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Too Many Kids See Porn Before They Can Handle It

This inundation of fantasy-driven sexual imagery skews an understanding of proper sexual communication.

09/11/2017 19:38 SAST | Updated 09/11/2017 19:41 SAST
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In my clinical practice as a child and adolescent psychologist, I have been inundated this past year with calls from parents whose children have been traumatized by stumbling onto pornography. This is not new for me, but what is alarming is that the ages of the children affected keeps creeping lower and lower. It is not unusual for me to now see preteens deeply troubled and confused by what they are seeing online, or by what they are hearing about from other kids on the playground.

When I talk to these young people, they explain that they had an understanding of the mechanics of sex, how babies were made and born, but they had no idea (and no real interest yet) in knowing what actually happens in the bedroom. However, it takes just one unsupervised session by one curious kid on any kind of device to intentionally or accidentally discover a tsunami of videos that confuses their understanding of human sexuality. Something so shocking is rarely kept a secret and is often eagerly shared with other kids. The ripple effect begins. It's too much, too soon and lacks context.

My phone rings with calls from parents whose kids have seen bondage and violent group sex. Young girls are frightened that this is what will soon be expected from them. Some kids wonder if this is how they were conceived. They question whether this is why adults are so embarrassed to talk about sex. This is not a healthy introduction to sexuality.

Sexuality will be reduced to fleeting sensations, body parts, human objectification and power dynamics.

I worry that experiences like these mean our young people will grow up with a completely skewed understanding of intimacy and human relationships. Their blossoming perception of their own sexuality won't have the opportunity to grow incrementally over their teen years and early adulthood, within real-life connections. Instead, many kids will see everything at once and their psyches will be inundated and overwhelmed with alarming information. Sexuality will be reduced to fleeting sensations, body parts, human objectification and power dynamics. I worry that this generation will experience a deep and depressing sexual loss.

Worse yet, a whole generation of parents and teachers are ill equipped to help children navigate these sexual pitfalls because most of them did not experience anything remotely like this when they were growing up. I have had many mothers disclose to me that they have only ever laid eyes on pornographic magazines, and that they have never actually seen pornographic videos. How do they even begin then to help their kids process what they say? This is a generation gap like never seen before.

I believe that this inundation of fantasy-driven sexual imagery skews an understanding of proper sexual communication. I worry that porn is going to be the go-to source for young people to understand how sexual boundaries are maintained and respected and how consent is obtained. This horrifies me. Instead, we can and should provide our young people with much better sources of information, so that they grow up sexually empowered and with healthy sexual perspectives.

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As one child psychologist, my inability to help all of these kids in my clinical practice often frustrates me. The need is so great and there are only so many sessions in a day. To try to help a greater number of parents manage these challenges and help their children and teens develop a healthy approach to sexuality, I have created a series of age-specific FamilySparks courses on navigating The Sexualized World.

We need to get our heads out of the sand and address this complex, psychosexual dilemma head on. Parents and families, and most importantly our kids, need help.

We need to accept the fact that we now live in the most sexualized parental landscape in human history. There is no longer time or space for shame around sex. As parents, we must push past any taboos that may have been ingrained in us, and position ourselves as the go-to person our child can talk to about this complicated topic. Figuring it all out is hard enough for adults, just imagine what it is like for our children.

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