Listen: Author Emily Olivia chats to Laura & Duncan about protecting children from explicit imagery.
Of the many conversations parents need to have with children, one of the more awkward ones is the discussion around pornography: what is it, and what should you do when you encounter it?
As a parent you may think you don’t need to talk to your kids about sex and pornography until they reach their teen years. But statistics show the average age of first Internet exposure to pornography is 11 years old: which suggests the conversation may need to come earlier than expected.
Hope 103.2’s Laura and Duncan chatted with Melbourne author, Emily Olivia, about the effects of the harmful content and why it’s something you don’t want your child exposed to.
The author talked about what happens in the brain when a child watches explicit content.
How Seeing Too Much Porn Changes the Brain
“We’re seeing that the brain of a person with a pornography addiction or who watches a lot of porn, looks the same as the brain of people with drug addictions or cigarette addictions,” Emily said. “From a physical brain structure perspective these are dangerous things”.
While your eight year old is most likely not smoking cigarettes or doing drugs, they could be looking at porn.
The questions you need to consider are, ‘What’s that doing to their brain development?’, and ‘How is that setting them up for the rest of their life?’
Being a mother herself, Emily confessed the thought of these questions were “pretty scary”.
Getting the Conversation Started
Emily, is the author of Put a Lid on It: Exposing the Pornography Trap, a book designed to help parents have the conversation about online porn with their kids. The mother’s key advice for parents was “talk to your kids”.
“If you don’t, their friends or someone else is going to,” she said. “And if the only messages that they’re receiving are from pornography or their friends then we’re not setting them up to succeed.”
“We really want to support parents to be present in their child’s life in this issue.”
An Ongoing Discussion With Kids
When it comes to conversations you need to have with your children, pornography isn’t the only topic. There is also sex, relationships, faith, personal grooming, and the list goes on.
But for parents worried that a talk about porn might open up every other issue, Emily said that’s not the case.
“You certainly don’t have to talk about sex before you talk about pornography,” she said. These are all excellent conversations to have with your kids and they all need to happen, but I don’t think they need to happen all at the same time.”
The author suggests having these discussions in ‘small doses’ and making the talks feel like a “natural conversation”.
“Natural conversation is key because you want your kids to know that they can come to you whenever. And whenever something comes up you want to show you’re available,” she said.
What if they’ve Already Been Exposed to Porn
Another challenging discussion is comforting a child who has already been exposed to adult content.
“We’re all about giving hope and it’s definitely not the end of the road if a child has seen pornography,” said Emily.
When dealing with a child who has uncovered the online world of porn, “it is important for them to know that they haven’t stuffed up or gone too far,” she says.
If a child has been exposed, it’s even more of a priority to have this discussion with them.
The author, who is currently studying psychology, talked about the neurogenesis and plasticity of the brain. “We know that children can come back from this,” she said. Emily’s book Put a Lid on It: Exposing the Pornography Trap is centred around a Christian world view, and suitable to read with children over six years old. She suggests it’s an essential tool to read with them before they are given an Internet-enabled