I have always felt comfortable discussing the human body and sexuality with my patients. In fact, when talking to parents about language development and how a child learns language, I often discuss playing the game “where is your eye, where is your nose?”. Over time a child learns not only to point to the body part, but will soon say the word. Quickly thereafter children ask about their other body parts and I encourage parents to call them by their correct name…penis, testicle, vagina, etc. This is easy for some parents, but some find it awkward and anxiety provoking…and need a bit of prodding as they feel uncomfortable even saying the words out loud.
So, when it comes to a child getting older and discussing puberty and developmental changes I again have some parents who say….” REALLY, do I have to discuss this” or “can’t they just learn this at school” or “isn’t there a book they can read”? Some others will say, “ I think my child is too young”…but their child may be 10 or 11. By this age some children I see are already starting to have body changes, and may have wondered “what is happening to me?”. But what I find equally interesting is that I also routinely ask their child “do you have a cell phone, computer or iPad?” and therefore many have internet access. Now, why are the two being discussed together….? Because it seems that many kids are learning about sex and sexuality from the internet and social media, rather than from their parents. So, not only are parents unaware that their child already “knows” more than they think, they also do not realize that their child’s idea of sex may be totally skewed and even inappropriate, depending on what website they have “stumbled upon” for information.
It seems that more and more young kids may be getting an education in pornography rather than sex and human sexuality. In many cases these young kids are “innocent” when they type the word “SEX” into the Google search….but what pops up is not. This in fact happened to a young partner of mine who called me, her son’s pediatrician, in “horror” to tell me what she had found on her sons I-pad. “PURE PORN” I believe were the words she used. While she and her husband had talked to him about body changes and sex before (I remember I gave her my previously well used book “Where Did I Come From”. But, being a normally curious boy ( or girl) he had gone to his iPad (which he uses with guidelines and supervision) and typed in SEX . WHOA…you should see the places he went! When he was “discovered”, he admitted that he was scared when he saw the pictures, as well as confused. After a lengthy discussion about “healthy” sex and some more appropriate pictures, his iPad was put in “time-out” for awhile.
But, is this how today’s youth are going to learn and think about sex and sexual relationships….from internet porn that they have seen either intentionally or accidentally? I expect that there are going to be more and more problems with our teens and young adults having what I would term “inappropriate sexual relationships” if their knowledge and expectations are learned from these sites. I don’t know how you possibly block all of this sexual information, some of which is quite inappropriate, oppressive and seemingly not consensual, from our kids. At the minimum you need to make sure that you are having conversations about sex as your child gets older… use the appropriate terms for body parts as well as positions and types of sex … because they might be aware of a lot more than you think, and are too confused and embarrassed to ask.