Keeping children safe
Porn and other sexually explicit material
In this section
Coming across porn - accidental? on purpose?
It is very easy to come across porn online even on what may seem to be age appropriate sites.
Pop-ups, links in YouTube and games where people can create rooms or characters are all ways in which children can come across porn accidentally.
Children and young people are often curious about sex and bodies and may seek it out as part of their self-education.
The number of children exposed to porn increases at around age 9, probably because their sexual curiosity starts around this age, and because they are becoming more independent online.15
I worry that young people watch porn to learn about sex. I hope they realise there is a massive difference between porn and reality.
Parent of girl 7 and boy 10
Is pornography harmful?
The evidence on the effects of porn on young people is hard to find.
What seems clear is that boys who watch a lot of violent pornography (i.e. weekly) have more aggressive sexual behaviour.21
This is an important finding as it highlights that those who watch violent porn regularly need to know that forced and violent sex is never acceptable, and it is illegal.
Pornography can also affect both boys’ and girls’ self-esteem by presenting them as sexual types with unrealistic body images that they feel they have to live up to.21
It's not just porn. So many music video clips I see these days are so sexualised. Even the words in the songs! And a lot of the time they don't even know what they are singing along to.
Parent of girl 10
Is a one-off exposure to pornography likely to do lasting harm?
It may be unpleasant and offensive for your kids, but no more effect than that.
In a survey of 9 to 16 year olds, the 9 to 11 year olds were the most likely to be upset by sexually explicit media.4
Many children and young people are already aware that this type of material does not represent a happy, healthy, positive kind of sex.
Their response can be lessened or heightened by the ways in which families interact and discuss what is seen.
Tell your children your beliefs and concerns about porn and be sure to let them know that porn does not represent all sex or sexual relationships or body types.
What do we do?
In the first instance, it would be good idea to stop children’s and young people’s exposure to pornography, especially violent porn.
Internet and mobile phone access to porn is difficult to control.
It is worthwhile putting blocks and safe searches on your home devices, including gaming consoles (go to esafety.gov.au to find out how).
We have little control over our relatives’ and friends’ devices and internet filters, and blockers are not able to prevent everything coming through, so talking with our children has become a necessity.
What can you do if you come across something like this online?
Ideas for what to say to your 8 or 9 year old
Good websites for you to visit are usually fun, with things for kids to do and see. They have words and videos that are right for your age and they don’t let kids talk to people they don’t know.
Some websites can have pictures and videos that might be scary or upsetting.
As you get older you might have questions about bodies, babies and sex. It’s good to be curious and is a sign that you are growing up. If you have questions come to me.
There are good reasons why we don’t want you to look this stuff up on the internet, unless we know that it’s a safe site.
Some sites have pictures of nude people. These are meant for some adults, not for kids. If you find something like that online, don’t show other kids. You can tell me and you won’t get into trouble and you won’t have your screen time taken away.
If you’re unsure about a site, come and ask me.
For more tips on how to talk to your kids about porn have a look at the free resource The pornography problem plaguing parents in the digital age.
Ideas for talking to kids from about 12 years old
Start talking to your kids about what you want them to know about sex.
There is nothing wrong with sexual interest and sexual feelings.
Porn is meant for (some) adults. Some adults enjoy watching porn. Some don’t.
Some people watch porn thinking that they can learn about sex but porn often doesn’t show what real sex and relationships are like. Sex should be a mutually enjoyable and consensual experience; something shared together rather than a thing ‘done to’ someone.
Real and respectful sex involves consensual touching, kissing and other intimacies that two people can enjoy together. It is not a fast run to sexual intercourse.
Porn is especially a problem if it encourages the mistreatment of people. Some porn is violent and violence is never OK.