The sex talk is one of the most dreaded conversations you’ll likely have with your kid, and the Internet hasn’t made it any easier. Along with the basics, there are a few more things you’ll need to cover during this potentially awkward conversation, and the sooner the better.
Pornography has always been around, but in today’s digital world, it’s a whole lot more accessible. If your kid has ever used YouTube unsupervised, there’s a good chance he’s seen a sexually explicit image. While setting up filters to block this content is essential, you also have to prepare for the worst case scenario. After all, you can’t set up parental controls on all of your kids’ friends’ devices too, right? Since there’s no guaranteeing that your child won’t view pornography online (either intentionally or by accident), it’s your responsibility to prepare them and to educate them. Your family’s values will certainly shape the conversation, but at a very minimum, you should let them know that:
- Pornography is fantasy, not reality.
- Porn stars are not accurate representations of real people (that is, they shouldn’t expect to look that way themselves and they shouldn’t expect members of the opposite sex to look that way).
- Watching porn can have negative consequences, including introducing problems into real-life relationships.
With the widespread use of Smartphones and sexting apps like Snapchat, it’s easier and more tempting than ever for kids to begin exploring their sexuality with each other. Talk to your child about the very real dangers of sexting. What may seem like a harmless picture to your kids could potentially—and very literally—ruin their lives. Ask your child how she would feel if a naked picture of her ended up online for everyone to see. Explain to her that even images that are meant to self-destruct (e.g. Snapchats) can be captured or retrieved.
Before the days of the Internet, parents could keep their kids safe from predators by keeping a good eye on them or by simply locking the door at night. With 24/7 Internet access, however, predators can sneak into your home at any moment of the day without you even knowing it. Talking to kids about the threat of Internet predators and sexual exploitation isn’t easy, but it must be done. The most important thing kids should know is that predators aren’t immediately scary or intimidating. On the contrary! They often pretend to be kids themselves and can seem very friendly. Want to learn more about how to talk to kids about online predators? Read our full post on the subject.
If your child goes online routinely and you haven’t had the sex talk yet, you need to initiate the conversation as soon as possible. And remember, the discussion shouldn’t be a one-time event. Open the door for ongoing communication, and let your child know that he can come to you if he ever sees anything sexually explicit online.