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Young people today are exposed to a plethora of sexual imagery in media – both online and off. This section looks at potential impacts of exposure to pornography on the development of healthy sexuality and offers tips for protecting young children and educating older kids.

One of the biggest concerns voiced by parents of young Internet users is the easy access to pornography that the Web provides. There are millions of porn sites online, making hardcore sexual images that were once very difficult to obtain now just a click away.

We know that young people are accessing explicit content online. We know less about how this exposure is impacting their attitudes and behaviours. If kids are finding good and accurate information about sexual health or healthy relationships that’s a positive thing, but if the bulk of their exposure is to pornography, then they may be receiving distorted – or even violent and deviant – messages about relationships and sexual behaviour.

Given the high likelihood that youth are going to come across or seek out online pornography at one point or another, not to mention the many messages they receive about sex through other media, it is important that parents take an active role in their kids’ Internet use and start talking to them about healthy relationships and sexuality at early ages to help them contextualize and make decisions about what they’re seeing online.