NSPCC advice on talking to your children about pornography

There’s no doubt that children these days are exposed to sexual images and adult content at a far younger age, and in more places than ever before, including music videos, websites and social media.

In 2018/19, the NSPCC’s round-the-clock service, Childline delivered 876 counselling sessions with children worried about online pornography. And with the Government delaying plans to bring in age verification for online porn, the charity has put together some top tips on how to talk to your child about porn.


Children look to their parents or carers for help, so it is up to you to talk to them when you feel they might need a nudge in the right direction, or some advice. Talking about porn is something you are both going to find challenging, so be honest and acknowledge that. And reassure your child it is ok to feel curious about sex and that they can always talk to you about it.

It is also worth remembering that some young people stumble across porn online by accident or have been pressured into watching it by their friends. Explain to your child that whilst some people watch porn online, not everyone does and it’s not something they have to do. Let them know it’s fine not to want to watch or do something that makes them feel uncomfortable and they should never be pressured or forced into anything.

You should also explain why you think that online porn may be inappropriate for them. Use reference points from news stories or TV shows to frame the discussion.

One of the most important points to raise with your child is sex shown in online porn is often different to how people have sex in real life. People are acting and putting on a performance so things are exaggerated and the lines between consent, pleasure and violence are often blurred. It’s important for young people to know the difference.

Studies have shown that when children and young people are exposed to sexually explicit material, they are at greater risk of developing:

  • unrealistic attitudes about sex and consent
  • more negative attitudes towards roles and identities in relationships
  • more casual attitudes towards sex and sexual relationships
  • unrealistic expectations of body image and performance.

Talking about healthy relationships can be a way of pointing out the differences between how actors and actresses in porn interact and how we do in our day-to-day lives. Ask them what they think makes a good relationship. You can use prompts by discussing respect, personal boundaries and consent.

If you feel there are some things about sex and relationships that your child would feel uncomfortable talking to you about, there are safe places online where they can get information, like the NSPCC’s Childline website.

Related features:

Sex education: tips for parents who don’t know where to start with the ‘birds and bees talk’

Doing It Like The Dutch: Four tips from the world’s best sex educators

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