A report by the Children’s Commissioner published earlier this year found that:

  • The average age at which children first see pornography is 13.
  • By age nine, 10% had seen pornography, 27% had seen it by age 11 and 50% had seen it by age 13.
  • At age 13 there was no difference between the number of boys or girls who had seen it.

The report found that early exposure to pornography impacts upon young people’s self-esteem and can affect their behaviour later in life.

  • Young people who had viewed pornography aged 11 or younger were significantly more likely to present lower self-esteem scores than the average young person.
  • Children who view online pornography at age 11 or younger are significantly more likely to become frequent users as young adults.
  • There is also evidence to show that exposure to violent pornography is negatively impacting the attitudes and sexual behaviour of young people.

All of this tells us that the dangers of pornography cannot be ignored.

What is the role of parents in tackling pornography?

The Church teaches that

Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2223

This means that parents are not just the most important people in a child’s life. They also shape the future lives of their children by helping them navigate the world around them. They guide them in making good choices and in avoiding the things that threaten their wellbeing. The evidence from countless studies is telling us that pornography is one of those threats.

However, pornography is not an easy subject to discuss with your child. Many parents feel ill-equipped to deal with the subject. This session aims to build parent confidence and give practical guidance for having those conversations.

How can parents and carers support their children?

Parental controls are a helpful tool that can protect children from harmful explicit content. But, teachers, like parents, know that having clear boundaries on its own does not automatically lead to good decision making by children or young people.

The UK Children’s Commissioner report suggests three key pieces of advice for parents and carers

  • Have proactive, age-appropriate conversations about pornography, ideally before your child is given their first phone.
  • Keep abreast of new technologies and trends and know where to go for external support if you are concerned about your child.
  • Ensure that your child knows that they can turn to you for non-judgemental advice and support if they come across something distressing online.

What does the Church teach about pornography?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines pornography as

…the removing of real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2354

The Church teaches that this is a serious sin and goes against human dignity.

Many people recognise this. They are rightly concerned with the issues in the pornography industry  – issues around sexual exploitation and even human trafficking. They can also see that those involved in this industry whether as models, actors, producers, distributors or consumers are engaged in the business of selling sex. In this way people are objectified and the link between human sexuality and love is destroyed and a commercial relationship put in its place.

This gets to the root of the Church’s opposition to pornography. This is because pornography, like prostitution, undermines the authentic love which sex is meant to express.

So what is authentic love?

The Catholic Church teaches that authentic love is free, full, faithful and fruitful.

These are four elements of how love should be expressed in good and healthy relationships – freely, fully, faithfully and fruitfully. But, pornography fails on all four counts:

Pornography doesn’t allow a person to live and love freely because it almost always becomes addictive. Plus many of those involved in the pornographic industry are being manipulated and exploited. They are not free agents.

Pornography doesn’t enable someone to give themselves fully in love, because watching pornography doesn’t enable a reciprocal  relationship. It is about taking, not giving.

Pornography doesn’t portray or foster faithfulness in relationships. Our minds can often be drawn to fantasise about and objectify the people we are watching, habits which transfer across to our ‘real-life’  relationships.

Pornography doesn’t celebrate fertility and the gift of children. It is almost always linked to masturbation which is not a sexual act that is open to life.

Free Live Parents Session

How to talk to your child about pornography

Our free CPD session will give advice and encouragement to parents and carers about how to talk to and protect children from the harms of online pornography.

What will the session cover?

During the session, parents will learn more about why we need to talk to our children about pornography and how it is addressed in Life to the Full. They will also be given some ideas for how to share these insights in an appropriate way with children.

It is a great opportunity for you to engage with parents and carers at your school.

To register for your school to host the session so that you can share it with parents and carers:

Sign up here