Protect your child

Get advice on what conversations to have and which controls and filters to set to prepare and protect your child from seeing online pornography.

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Starting a conversation about relationships, sex and pornography

Depending on the age of your child and their maturity level, you may find it tricky to start a conversation about this issue especially if they haven’t learned about the birds or the bees or are still unaware of where babies come from.

When starting a conversation it is best to meet them where they are and establish what they need to know and what can be explained later as they gain more understanding about the world around them and their own body.

Before starting a conversation about online porn, it’s best to put it into the context of what healthy relationships look like, talk about issues around puberty and what consent is.

Practical tips to talk about online pornography with children to protect them
Display video transcript
Pornography can be a tricky topic to discuss with your children. Be natural and straightforward to help start the conversation and not let embarrassment get the better of the situation.

It’s good for your child to know that they can, and should, come to you if they come across something upsetting online. Make sure they know that you won’t overreact or be shocked by whatever they tell you.#

Give them positive messages. It’s important to talk to them about loving sexual relationships – to understand how to be respectful in relationships.

Curiosity about sex and interest is a normal part of a child’s development. If your child is young and has come across pornography by mistake, they are much more likely to need reassurance and support.

Resources light-bulb

Article: An Age By Age Guide to Sex Education – And What to Do! (by Cath Hakanson)

Read more

Visit the AMAZE website for age-appropriate information about puberty for tweens and parents.

How to talk about online pornography with your child

Pornography can be a difficult subject to talk about with children, especially younger ones. But it’s important to let your child know that pornography doesn’t show a realistic picture of sex and relationships. Our ambassador Dr Linda Papadopoulos provides age-specific do’s and don’ts to consider when addressing online pornography with children as they grow.

Dr Linda Papadopoulos provides do’s and don’ts to help parents addressing online pornography with children

Addressing Pornography: Supporting 6-10s

Addressing Pornography: Supporting 11-13s

Addressing Pornography: Supporting teens

Insightful look to master the awkward nature of having ‘The talk’ with young children

When should you talk to kids about porn?

Typically by the age of 15 children have been exposed to online pornography in some way so, it’s important to be proactive and start having conversations early on to make sure they have a realistic view of the issue.

And of course when they start to ask about where babies come from it could be a good trigger to start an age-appropriate conversation about their bodies and what healthy relationships look like.

What are the benefits of having a conversation?

  • Helps children understand their bodies and you can support them in developing a positive body image
  • It gives you an opportunity to share values about sexuality and give them a better idea of what is the norm is sex and relationships
  • Gives them a better understanding of what a healthy sexual relationship should consist of and what it should not
  • They need to learn about the topic from somewhere and as a parent, it is better that you control that conversation in a way that is age appropriate and allows children to ask questions and feel that they can come to you if they do stumble across it or want to see what it is

How do I talk to a teen or tween about porn?

If you are triggered to talk to them because you suspect they have seen porn or you feel it’s time to have the talk, these tips may help the conversation:

Resources light-bulb

NSPCC Pants guide is a great tool to help children understand consent and protect them from sexual abuse

Learn more

Use TeachConsent.org’s conversation guide for parents on how to talk about consent with children

Be natural and straightforward

If you seem embarrassed to talk about sex and pornography your child will also feel uncomfortable and will be unlikely to let you know if they have seen sexual images. Try techniques like getting them to write things down, or start conversations when they don’t have to look you in the eye, for example, when in the car, or walking home from school.

Find out what they already know

Children may hear or see things at school which they have questions about. Use this as an opportunity to ask them more about what they know and give them the right information.

Be on the lookout for teachable moments

Talking about issues as they come up on TV, in movies or online can help you kick start a conversation to talk about your values and belief on these issues.

Talk to them about their experiences

A deep discussion on pornography isn’t recommended for younger children. However, whatever the age of your children, it’s good for them to know that they can, and should, come to you if they come across something upsetting or that makes them feel uncomfortable online. Make sure that they know they can come and talk to you – and that you won’t overreact or be shocked by whatever they tell you.

Give them positive messages

Talk to them about loving sexual relationships and how to have respect for themselves and their boyfriends / girlfriends / partners.

Take a no-blame approach

Recognise that children are naturally curious about sex and like to explore. An interest in sex is a normal part of a child’s development. If your child is young and has come across pornography by mistake, they are much more likely to need reassurance and support.

Share this video with your child to highlight the difference between what is fantasy and real when it comes to depictions of sex in porn.

What to talk to them about based on their age

Here are some things you might like to discuss with them as they grow:

Young children (5 and over)

Puberty

  • Be reassuring when talking to them about the changes they will experience, try to relate it to your own experience
  • Make sure they know you are there to answer any questions they have if they are concerned
  • Using a good book could help illustrate the more technical parts of puberty

Healthy relationships

  • Share your values on what a good relationship looks like, i.e. it must have trust, honesty, respect, communication, and understanding
  • Talk with your child about what it means to be a good friend
  • Be a good role model and give examples of some of these that they can recognise

Consent

  • Talk to them about respecting boundaries and what is and isn’t appropriate when it comes to touching
  • Make sure they know that they have a say over their own bodies
  • Talk to them explicitly about when it’s appropriate to be naked and why certain areas of the body are private and shouldn’t be touched by others
  • The NSPCC PANTS activity guide is a simple tool to help you discuss this with your child
  • Watch this video with your child to help them understand

Critical thinking

  • Make them aware that not all the images and content they see online is real
  • Encourage them to question what they see and not take anything at face value online
  • Ask them to consider who posted the content and why and how they felt about what they read or saw

Teens (13 and over)

Body image

  • Encourage them to challenge unrealistic ideals on body image and be critical about images they see online and in the media
  • Discuss their thoughts on body image and any concerns they may have about themselves
  • Help them to accept bodies of all shapes and sizes and not to subscribe to an unrealistic body image ideal
  • Be a role model by accepting your body and maintaining a positive attitude towards food
    and exercise

Sex and Healthy relationships

  • Have an open conversation about their values and attitudes towards sex and relationships to be aware of what they believe and give them the right information
  • Emphasise the importance of having love, respect, and trust in a healthy relationship and give them examples that they can look to
  • Discuss the importance of ‘safe sex’ and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases
  • Help them develop coping strategies when it comes to dealing with pressure from friends to watch porn,
    have sex or send nudes
  • Talk about what consent looks like in a relationship
  • You can encourage them to visit the Disrespect Nobody website to learn more about consent and signs of relationship abuse

Pornography - Risks and concerns

  • Discuss the fact that porn doesn’t always show what sex is like in real life 
  • Talk about the ways that it may pressure others to look or behave in a certain way
  • Encourage them not to use it as a source of ‘sexual education’ and mirror what they see
  • Talk about how extreme porn can lead them to develop unrealistic expectations of sexual behaviours
  • Talk about the importance of consent and the way women are portrayed

Tweens (11 and over)

Puberty

  • Make sure they know the basics about biological changes of puberty so they know what to expect
  • Be open and prepared to answer questions about the physical and emotional changes they’ll go through
  • Reassure them if they feel insecure about any changes they experience

Relationships

  • Re-affirm what a healthy relationship looks like and the importance of having love, respect, and trust in a
    relationship prior to having physical contact
  • Talk about how to recognise unhealthy relationships to ensure they can spot the signs and seek support

Body image

  • Talk about positive body image and any concerns they have about their own body
  • Be a role model – children will often mirror what they see so promoting good eating habits and being accepting of those of all shapes and sizes can help children have a positive body image
  • Encourage them to be critical of media messages and images that promote thinness or unrealistic ideals

Sexual Health

  • Discuss what sexuality is, i.e. everything from their biological sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, to pregnancy and reproduction
  • Talk about how online pornography and it’s portrayal of women, consent and extreme sexual behaviour can have a negative impact on them
  • Have regular conversations about the importance of consent
  • Share your own experience of peer pressure to help them relate and feel more confident to make smarter decisions
  • Re-affirm that although it may seem like ‘everyone’ is doing it, it’s often just talk
  • Children will seek out boundaries of what is acceptable behaviour so set clear boundaries for behaviour on and offline, taking the time to clearly explain why it’s beneficial for them (even if they don’t agree)

Peer pressure

  • Talk to them about ways to stand up to peer pressure that may put them at risk (such as pressure to send nudes or to take part in sexual activity)

Managing what they can see online with parental controls

Setting filters to block pornography and explicit online content is great to protect your child’s online safety. However, content blockers shouldn’t be used as a substitute for talking about the issue and tackling it face-to-face:

Set parental controls on your search engine

If you have a young child, encourage them to use child-friendly search engines, such as Swiggle or Kids-search.

Safe search settings can also be activated through Google and Bing parental controls. For other search engines, go to their safety settings page. Don’t forget to opt for the safety mode on YouTube, iTunes and Google Play.

Short how-to video to turn on SafeSearch on Google search engine

Make sure every device is protected

Parental controls should be installed on every device your child uses: mobile phone, tablet and games consoles (both home and handheld).

We’ve created simple step by step guides to protect your family from inappropriate content online. We’ll show you step by step information on how to set parental controls across your home broadband and a range of mobile devices, games consoles and entertainment sites that your children might use.

How to block pop-ups

If you’re worried about your children accessing pornography by accidentally clicking on inappropriate adverts in pop-ups, Norton has advice on how to stop these.

Talk about it

No filter is 100% effective. Make sure you talk to you talk to your child about why you are settings these boundaries and how the filters will create a safer space for them to explore without the fear of seeing something they are not ready for. Use Childnet’s family agreement template to start the conversation and agree on some boundaries to ensure they make safer choices online.

Check your child’s browser history

Look in the browser history at the search terms your child has been using and the sites they’ve visited. Keep an eye on the apps they’ve downloaded on their phones too. If you find something that you feel is inappropriate, you can add it to your parental controls filter list.

Learn how to check browser history

Resource document

Visit our Set up Safe how-to guides to find out how set parental controls on a range of devices, apps, games and networks.

Learn more
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