Being exposed to sexual content is one of Canadian parents’ top worries about their kids’ online experience and also one of kids’ own top concerns. It’s not hard to see why: while there are no longer any explicitly pornographic sites among kids’ favourite platforms and websites – and the services that are their favourites such as TikTok and Instagram ban sexually explicit content – almost a third of Canadian kids have been exposed to porn online without looking for it.
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 accurate and good quality information about sexual health or healthy relationships, that’s a positive thing. However, if the bulk of their exposure is to pornography, then they may be receiving distorted 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’s 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.