A version of this Forum Letter was published in the Straits Times on 11 September 2019.
A recent report on how a family helped their son with pornography addiction highlights the important role of parents in navigating this area of concern with their children (Help! My child is hooked on porn, Sep 8).
We affirm how the parents in the report used a non-shaming approach to deal with their child’s pornography habit. It has been found that those who experienced shame are much more likely to seek out pornography. Hence, instead of discouraging pornography use, shame actually increases it. 
As for the use of Internet filters, research showed that Internet filters rarely prevent adolescents from accessing pornography.  On the other hand, accountability software, as well as the practise of accountability in the family, seems to be much more effective. 
However, the help parents give their children to fight pornography should also take place in a larger conversation about sex and sexuality. But more needs to be done to equip parents in this area.
A local survey we conducted found that while 8 in 10 youths and young adults believe that parents have the primary responsibility for teaching children about sex and sexuality, the majority turned to the Internet or social media, peers, and teachers for such information.
We recommend that parents teach their children about sex and sexuality from as young as possible, and to continue the conversation in age-appropriate ways as they grow up.
Some of these ways could be: naming body parts and teaching them the privacy of genital areas from around 0–3 years old; introducing the biological differences between boys and girls, the distinctions between “good touch” and “bad touch,” as well as how to respond to inappropriate touch around the ages of 4–6; having conversations on puberty, respectful relationships, healthy physical and social boundaries around ages 7–12; and discussing issues of self-esteem, identity, and healthy friendships and dating relationships with the opposite sex around ages 13–19.
Parents need to understand and conduct sexuality education as a series of ongoing, age-appropriate conversations, rather than a solitary talk about sex, as the latter may be awkward for their kids. Sexuality education is often better received by children when parents find teachable moments and have short chats centred around these moments.
With the increasingly complex challenges of sexuality in today’s world, parents, more than ever, need to equip themselves to help their children navigate these challenges well.
Family Life Specialist
Focus on the Family Singapore
- Who Watches Porn? 3 Key Predictors of Porn Use
- Internet Filtering and Adolescent Exposure to Online Sexual Material
- Do Internet filters work?
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