Editor’s Note: The following is part two in our two-part series on sex, Internet safety and kids. Part one, an examination of social media, instant communication and exploitation online, was published in the Sept. 29 edition of the Airdrie City View.
Watching pornography can have a long-lasting and negative impact on pre-teens and teens, according to Dianne Federation, a therapist at the Airdrie Counselling Centre.
“It’s distorting their view of sexuality,” Federation said. “It’s also distorting their view of valuing themselves, their own bodies and the bodies of others.
“Some kids are going on sites at school. Whether it’s outside of their (family) values or not, they’re being exposed to it early.”
Federation said she’s counseled a number of youth, both male and female.
“They think (pornography) is about sexual excitement, but it’s really about prostitution and developing a very negative attitude towards women,” she said. “Not that many girls are watching it. It’s the young guys – 12, 13 years of age.”
Watching pornography turns it into a “normalized activity,” according to Federation, which can have a long-lasting impact on someone’s sexual and intimate relationships.
“Unless future partners are willing to engage in all sorts of acrobatics and less than loving activities, it distorts their view of sexuality; what sex means in a relationship. It works towards developing a very casual, perverted view of what is sexual in a relationship,” she said.
“I’ve even had clients who have had partners who have been very demanding about their participation and that was very distressing for some of my clients. (Some) people also find they are not sexually aroused without some form of pornography use. That’s very damaging to a relationship.”
According to thedoorthatsnotlocked.ca, a website operated by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (CCCP), children as young as eight and nine are being exposed to sexually explicit material on the Internet, often without their parents or caregivers being aware.
Federation said parents need to monitor what their kids are looking at online and need to be willing to answer any questions their children might have.
“I think parents need to be able to say, ‘I don’t want you going on these sites and if you’ve got any questions about sex or sexuality in relationships, come and talk to me,’” she said. “When kids get curious and their parents don’t appear to be open to discussion they’ll go and look at something like that and think they’re learning about sex. It’s absolutely not true.
“Answering questions when kids bring (them) forward and putting it in a loving and appropriate context is really important.”
According to thedoorthatsnotlocked.ca, parents can also watch for signs their child may have been exposed to sexually explicit material and experiencing stress or distress. The signs include interruption in sleep patterns and changes in behaviour, including being easily agitated, overly sensitive or emotional. They might also tell the parent an image they saw keeps “popping” into their head and is interfering with their thoughts.
More tips on talking to children about pornography and sexually explicit images on the Internet is available at thedoorthatsnotlocked.ca