Respect for the dignity of the human person is a principle of Catholic Social Teaching and the basis of right and respectful relationships.
As parents and carers of young people, we want children and young people to have positive experiences, healthy relationships and opportunities to learn. We want them to respect others and respect themselves.
Curiosity is part of children’s development. Sadly, online pornography is easily accessible on the internet. Recent research from the eSafety Commissioner shows 50% of children 9-16 years have been exposed to online pornography. From Common Sense Media 2018, 40% of young people view pornography on their phones and 50% stream on their laptops. It is not uncommon for boys as young as 13 years old and girls 16 years old to watch online pornography. Alarmingly, much younger children may accidentally be exposed to online pornography.
Depending on your own upbringing, it may be difficult to have conversations with your children about these topics. The key message from many sources of parenting research is the child will be better off if they have a trusted adult they can speak with.
We have collated information from several reputable and reliable sources that may assist you to discuss these issues with children in your care.
The hard-to-have conversations
Plan and prepare
- Work out what you want to say and how you are going to say it
- Below are some links to websites, videos, podcasts and fact sheets
Find the right time and right place
- A place where you both will be comfortable and can speak privately without being interrupted or overheard
- A car trip, walk in the park, baking cakes, shooting basket ball hoops, or gardening
Helpful conversation starters
- ‘I want to talk with you about one of those awkward topics. Is that OK?’ (Children rarely say ‘no’, but if they do, respect that, and then set up a time where you can talk.)
If the child reveals things that are disturbing, some phrases you could use are
- ‘I understand what you're saying, and I'm glad you came to me about this. You're not going to get into trouble, but we need to trust each other, fix this and move forward.'
- ‘You might not want to tell me all the detail, but if we can talk honestly about what's happened I promise I will listen and stay calm. No matter what happens, we can do this and I love you.’
- "Just like a super hero movie, what you have seen is not real - they are paid actors."
Keep having the conversations.
Free parenting program
The American Culture Reframed Program for Parents of Tweens and Program for Parents of Teens both build young people’s resilience and resistance to hypersexualised media and porn while promoting their healthy development. These free online programs provide culturally competent, research-driven, age-based educational videos, conversation scripts, and resources for parents.
Personal Image sharing
The term ‘sexting’ is not often used by young people or in popular culture. Young people are more likely to refer to other terms like ‘sending nudes' or ‘dick pics’.
A 2017 online safety survey conducted by the eSafety Commissioner found 1 in 3 young people said they had actually experienced sexting in some way — whether sending, receiving, asking, being asked, sharing or showing nude or nearly nude pictures.
There are many serious consequences that can result from inappropriate image sharing. In addition to humiliation and damage to personal reputation, there could be criminal charges and penalties. eSafety.gov.au has a highly informative page on their website.
ThinkUKnow is a national program delivering online child safety information, which gives parents, carers, teachers and students information on how to stay safe online. Presentations are aimed at increasing awareness about online child sexual exploitation. This includes avoiding unwanted contact, online grooming, self-generated content, sexual extortion and how to get help.
ThinkUKnow was started in the United Kingdom by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and was developed for Australian audiences by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in 2009.
The program is a partnership between the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Microsoft Australia, Datacom and the Commonwealth Bank, and is delivered in collaboration with New South Wales Police Force, Northern Territory Police, Queensland Police Service, South Australia Police, Tasmania Police, Western Australia Police and Victoria Police as well as Neighbourhood Watch Australia.
It is Australia’s first (and only) nationally delivered crime prevention program.