In adults, viewing pornography can be a mental and physical pleasure, giving feelings of euphoria and intense excitement similar to other sexual activities. But in children, exposure to pornographic content can have a range of negative developmental and emotional effects including impacting on their sense of selves, feeding body image issues, affecting their ability to realise healthy real world relationships and it has also been linked to increased sexual aggression and mainstreaming of dangerous sexism because of the violent nature of much of the content available.
Relate NI want to increase awareness of this growing issue among young people, and provide practical advice to parents on how to move forward when exposure occurs.
Unfortunately, children and young people’s exposure and access to pornography is increasing both online and offline in recent years. The most common method is via internet technologies, but increasingly content can be downloaded to devices and make it’s way into spaces where there is little adult supervision or ability to control what is viewed.
Exposure to pornography in children can happen deliberately, including where they may have searched for the content themselves, and parents can have some control over this at home by using internet filters and parent locks provided by your internet service providers.
Accidental exposure is actually more prevalent than deliberate. This may happen where an adult keeps content on a home computer or device that is easily accessible to children and young people. Parents should ensure that any adult content on home devices is hidden from children’s user accounts or password protected.
Increasingly, exposure is happening through social media sites like Tik Tok and OnlyFans. On some of these sites, a young person’s aim of using the platform has not been to view this type of content, but it may be displayed to them anyway due to how the platforms algorithm recommends “suggested” content or because the content has escaped the filters that developers put in place.
No matter how your children have been exposed to pornographic content, if it happens, it’s really important that you have a discussion with your child about what healthy sexual and couple relationships look like. This may be an opportunity for you to dispel any myths that your children may have heard from their peers or online, and help them with any self-esteem issue they may be facing in regards to their own bodies or sense of selves.
It can often be difficult to have these discussions with our children, especially for parents of a certain age who may have grown up in a time when sex and intimacy was quite a taboo subject. Parentline NI helpline can provide advice support & guidance for parents, carers and families on a range of issues including how to move forward when children have been exposed to pornographic content.
Relate NI offer Free Relationship & Sexuality Education Workshops to parents and adults who work with children where we will provide advice support & guidance for parents, carers and families on a range of issues including how to move forward when children have been exposed to pornographic content. In these workshops adults will learn how to talk to children about important topics such as puberty, sexual orientation & gender identity, healthy relationships, safer sex & how to stay safe online.
Relate NI RSE Officer, Beth O’Donnell says: “Building children’s resilience to digital dangers is key to healthy relationships in the digital age. Learning how to discuss sex and intimacy with your children will allow you to place it in the context of respectful and consensual two way relationships.”
“The introduction of a comprehensive program of compulsory, inclusive and age-appropriate education in NI Schools would go a long way in supporting children & parents to understand and enjoy healthy relationships and help with challenging some of the behaviours which extreme pornography can reinforce.”
Parents and adults can enquire about upcoming workshops by emailing email@example.com
Relate NI also offer Free RSE workshops to young people through youth groups, universities & colleges. Find out how to get your club, society or group involved by visiting;
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