Dear Cici,

With all this distance learning, my son is spending a lot more time online and I’m worried about him accessing adult websites. I want to talk to him about it but I’m not sure how to bring it up or what to say. How do I talk to my kid about porn?

Sincerely, Remotely Worried in Kihei

Dear Remotely Worried,

When I was young, our exposure to pornography was limited to the magazines someone snatched from their dad’s collection. Today, kids have access to an endless supply and variety of porn at their fingertips.

It’s an uncomfortable subject but one you would be smart to talk about with your kid.

If you’re not already in the habit of having these types of conversations, try bringing it up in a low-pressure, non-confrontational way. Talking while driving in the car is good because you can easily avoid eye contact if either of you is uncomfortable with eye contact. Recently my son and I have been having great conversations while out hiking.

It’s important to acknowledge that being interested in sex is normal and natural; and in the unlikely event that your son already hasn’t been exposed to online porn, he will.

Potential talking points:

  • Watching porn is exciting but keep in mind that porn is to real sex as the latest Avengers movie is to real life. Most of the people you see in porn are actors who are being paid to perform. People in real-life sexual encounters do not necessarily look or behave the same way.
  • Young people who consume a lot of porn may be at risk of developing a distorted view of healthy sexual relationships. Issues like consent and boundaries are not addressed. Misogynistic, violent, and degrading porn is common and can warp our expectations and experiences with real people in real-life situations.
  • Be aware of the risks and potential consequences of watching, downloading or inadvertently producing child/underage porn (think naked selfies and sexting). Having a smartphone means everyone is carrying a tiny porn production factory in their pocket, so think twice before sending sexy photos or videos of yourself.

Hopefully, this will be the first and not the last conversation you have with your kid about sex and relationships. By addressing it openly and without shame, you’re signaling to him that it’s okay for him to ask questions and talk about uncomfortable subjects with you.

Stay Curious, Cici

Cecilia Ortiz, LCSW is a clinical social worker and a mom. She has nearly 20 years of experience including working with kids, teens and adults in the areas of sex education, abuse, trauma and prevention. Email your questions Cici to [email protected].