If you’re wondering whether you somehow clicked through to a site other than BellyBelly, I’m not surprised.
After all, we’re all about pregnancy, birth and babies, right?
Certainly, we cover those topics in depth, but babies eventually become children, who eventually become teens. Times are changing fast, and it’s important for us, as parents, to be prepared.
I want to delve into this topic probably as much as you want to read about it – which is probably not at all.
No parent wants to read that 12-year-olds are having sex. No parent wants to think that a 12-year-old girl can find herself in a situation where she’s having unwanted sex – and especially not rough, porn-like sex.
As comfortable as it would be just to bury our heads in the sand, that would only make it worse.
So, here I am, jumping into a shockingly real scenario to find out why and how it could happen, and what we can do to help our daughters and sons avoid it.
Why Are 12 Year Olds Having Porn-Like Sex?
The short answer is pornography. Every child with Internet access can access a constant stream of free, high-speed Internet porn.
If you’re thinking that porn has been around for a long time and therefore it can’t possibly be the only reason children are having rough sex at a younger age, then you are right. And you won’t be surprised to hear that the long answer goes beyond just porn.
However, it is the biggest factor.
Our children are getting their sexual education online, via their own, or their friends’, electronic devices. They don’t have to try very hard to stumble across porn. They watch it, they expect sex to be that way, and they act out rougher, porn-like sex with their partners.
And today’s porn is not like it was in past generations.
How Could Porn Have Such An Impact?
The Internet is one of the biggest technological advancements in history. It wasn’t labelled the information highway for no reason. Any and every topic, image or video can be found instantly, and often on a small handheld device.
However, 24/7 access to free porn is very recent.
Remember the days when awkward teens would try to catch a glimpse of scrambled porn on channels their parents didn’t purchase? What about the video tape a group of guys would show off, or the magazines a boy had hidden under his mattress? Well, those days are long gone.
Whatever your personal feelings about porn, you can’t deny the statistics shared by Fight The New Drug are alarming.
They reveal that nearly half of adults first watched porn between the ages of 11 and 13. Other research shows that 92% of boys are exposed to online porn before the age of 16.
Let that sink in – only 8% of boys don’t see online porn before they turn 16.
If you’re comparing it with the bit of porn you might have been exposed to as a teen, you might think it can’t really be that big a deal.
But the reality is, what our kids have access to is unlike anything we could have possibly stumbled upon as young teens.
Technology has made it increasingly easy to create and distribute pornography. With a saturated market, and massive amounts of money to be made, the industry is now producing extreme material to get an edge. Extreme porn is aggressive and rough, and idealises acts women in real life don’t enjoy – like physical and verbal aggression, rape, anal sex, torture, gag-inducing sex and more.
Melbourne researcher Maree Crabbe said, “Young people have described to us again and again, that pornography is shaping their sexual imaginations, expectations and practices. We have had young men who are genuinely surprised that when they enact what they see in porn, their partner doesn’t like what they are doing, because they’ve always seen women enjoy it on screen”.
Children of 11 to 13 years old are being exposed to aggressive, unhealthy and unrealistic pornography. And the most alarming part is that they’re acting it out.
How Does A Young Teen Go From Watching Porn To Having Aggressive Sex?
Okay, so porn is definitely different from when we were young, but how does that translate to young kids having rough and even unwanted sex?
When you had a crush on someone in 1998, your communication happened via folded notes passed in the hall, or phone calls you hoped your parents or younger siblings didn’t listen in on. You had to call a home phone and hope you didn’t have to talk awkwardly to your crush’s parents.
Nothing was instant, and secrecy took quite a bit of effort.
Today, young teens can access clear, free, and aggressive porn in the palm of the hand. Then they can interact instantly, and privately, with someone they have a crush on. SMS, instant messaging apps, and social media mean easy access to peers, and little control from parents who might not even know a new text app exists.
The combination of easy porn and easy hook ups has changed the expectations of young teen relationships. Awkward flirting has been replaced with instant messaging, which can quickly escalate to flirting via provocative or nude pictures.
Boys seek what they see online and believe to be realistic; girls seek acceptance and attention from their peers.
The distorted images of reality found in porn often lead to behaviours that can leave young women with deep emotional, psychological and even physical scars.
What happens in the insecure teen years, which are now perhaps more complicated than ever, can leave a permanent mark.
What Other Social Or Environmental Factors Are Affecting Our Children?
Children now reach puberty earlier than in previous generations. Children are dealing with complex hormonal changes, and having access to aggressive pornography long before most of them are mature enough to make wise decisions.
Teens are having sex younger, and oral sex has become no big deal and not ‘real’ sex, according to most teens. And alcohol consumption has increased.
It’s a perfect storm of factors that can lead to early and unhealthy sexual choices.
Anne Mitchell, the director of the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society shared, with Fight The New Drug, information about social changes, including the fact that rates of oral sex have been climbing for years.
The most worrying increase, however, is in the rate of unwanted sex. Mitchell said, “The main reasons are being too drunk or high, and pressure from a partner. Alcohol [consumption] has gone up over time, too, and it’s intimately connected to their sexual behaviour”.
What Does This Mean For Parents?
Even as an adult who has worked for ten years with teens and young teen mothers, I’m not the type to sound the alarm bells. I don’t like to jump to conclusions, and to assume all teens are going to make dangerous choices. I’m not the type to suggest we simply keep our teens in lock down. Can’t leave the house, can’t make mistakes, right?
However, the reality is our kids have easy access to porn and communication, which makes it all too easy to fall into unhealthy choices. We can’t ignore this reality.
Whether you have personal or religious beliefs about porn, sex or teen dating, and even if you personally believe porn is harmless, statistics show that porn carries risks, especially for impressionable young minds.
There are ways you can help your children to avoid porn, and to limit unhealthy social media interaction, and unhealthy young relationships:
- Expose them to healthy role models – not simply media role models, but trusted family, friends, individuals who can be a positive influence in their lives
- Use filters and parental controls for your child’s handheld devices
- Keep them active, and provide healthy outlets for physical energy. Keep them busy with activities which help build them up and develop confidence.
- Teach your daughters their worth isn’t found in their bodies or in peer approval. Yes, this is a difficult one, and you need to start when they are young. Teach them they are valuable and intelligent beings, worthy of respect and dignity.
- And be sure to read Porn: The Talk You MUST Have With Your Children.
There’s no job quite like parenting. The list of things we need to teach them and protect them from can feel never ending.
My goal is never to alarm parents or make assumptions about teens. However, there’s enough evidence and research about children and porn to show us we need to be proactive about its potential impact.
What Is Fight The New Drug?
Your individual situation is unique, and depends on your age, culture, family, and religious belief (or lack of), and your philosophical and social background. And your personal view of pornography might vary from that of Fight The New Drug.
However, their research is compelling, their statistics alarming, and their goal a positive one.
This is how they describe their position: “Pro-love and pro-healthy sexuality, which is why we are anti-porn. Porn is full of attitudes and behaviors that are completely opposite of what real sex is like.
“Healthy relationships are built on equality, honesty, respect, and love. But in porn, it’s the reverse: interactions are based on domination, disrespect, abuse, violence, and selfishness.
“In our digital age, this generation is the first to deal with the issue of pornography to this intensity and scale. As we’ve seen, with society constantly pushing the boundaries, the problem is only going to get worse if we don’t speak up.
“By being informed and understanding porn’s harmful effects, we can make a much needed change to perceptions of love, sex, and relationships”.
Regardless of how you feel about porn, it’s important to know the risks it poses for your children.