It’s natural and healthy and normal for kids to be curious about sex. But when they stumble on websites featuring extreme fetishes, sexual aggression and images that do not depict sex as an act of loving play and connection between consenting adults, it raises great concern among parents.

Nearly every day, parents reach out to me for help on how to safeguard their children from viewing adult material that might interfere with healthy sexual development. We can (and should) install parental restrictions on our digital devices, but unfortunately, they don’t guarantee that our kids won’t see things at the home of a friend or on a classmate’s phone on the bus ride to school. Attentive parents tell these kinds of stories every day.

Remember “The Talk”–that all-important conversation (or rather, series of conversations) about the Birds and the Bees? Hopefully you’ve been having those dialogues in age-appropriate ways from the time your kids were wee little ones.

As important as it is to talk about puberty and how babies are made, those discussions need to address what our kids may inadvertently (or intentionally) find when their curiosity about sex prompts them to type a few select words into a search engine.

According to a Middlesex University study, about 53% of 11- to 16-year-olds have seen explicit material online, nearly all of whom (94%) had seen it by 14.

More than three-fourths of the children– 87% of the boys and 77% of the girls – believed pornography failed to help them understand consent. 53% of the boys and 39% of girls saw it as a realistic depiction of sex.

I’ll be teaming up with child and teen sex educator Amy Lang to offer a webinar on The Birds and Bees in the Online World. Please click here for details on how to become equipped to navigate this complex terrain in this information-packed Master Class.

Meanwhile, here are a few things to keep in mind as we raise sexually healthy kids in this digital age.

• Stay Captainy. Inside, you may be howling if you discover your youngster has been viewing porn, but it’s important that he or she knows that you’re able to handle your feelings so you can help them with theirs. Fear, shame, or confusion are commonly elicited by what kids see online. Let them come to you without worrying about your reaction. In my work, I call this being the Captain of the ship. We sure don’t want our Captain to leap over the side of the ship if she’s been told there’s a leak in the hull, do we?

Normalize their curiosity. Most of the parents who have consulted with me after their child has seen porn report tell me how embarrassed their youngster is. Sometimes I discover that the child saw something weeks or even months earlier but were afraid to tell their parent because they felt so ashamed. Let your child know that an interest in sex is normal and healthy.

• Make it easy for them to ask questions. Open the conversation by asking things like, “Did you see anything that was confusing?” or “Were there things on the website that confused you?” 

Most parents want their children to grow up with a healthy attitude toward sex–one that associates it with love, fun, and connection. Unfortunately,

 

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