Porn, parents, and kids’ self-worth

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Pornography is a near-mainstream part of life for American adolescents. By the time they reach college, research suggests that about 50% of our kids will regularly view pornography. This means that whether your child looks at pornography or not, they will be affected by it in some way. For those who don’t view pornography, they’ll likely date somebody who does, and this has been shown to have negative effects on self-esteem and relationship quality, among other things. Sounds daunting for a parent of four daughters like me.

However, there is reason to be hopeful. There is always reason to be hopeful. We surveyed more than 300 college students and asked them a slew of questions about pornography. The study, as reported in the Deseret News, found that parents have a surprisingly effective protective influence on their kids when it comes to pornography. Parent-child conversations about pornography during middle school and high school resulted in kids having more negative attitudes about pornography, which in turn led to looking at pornography less once they left home and went to college. What’s more, the self-esteem of college students’ whose sexual partner regularly views pornography takes a hit–except for those whose parents talked with them regularly about pornography during middle school and high school. Did you catch that? Simply talking to kids about pornography can help protect their self-esteem when someone they date later in life looks at pornography. How cool is that! As the lead author on the study, I’d like to think that these conversations teach our kids that their worth is not based on someone else’s behavior.

Now, I’m not a therapist when it comes to things like pornography, but this research has changed the way I parent. For me and my family, it means that we talk about pornography. Our kindergartner knows what pornography is and where we stand when it comes to viewing it. Whether or not that’s too young to have the porn talk, I don’t know, but there’s nothing more important to me than my kids having a strong sense of self-worth. I’ll take my chances with having the talk early and often.

What are your thoughts about this research? What kinds of conversations have you had with your kids about pornography?

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