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Curriculum

Putting Porn on the Curriculum

When my children first entered school I didn’t give much thought to the impact pornography would have on their lives. Then one day we found the images: hardcore pornography, full penetration. That led to the first of many talks with our children.

What I had overlooked was what a huge game-changer the Internet has been for the porn industry. What once took effort for the consumer to procure is now available in unlimited amounts, to anyone, at any age. You don’t even have to seek it out – it finds you through embedded gaming links, pop-up ads, and unsolicited emails.

As parents and educators, we’ve been slow to catch up to the impact of what has been referred to as the new drug. It took a recent conversation with my third son to really open my eyes to how we could be addressing this issue better at school, as well as in our homes.

I had just got off the phone with a friend. She was concerned about her children’s access to pornography, but wondered if bringing it up with them could backfire and make them more curious.

I decided to seek expert advice – I asked my kids.

I explained the dilemma to my seventeen-year-old first. I told him parents often worry that just talking about pornography with their kids will inspire them to seek it out. Did he think it was a valid concern?

“Not really,” he said, as he fixed himself another PB&J. “Parents should definitely talk to their kids about it. No offense, Mom, but it would have been a lot easier on me if you had given me some idea of what was out there before I was eleven. The first time I found porn on our computer was because of something I overheard kids talking about. I was curious, so I looked it up when I got home from school. I had no idea what I was getting into.”

This was a little upsetting to hear, but didn’t surprise me. What he added next did catch my attention:

“Plus, that same year we talked about porn in Health. My teacher said we’d come across it soon, if we hadn’t already. He said that a lot of people use porn to masturbate and we shouldn’t feel bad if we did… We didn’t talk much more about it.”

Pause.

“But it kind of made me feel pressure to experiment. You know, like it wasn’t normal if I didn’t use porn that way.”

What’s the big deal anyhow?

I’ll be honest; this did not sit well with me. But was I right to be concerned? So many people think that using pornography is a natural part of sexual development. I needed to dig deeper for answers.

It didn’t take much research to discover that the majority of today’s porn is problematic in many ways. In fact, I now feel convinced that children’s frequent exposure to pornography can be detrimental to their mental health and may actually hinder sexual development. Here are just a few of my concerns:

Mounting research demonstrates that the brain’s response to pornography is similar to that of addictive drugs. It is this response that compels individuals to continue seeking more stimulation.

As with smoking, alcohol and drug consumption, the adolescent brain is especially vulnerable to compulsive behaviours associated with using porn.

Almost ninety percent of mainstream sexually explicit content features violence towards women. Kids come away with the message that you’re supposed to be violent when you are intimate with somebody.

Pornography also encourages gender stereotypes and promotes the rape-myth culture that puts our young women at risk.

Erectile dysfunction in healthy young males has increased nearly 1,000 percent (yes, that’s one thousand) in the last 20 years. Many attribute this dramatic increase to Internet porn use.

There are strong correlations between the porn industry and the rise of human trafficking globally and domestically.

Back to my son’s experience at school. Shouldn’t this information have been included in the discussion on pornography? If our objective is to help students to integrate the information they receive in the classroom to their own “personal health choices”1 then we should address addiction, violence and human trafficking when we talk about pornography.

Students need to know that using pornography has the potential for negative health consequences. We need a curriculum that gives our students the whole health story on porn.

Photo: iStock

First published in Education Canada, June 2017


1 www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/health1to8.pdf

Meet the Expert

Marilyn Evans

Marilyn Evans lives east of Toronto with her husband and five sons. She blogs about positive ways to address the issue of pornography with children at www.parentsaware.info.

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