Teenagers in England have advised parents to warn their children about the dangers of online pornography and sexting as early as the age of eight or nine.
Trying to create a guide on how parents could best deal with sex-related issues, the Children’s Commissioner for England worked with a group of older teenagers and created a panel who have now come out with some findings and also warnings.
On Thursday, December 16, the panel said studies suggest half of under-11s have seen pornography, so parents need to be ready to talk earlier.
The panel of teenagers say tricky conversations like these need to start before children get phones, because by the time they get phones it then becomes too late.
A panel of young people, working with England Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza, shared their advice on the things they wish their parents had told them before they entered the online world.
The clear message passed by the teens was that conversations needed to take place much earlier.
This comes after Grammy award winning singer, Billie Eilish revealed early this week that she started watching porn from the age of 10 and that earlyporn exposure caused her nightmares.
Many children stumble across pornography online accidentally, the report added.
Under the current law, it is illegal for shops to sell DVDs, videos and magazines to under?18s, but there is a gap in the law around online pornography, which is freely available.
One teenager said: “I feel like the best time for parents to have a conversation about porn is a bit earlier for boys than girls.
“From my experience of male friends, they definitely see porn earlier than my female friends. I mean like early – Year 4, Year 5, Year 6.”
Another said: “At that young age you don’t really know what’s right and wrong and you just follow whatever you see on porn sites.”
On sexting which is the sharing of nude or sexually explicit images – the panel said young people shared these pictures and videos for a number of reasons, such as peer pressure, for validation, to keep a relationship, as well as a result of coercion or manipulation.
Their advice was that parents needed to be careful not to jump to conclusions when they notice their children watch pornography.
One of the panel members said: “A lot of parents might just blame the child instantly instead of trying to support them.”
“Calmly ask your child open questions, and try to understand the context in which the picture/video was taken and shared.
“This will help you to work out how to respond.”
Dame Rachel also said she spoke to girls who talked about being sent porn by older boys at school.
“This can be scary and distressing and they would like to be able to talk to their parents about it.
“They also feel that parents of boys should be talking about why this kind of behaviour is not OK.”
The report also added that teenagers face pressures such as
‘Slut-shaming’, body shaming, sexualised threats and taking up skirt pictures and posting them online .
Dame Rachel advised parents and carers to create a safe, judgement-free space to talk about such issues before a crisis emerges.
“It’s better to do that before you hit a problem rather than trying to create that mood while you’re dealing with one or discovering later that they hadn’t felt able to tell you,” she said.
“It takes a lot of bravery for a child to share their experiences of abuse or harassment. Parents and carers are telling me they want to match that bravery in getting to grips with these issues.”