WTF: 73 Percent Of Kids Under 18 Have Watched Porn

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Even scarier: Porn is replacing sex education. This is what parents need to know.

Parents are notoriously squeamish about the idea of giving their kids "the talk." Moms and dads often have a long list of excuses for avoiding bringing up the birds and the bees with their children — from wanting to preserve their precious ones' innocence for a little longer, to hoping that ignorance is bliss, and not knowing about S-E-X will keep them from doing it.

But it doesn't take a parent saying, "When two people love each other very much ..." to put the tale of the stork to bed.

These days, all you need is a phone. Just about any phone will do, as long as you're somewhere with an internet connection.

You know who has phones? Kids. You know what's on the Internet? Porn. Lots of porn.

Rest assured, someone out there is talking about sex. I mean, it's sex. Just because parents are staying silent and schools are shutting up doesn't mean kids aren't listening for it.

They already know that something is going on, and curiosity will lead them to turn toward anyone willing to speak up on the subject. The porn industry is — if you'll excuse the implication — pretty loud.

In fact, pornography has become "de facto sex education," said Cindy Gallop, founder of MakeLoveNotPorn, in her 2009 TED Talk. Shortly before that, a 2008 scholarly study titled "The Nature and Dynamics of Internet Pornography Exposure for Youth" found that 62 percent of girls had been exposed to online pornography during their adolescent years; for boys, that number was 93 percent.

Those numbers seem to have only risen since then, as evidenced by the stories parents tell of accidentally stumbling across their 9-year-olds watching hardcore scenes after typing relatively tame terms into search bars.

Gallop cited the "creeping ubiquity of hardcore pornography in our culture" in her TED Talk on the unrealistic standards set by easily accessible pornography today, and many young women's beliefs that they must emulate what they see to please their partner.

"There is an entire generation growing up that believes that what you see in hardcore pornography is the way that you have sex," she said, explaining in somewhat graphic detail acts men in their early 20s have asked her to do in the bedroom — acts she politely declined because she wouldn't enjoy them.

Her concern is that younger people who have been exposed to hardcore porn — with its sensational, amped-up-for-the-camera ... um, events — creates the belief that all guys like doing certain sexual acts and all women love being the recipient of such sexual acts.

Thus, girls may feel pressured to agree to do (or have done to them) far more than they are comfortable with. And they will pretend to like it.

This can be a problem, especially considering that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Adolescent Health reports that teens who have sex earlier in life are less likely to use contraception. (Who uses a condom in porn? It would literally ruin the shot.)

They also note that almost half of the teens in the United States have reported engaging in oral sex, and a third of teens reported sexting, so the secret's out.

There are some tactics you can take to help ensure that children get a realistic view of an intimate (and fun) part of being in a relationship.

Many of these are based on material from talks given by Sue Simonson, ICCE, whose program, Without Regret, includes a session titled "Opening the Door: Talking to Your Child about Sex."

1. Identify body parts correctly when young children are learning the names. This sets a foundation of honesty, forthrightness, and accuracy, on which you can build eventual conversations about these parts' functions.

2. Respond to kids' questions with age-appropriate answers, and don't get embarrassed or angry when they ask about where babies come from, or whether various members of the family have a penis or vagina.

Acting ashamed (or worse) when these topics come up will lead children to associate the subject with shame (or worse), and they'll quickly learn that Mom and Dad aren't OK with it, so they'll go elsewhere for answers in the future. They might search online, or they might ask their friends at school, and we know how reliable both of those sources are for healthy, accurate, safe information about sex.

3. Don't assume and jump the gun. If your child asks why someone would ever sleep on top of someone else, don't start stammering about the importance of using condoms.

Try encouraging more information by saying, "Tell me more about that!" or, "What do you think?" You may discover that a friend at school just got bunk beds, and the idea of tiered bedtime arrangements is intriguing.

4. Be open. Be honest. Be reliable. Let your children know that you are a safe place to get information on the subject of sex, that you respect them, and that you will always be available for them. If they can count on you to guide them with love and truthful answers when they're young, they'll continue seeking answers from you as they grow.

It may not be easy for parents, but look at it this way: Which is more uncomfortable? Having a conversation with your child in a setting where you get to choose your words and frame the subject as one of love, maturity, respect, and safety?

Or to one day catch a glimpse of three very naked people locked together on your 10-year-old's tablet?

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