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Is it time parents faced reality — their children are never going to tell them about the porn they watch online?
A New Zealand video (the latest in a Keep It Real Online Government series), which has gone viral, deals with children and porn. Two naked adult film actors, Derek and Sue, show up at a family home and chirpily address the mother: "Hiya, your son is watching us online."
"We usually perform for adults but your son’s just a kid," says Sue.
"He might not know how relationships actually work. We never even talk about consent, we just get straight to it."
A young boy appears, holding a laptop, sees the porn actors and drops his cereal bowl.
The advertisement is nicely done — humorous but sharp — and the message gets through. Maybe more of a message than was intended. The ad is presented as a friendly warning ("Your child could be watching porn"), but it’s closer to parental wish-fulfilment.
Kindly, albeit naked, strangers showing up at your door to give you the nod about your child’s online activities, opening that conversation for you? You wish. In reality, the buck stops with you.
The ad follows a 2019 study about how some New Zealand teenagers use online porn to learn about sex. There was a similar report from Ireland in 2018.
I thought then as I do now: teenagers can’t find out about sex from porn — they can only find out about porn from porn. This continues to be a hugely disturbing and complicated issue. Modern youngsters are dealing with unprecedented explicit content, unlimited access and sheer volume. They’re routinely bombarded with damaging, violent, non-consensual imagery their immature brains haven’t a hope of processing.
Another issue is parents. Not in a judgemental "blame the parents" way, but because parents are, by definition, central to all issues in a child’s life. As loving and concerned as parents might be, maybe some of us don’t deal with the "porn talk" so well. You’ll get parents who naively don’t realise their children are looking or refuse to accept they are. Parents who presume that girls aren’t implicated (even if they don’t watch porn, they’ll almost definitely be dealing with those who have).
Parents presuming it’s the same porn that’s always been around. (It’s not.) Parents who simply can’t face bringing it up and prefer to wait the "phase" out. And so on.
This isn’t about being a nation of prudes — introducing the topic of pornography to your child is difficult — but who else will, but you?
Sex education in schools can’t do everything. As for your child maturely and responsibly broaching the subject with you... Give them a tiny break!
Just like the porn itself, this is not something teenagers should be expected to deal with. Nor are helpful porn stars likely to turn up at your door. If any parents (or kids) out there have already dealt with this, then sincere respect to you. Everyone else: I’m afraid this is down to you. — Guardian News
Barbara Ellen is an Observer columnist