Talking with Teens

Putting our heads in the sand because we’re too embarrassed isn’t going to help anyone. So, even if it makes you blush at first, learn to be frank. One day, your kids will look back and thank you for it. — Richie Hardcore, NZ social change campaigner

Here’s some simple tips for talking to your teen about porn including:

preparing for the conversation, conversation openers, topics to talk about, helpful resources and keeping the lines open.

Before your conversation …


Before you dive into a porn talk with your teen, we recommend getting yourself prepared. If you rush, your teen might feel uncomfortable or judged, and may close down any conversation. We recommend BLAT (Breathe, Learn, Ally, Talk and Take Action) on our whānau page to help prepare.


Talk to the person or people you’re parenting with (your partner or extended whānau) and decide who’s the best person to start the conversation. It could be both of you, or just one of you might be less intimidating – you know your young person best.

Prepare to be

The chances are pretty high that your teen has seen some porn. Try not to act surprised about what they tell you, such as the kind of porn they may have watched. This isn’t the time for shame and blame, so avoid words like bad or wrong and take a curious, open, non-judgemental approach.

Tailor message to your child’s age and usage

Your conversation will need to be guided by your child’s age, knowledge and experience. If your child is 12-13 years old, or you haven’t had the ‘sex talk’ with them yet, you might want to check out the TWEEN section in Talking with children and tweens – as some of the messaging below for teens may not be age appropriate yet.

Choose the right time and place

Talking while doing an activity (such as driving) can work well as it is a less awkward or intense way to first begin a porn conversation.


Your young person may have had some negative experiences with porn and be wanting to talk to you about this, but be too embarrassed to bring it up on their own. It helps if you’re aware of some of the common porn-related problems that teens can face before you talk to them.

These can Include ...

  • Feeling pressure to watch porn by friends or a partner.
  • Revenge porn (someone distributing nudes of them or a friend without consent).
  • Feeling their porn use is out of control.
  • Seeking increasingly violent porn – and feeling uncomfortable with it, but unable to stop.
  • Feeling pressure to do something sexually that a partner has seen in porn.
  • Having sent images of themselves around and regretting it, but feeling too afraid to tell an adult.
  • Being pressured to send nude photos of themselves.
  • Feeling upset, anxious or traumatised by images in porn, especially when there’s a history of sexual abuse.

Conversation openers …

We recommend starting with a curious, questioning approach. Before you head straight into asking about your teen’s porn use, start with asking questions about their friends or peers attitudes towards porn and how they feel about it?

Ask open questions (ones that start with what, how and why) that get their perspective on porn – and make sure you listen with empathy.

Here are some opening lines to get underway …

“I heard that most teenagers are learning about sex through porn, what do you think?”

“Are your friends talking about or watching porn? What do you think about porn?”

“I’ve recently heard about Safe Surfer – a filter to protect young people from seeing porn. What do you think about that? Have you ever come across porn?“

Conversation ideas …

Once you’ve got the conversation started, you can start working with your teen on developing some ‘porn literacy’. This means helping them work out and understand some of the negative messages porn teaches us. It’s about helping them understand how porn is different to real life sex when it comes to things like consent, emotional connection, respect, safety and pleasure.

Here’s a few IDEAS to get going…

What’s the difference between porn sex and good real-life sex?

Good sex always includes consent, respect, emotional connection and pleasure for both partners. By comparison, porn sex contains lots of sexual aggression, there’s very little focus on mutual pleasure, males frequently dominate females and there’s often a lack of consent.  Porn might teach young people about sex, body parts and what goes where – but it doesn’t teach them how to have respectful, meaningful and healthy sex in the real world

“What kind of sex is porn teaching us?”

Porn and body image – are porn bodies real?

Most porn uses professional actors, many of whom have surgically altered bodies (such as breast enlargements) or use performance enhancing drugs such as Viagra. This is sometimes hard for young people watching porn, as it can cause unrealistic sexual expectations. Teens can start to feel pressure to ‘perform’ sexually or look like porn stars, which can cause body image and self-esteem issues.

 “Is porn realistic?”

What’s the impact of porn in the bedroom?

From our experience, this one seems to get young people’s attention! Frequent porn use can really start to impact young people’s sex lives – for the worse.

Males who watch porn regularly are more likely to be coercive (pressuring a partner to do something they don’t want to) and sexually aggressive with their partners. They can find it hard to get turned on without porn, are more likely to experience problems maintaining erections and can sometimes end up preferring porn to real partners. Porn can also make young people develop unrealistic sexual expectations, so real-life sex isn’t as pleasurable.

“Look after your sex drive, you’ll want it in the future.”

Keep the lines open

As you finish up the conversation, make sure you’re both on the same team …

Ask for their ideas

Your teen may know more about technology than you, so get their ideas about managing porn. This might be internet filter options, boundaries around social media, using the internet only in agreed public family spaces, monitoring unsupervised internet access or talking to friends about it.

Offer them help

If you think your teen may need help, offer some support or options for someone to talk to so they know they’ve been heard and feel there’s some hope. There are some good suggestions here: Need Help?


Peer Pressure

If your teen needs help with standing up to pressure to watch porn from friends and peers, talk to other parents and see what has helped their teens, or check out So What Now? which has some good tips.


Keep the conversation open

Ask your teen how you can keep the conversation going. See what’s best for them – it could be face to face or through texts or emails.

Thank them

Thank your teen for being honest and surviving an awkward conversation! Remind them that at the end of the day you’re on their side and want them to have a great understanding of what healthy sex looks like.

Keep the lines open

As you finish up the conversation …

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Peer Pressure

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Ask for their ideas

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Keep the conversation open

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Offer them help

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Thank them


There are some great specific PARENT RESOURCES we recommend that might help you keep the conversations going with your teenager. These include children’s books, parent guidelines to help prepare for porn conversations, conversation starters and filtering options. 


Want to know more?


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