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How to talk to your children about pornography

By Justice Kofi Bimpeh
Children learning

Being the mother of two adult daughters, I really ought to have the whole ‘let’s talk about sex’ conversation off pat by now.

But the subject has become a much broader affair in the decade or so since I started talking to my older girls about sex; and when it comes to their 11-year-old sister, it feels like I’m navigating uncharted waters.
That’s because today, educating our children about the facts of life must also encompass talking to them about things like pornography and sexting.

Delicately constructed stories about birds and bees really aren’t much help to children who will enter a sexual landscape where they’re in danger of learning a skewed version of the mechanics of sex from sites like Pornhub.
Sounds alarmist? The startling statistics uncovered this week suggest not. Figures obtained by the Press Association show children as young as five being expelled or temporarily excluded from British schools for "sexual misconduct," including watching porn and sharing explicit images.

Over 800 primary school children have been excluded over the past four years, and over 8,000 senior school students.
While a recent study from Middlesex University, commissioned by the NSPCC and the children's commissioner for England, found that at least half of children aged 11-16 had been exposed to online porn, with almost all (94 per cent) having seen it by the age of 14.

No wonder many people have claimed we have a 'primary school porn epidemic' on our hands. Clearly, the days when there was a perceived innocence to playground conversations surrounding sex are long gone. And however unsavoury such topics of conversation might seem for children, it’s vital we start gently introducing them at an early age.

When I first had 'the talk' with our older girls, now aged 22 and 19, it reflected the sex education I'd had at their age, and was timed so that the lessons they would have in the last year at primary school didn’t come as a shock.
There was lots of talk about ‘when two people fall in love’, the obligatory shrieks of horror about what goes where and the appalling realisation that their own parents had done such a thing.

But with our youngest, I have never actually sat her down for a specific conversation. Instead, it's been a continuous dialogue and necessarily so - because there’s so much more to cover that you couldn’t possibly hit a young child with it all in one go.

Speaking to little ones about the complexities of consent, the dangers of sending and receiving sexual images and the unrealistic portrayal of sex they will get from pornography has to be done by drip feed, otherwise, it’s traumatic for everyone concerned.

Chatting about how you shouldn’t text words or pictures that you wouldn’t be happy to have printed on the front of a T-shirt have taken place at the dinner table ever since our youngest got a mobile phone, aged nine.
Consent has been an ongoing conversation for longer, with gentle and regular reiterations that anything covered by a swimsuit is private, and that we all have the right to say 'no' when it comes to anything to do with our own bodies.

Hopefully, this means that as she gets older, it won’t seem such a leap when talk needs to take a more specific turn.
Meanwhile, our internet parental filters are set so rigidly at home that our older girls can’t even order new underwear online – but that won’t protect their sister from seeing porn on someone else's laptop or phone with less aggressive restrictions.

And so now that is also on our agenda – explained in its most simple terms that sex isn’t always about love, and online you can stumble across some very scary versions of it that are far from realistic.
Yes, it feels like a shattering of innocence to say these things to a little girl, and of course, I’d rather not.
But the alternative is to pretend that they don’t exist – and if I do that how will she ever be able to come to me and say ‘I’ve seen something I wish I hadn’t, and it’s scared me’ if she needs to? I owe it to my daughter to have a much stronger stomach than that.

The Telegraph