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Kids Aren’t Flipping Through an Old Penthouse Anymore — They’re Potentially Watching Hardcore Porn

Feb 11, 2020

Like most things, porn seemed way simpler in my day. Hanging out after school with Paul and Ross, thumbing through the several issues of Penthouse that Paul’s dad tucked away inconspicuously on his bookshelf, right behind Winston Churchill’s A Gathering Storm.

Obscenity laws were loosening up and the lads could see close-up what a woman’s parts looked like years before we’d experience the real deal. Porn was, to quote an ad of the day, “the next best thing to being there.”

And then, along came the internet, which changed just about everything, including an explosion in the production, distribution and availability of porn catering to every imaginable taste.

Kids Are Watching

Terms like “xvideos” and “porn” consistently rank among Google’s top searches. Although estimates vary as to the exact number, some peg the global porn industry as pulling in nearly $100 billion annually. And many kids start viewing it as young as eleven.

All of this porn stuff is top of mind as I brace for “the porn talk” with my young teen daughter. It’s a tough one, complex and nuanced, and I know it will be challenging and uncomfortable for me and likely for her. All that aside, I feel that it’s an important conversation to get started. Here is a couple of good reasons why:

"The women are attractive and willing, the men ripped and dominant. And that’s just the tame stuff."

The first has nothing to do with the morality of it and everything to do with porn’s potential impact. Never before have children had access to this volume of sexualized material at such a young age. As the father of a daughter who may come across this material, or be negatively affected by it in the future, I feel it’s important to provide kids with some coaching around it.

Separating Fantasy from Reality

Kids need to understand the difference between the reality of human sexuality and healthy relationships and the fantasy of porn, and there are few resources outside of a parent that can offer a balanced perspective. For many kids, porn is their sex-ed class — doubly concerning when you factor in recent government cuts to actual sex-ed classes.

On the web, kids see a culture of recreational sex that impacts attitudes, roles and social relationships. They see men and women acting in loving ways, sure, but they also see human sexuality at its worst, portrayed in negative and demeaning ways. 

So I need to start the conversation that porn is not real life, and that’s not how people act in real life. Also important, there are no real-life consequences shown. No STIs. No unwanted pregnancies. No ethical questions to ponder. No human emotions and feelings to deal with. The women are attractive and willing, the men ripped and dominant. And that’s just the tame stuff.

Then there’s the addictive aspect of porn, how it stimulates the production of dopamine, and how every time you watch, you get another hit. It makes you desensitized and addicted to chasing a sexual fantasy never to be fulfilled. According to a University of Cambridge study, recently published in the journal PLOS ONE, pornography triggers brain activity similar to that triggered by drugs in the brains of drug addicts. Even if it doesn’t impact your kid that way, who’s to say your kid won’t come under the influence of a child in the future who is strongly addicted and influenced by the porn that he or she consumes?


Read about how a dad handles his fear that all tweens and teens are sexting — here.


What happens if your child isn't just a consumer of porn, but a producer?

I’m talking about “sexting,” and I believe it’s an important part of the conversation to have. Some claim sexting is an epidemic. Given the prevalence of porn, it’s not surprising that some kids are being pressured into sending explicit pics of themselves — or even doing so willingly, with little or no thought to the consequences. It’s the ramifications of sexting that kids need to understand.

Here again, I think it’s important to stay away from moral judgments and attitudes. Instead, I’ll focus on what consensual means, and how some kids have their pictures shared without their permission, setting them up for cyberbullying. I also talk about how there could be serious legal consequences. For example, in Australia, hundreds of child pornography charges have been laid against 10 to 17-year-old kids. While this could be considered extreme, and thankfully this is not the case in Canada, sexting is serious stuff and kids need to be fully aware of what they’re getting themselves into


Teens open about the pressures they face to send nude selfies. Read about it here


Talking about porn and sexting isn’t a conversation most parents want to have. I find it awkward and something I never even considered when we welcomed our daughter into the world. And maybe my attempt to talk about it all will wind up an uncomfortable conversation that my kid finds weird and confusing. But maybe getting the conversation going will protect her down the road when she needs it most.

I believe it’s a conversation parents need to have. And it’s not about whether we do it well or poorly. It’s just about getting it started, when we feel our kids are ready.

Article Author Craig Stephens
Craig Stephens

Craig Stephens is an award-winning writer and documentary film producer who is passionate about developing projects that explore social issues and innovation. He is currently shooting and producing Long Ride Home, a project that explores innovative healing paths for post-traumatic stress. Craig lives in Toronto with his wife, a writer, theatre producer, and podcaster, and their tween daughter – his most challenging and rewarding project to date!  You can catch his latest work at mediadiner.com.

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