships, consent and boundaries early it decreases the likelihood they will enter into a sexual relationship.”
Talk about - and model - healthy relationships
Accepting that our kids will see pornography online is disturbing. “But empowering them with accurate information and healthy role-modelling is the best way to minimise harm,” Foster advises.
Respect for women, for example, is a value that should be embodied within the context of real relationships that your child sees every day. Demonstrate and discuss positive relationship attributes like intimacy, vulnerability, generosity - in your own marriage or partnership, or those of family and friends.
Use parental controls
Both Foster and Kobler are staunch advocates of using parental controls to block adult content on kids’ devices. And both endorse Family Zone.
Prevent your kids from accessing pornography and other inappropriate content online with Family Zone. A powerful but simple-to-use solution for managing family screen-time, Family Zone lets parents block apps, filter content and set effective screen-time boundaries to keep kids safe and happy online, across every device, everywhere.