FORUM ON TEENS #2. PORNOGRAPHY
“I am still in shock to find out that my 14-year-old son watches pornography, and I mean GRAPHIC porn! I know that’s because a lot of the other boys are doing it at school and you apparently get marginalised if you can’t join in the conversation. I’m not sure what conversation I should have with my son.” Heather, 45
Last week we tackled the topic of teens and alcohol and asked for your Australian Women’s Wisdom. Readers said they found the shared advice very helpful.
Now for the vexed issue of teens and pornography – this terrain is a lot more tricky.
The positive or negative effects of consumption of pornography can’t be easily measured – unlike alcohol or drugs. Taboos around the discussion remain in place and one’s views are tempered by religion, culture, age and sexual practise.
It’s embarrassing to discuss this stuff with your teens. Switching off the Wi-Fi at home won’t help. Your teens are watching pornography. Whether you, or they, are ready or not.
A report in the Australian Journal of Medicine published last week said: 28 percent of nine to 16-year-olds had seen sexual material online. Other surveys have found that the average age of exposure is 11 years old; and that amongst Australian school students aged 13 to 16 years, 93 percent of males and 62 percent of females had seen pornography.
Some researchers say exposure to X-rated images correlates with permissive or callous sexual attitudes and risky behaviour. Others say excessive porn-seeking appears to be more a symptom of trouble than a cause.
“I can’t define pornography,” one US judge famously said, “but I know it when I see it.” (Justice Stewart in Jacobellis v.Ohio. 1964.)
Today we ask for your Australian Women’s wisdom on teenagers and pornography. It’s another discussion we have to have.
Recently the SBS program, Insight, hosted by Jenny Brockie aired an episode called Generation XXX.
Here’s a selection of (edited) comments from the transcript of the show:
AT WHAT AGE DO YOUNG PEOPLE BEGIN VIEWING PORN?
NOVA STEWARDSON: Well, I was curious, I think it just sort of came up on the internet when I was younger and it was sort of passed around the school grounds as well. Like a lot of people were just talking about it in primary school.
CHARLIE KAY: I think I was around 12 or 13 the first time I saw an ad for porn. I was looking for cheats for Pokémon in primary school on my parents’ downloads…
MICHAEL FLOOD, SOCIOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF WOLLONGONG: … young people’s exposure to pornography in a sense is reaching saturation levels. Certainly by the time they’re 16 or 17, the vast majority of young people, close to 100 percent have seen porn in some form or another and by the time they’re 12 or so, roughly … half of boys, about a third of boys have had some kind of encounter with porn. There’s a few trends that are underway in Australia though. One is that young people are using porn, consciously using porn at younger ages than they did.
WHAT DO PARENTS DO?
Here are a few approaches…
KIRSTEN ANSCOMBE : There are disturbing things but you’re going to find out sooner or later. If you’re going to be mature about it, like my mum gave me my first porn site (at age 13-14) and that was an educational thing. That was an educational thing for me. I didn’t go looking for it.
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