How to talk about porn | Advice for parents | Jigsaw Online

How to talk about porn

With advances in technology, pornography has become more and more accessible to young people. It is no longer confined to the top shelf of the newspaper shop, but can be accessed anywhere, anytime. Although it might be awkward, we need to be having conversations with young people about porn and the impact it can have. 

When should you talk to young people about porn?

A discussion about porn should happen after a conversation about sex. We believe that the best time to have this discussion is when a young person has consistent unsupervised access to an internet device (such as a smartphone or computer/laptop). In reality,  if a young person receives their own phone or tablet, porn will become readily accessible.

Parental controls and porn

There are parental controls available for devices, however young people may still find a way to access porn. For example, they may see things on a friend’s device, or find ways to disable the controls. It is usually better to try to talk to a young person and educate them about the realities of porn rather than assume that they will be shielded from it. In a recent research study, the My World Survey, almost half of senior cycle students reported that they had watched pornography.

Almost half of senior cycle students reported that they had watched pornography (source: My World Survey 2)

What to say about porn

It’s important to avoid any assumptions when addressing the topic of porn with a young person. You are probably unaware of what they currently know about it or whether they have seen it before (remembering that they could have seen porn from a friend for example). It may be helpful to keep these points in mind when addressing the topic of porn: 

  • Porn is any image, video or print content intended to be viewed for sexual gratification or excitement 
  • Porn is readily available online, and you may come across it accidentally, such as in an ad or from friends. (If this is the case and they feel uncomfortable seeing it, they should know that it’s OK to talk to you about it)
  • Porn is a portrayal of a sexual act, and does not represent reality. In many cases, there are professional actors and directors, lighting, and production involved in the execution of it
  • Porn can have an effect on our sense of body image, our ideas about sex, and our romantic relationships. We should not view it as a standard for sex 
  • The individuals involved in porn are making money from the content they put out, which strips away any sense of reality from it. (The motive is monetary whether it’s amateur or professional)
  • Porn shouldn’t set any expectations they have for sex or relationships because it’s not real life

With the availability and access to porn, it’s no surprise that many young people (and people in general) view porn. Young people coming to Jigsaw have particularly mentioned how porn has impacted their romantic relationships and their sense of body image.

Show your vulnerability 

Talking about porn to a young person can be awkward and uncomfortable. It’s best to acknowledge this if you feel nervous. It sets the tone of open communication and the young person becomes aware that you’re feeling vulnerable about discussing it too. It’s important to avoid creating a sense of shame or taboo. Chances are, they will come across porn at some point in their adolescence and they shouldn’t feel bad about it.

Make it age appropriate 

When having a discussion about porn, it’s important to remember the age of the young person. You wouldn’t talk about porn with someone who is 12 in the same way you would with someone who is 21. Remember what they have access to and what they may already know.

Talking about porn to a young person can be awkward and uncomfortable. It’s best to address this if you feel nervous.

Justin, Jigsaw Clinician

Don’t make it taboo 

When you do have a conversation about porn with a young person, you can make it clear that it doesn’t have to end there. If they have any questions or want to talk to you about sex you can create an ongoing dialogue around it by establishing a safe and non-judgmental space. 

Worried about a young person overconsuming porn

Because of the 24/7 nature, volume and accessibility of porn, it’s not difficult to overconsume. Humans are naturally curious, and many young people and parents have talked to us about concerns related to porn, how it effects their ideas and the impact of porn on mental health. Particularly, it can influence our concept of body image, relationships,and sex in general. It’s important to not place judgement on the young person you suspect is overconsuming, instead offer information and support. The young person shouldn’t come out of the conversation feeling ashamed or embarrassed, but more aware of how porn can impact their lives and perspective on sex.