3 Things that Pornography WON’T Teach Your Kids

When speaking in schools, one of the questions that we often ask a room full of teenagers is, “How many of you have the desire to be in an extraordinary relationship one day?” It’s not all that uncommon to see every hand in the room raised.

It can be easy to presume that our over-sexualized, hook-up culture represents a lack of or even a void of desire for long-term, committed, healthy relationships amongst teens. However, the countless conversations we have had with young people over the last decade suggest otherwise.

With this in mind, there lies a major concern…

Yes, there is a longing amongst teens to have a happy, healthy relationship one day, one that would go the distance. However, the accessibility and affordability of pornography along with the message it projects to our kids is robbing them from learning and understanding the fundamental values they need to experience that kind of relationship.

As a parent, I’m sure like me you would love for your child to one-day experience relationships that are built on trust, intimacy, love, kindness, and compassion. The kind of relationship where they are valued and respected, just as they should be.

The problem is, if pornography becomes the main source of education for our teens around sex and relationships, these values won’t be taught. In fact, our kids will learn the opposite.

A 2018 study of 830 years 10 students from 7 Independent Sydney schools found that if students watched pornography monthly or more, they were more likely to; adopt views that sexually objectify women, increase their desire for uncommitted sexual exploration, develop significant compulsivity problems, and possess less social empathy (M. Ballentine-Jones & K. Oates, 2018). The study found that it had the same effect on males as it did on females.

We as parents have the opportunity to provide a different message.

We are positioned to teach our kids some of the most important values they’ll need in order to experience healthy relationships….values that porn can not and will not ever teach them. 

So here are three fundamental life lessons that we, as parents, need to teach our kids because reality is…they won’t learn it without us.

1. Consent is a non-negotiable element in any and every kind of relationship. 

There has been an important unfolding conversation throughout 2021 around the topic of consent. As a society, it seems that we may be making progress in talking about and placing value on consent. However, pornography has and always will fail to represent this shift. It’s absolutely necessary for us to engage in conversations with our kids around how pornography and porn culture is failing to place emphasis on consent.

Not only is consent often absent in porn culture and content, in many ways it celebrates scenarios where there is evidently a lack thereof.

As a parent, I find this deeply concerning. 

It’s important for us as parents to remain mindful of the way in which pornography can powerfully impact youth culture as well as pop culture. Even if our kids are protected from online pornography itself, its influence on society at large can be projecting these very same views.

Let’s lead the way in educating our kids about what consent is and isn’t.

Let’s teach our kids if consent is not given freely and enthusiastically then it doesn’t count. 

Let’s offer our kids an alternative message to what pornography teaches.

We have an opportunity to intercept these potentially harmful messages, with education around the importance of consent and finding health in relationships.

2. Every human being has innate value and should be treated with respect and kindness.

The impact of pornography on young people is becoming more and more evident. Its reach has spanned beyond the screen and into the hearts and minds of young people worldwide. You don’t have to look too far to see how the message of objectification, which is embedded and fuelled by porn culture, has impacted teenagers: their beliefs, their lives, and even the way they see themselves.

One of the most important messages that we can deliver to our kids is that human beings are in no way objects to be used or consumed but instead, have innate value and worth. This applies to both self and others. We can be at the forefront of clarifying this message before pornography steps in and teaches a message that devalues and dehumanizes individuals in a way that can affect the way they see both themselves and others.

3. Healthy relationships are based on so much more than the physical. 

As parents, we can often spend a lot of time focusing on how to have conversations about sex with our kids from the physiological perspective. Of course, the physical aspect of sex and how to navigate this is a vital part of the discussion. However, we encourage every parent to not only discuss the complexities of the physical side of relationships but to lead the conversation from a values-based approach.

One of the strongest messages that pornography projects is ‘sex for self’. Perhaps now more than ever, pornographic content and porn culture are promoting the idea that sex is purely for self-gratification and self-pleasure. As parents, this is not what we want for our children.

When navigating this conversation with our kids, it’s important we spend some time weighing up important values like love, intimacy, trust, respect, kindness, and commitment. In order for our kids to experience health in their future relationships, we need to be placing emphasis on these kinds of values that play such a significant role in relationships of any kind.

As a parent, we have the opportunity to encourage our kids to think deeply and meaningfully about the decisions they will make in the sex and relationship space. We truly believe that parents are well-positioned to offer a counter-cultural message to what pornography offers by emphasizing consent, human worth, and deeper values beyond self-gratification.

Let’s educate our kids before pornography does it for us. 

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