Boys and Porn: How to Talk to Your Son About Porn

Updated: January 26, 2022
Everything you need to know about sex ed for boys and what to do if you find out your child is watching pornography.
Boys and Porn
Table of contents

Boys and Porn: What's Normal?

The internet is an easily-accessible resource for information of all kinds, and adolescent boys take advantage of the freedom they have to search for whatever interests them. There is a never ending stream of information and entertainment from cosplay to YouTube videos of their favorite musicians. For many young men, one of the top searches is online porn. It's natural for teenage boys to be curious about sex. In the past, they were able to sneak in a few peeks of their father's Playboy magazine or their brother's contraband dirty pictures. Still, now, with the click of a mouse, internet porn is available anytime they want, and watching porn, whether on their computers or their smartphones, is as commonplace as watching reruns of The Simpsons.

Starting in elementary school and beyond, young people should have their online activity supervised to make sure they're only accessing age-appropriate content. Still, unfortunately, it's not that hard for 13-year-olds to figure out how to get around rules or website monitors to find what they're looking for.

So, while the conversation may be awkward, it's essential for parents to know how to approach boys expressing interest in porn and provide a healthy, honest approach to sex education.

What if My Son is Viewing Porn Online?

Boys and Porn Online

Parents may wonder what's normal for their sons regarding watching porn and how to manage their access to it. Should you be worried if you discover your son visiting online porn sites, watching X-rated videos, or reading hard-core pornographic magazines? Will this affect his healthy sexual development? Suppose viewing pornography has become a driving force in your boy's life. In that case, it may be time to talk with him about sexual relationships, unrealistic expectations of their sexual partners, and what a real-life sexual experience may be like.

This conversation with your young man may feel uncomfortable, but its important not to express anger or shame boys for demonstrating interest in internet porn. Shaming teenagers for their sexuality will only lead to more secrecy and them seeking out other sources of (possibly misleading) information.

What the Researchers Say

A 2020 report in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care shared that 54% of teenage boys ages 15-18 said they intentionally visited porn sites to view pornography. Unfortunately, parental controls are much harder to institute for online porn viewing and smartphone apps like Snapchat than other outlets like magazines and videos. Many young people believe online activity is private and anonymous, which emboldens them to search for sexual content they wouldn't look for on TV or at a magazine stand.

Some researchers approach adolescents viewing pornography as a fact of life as we all live more and more of our lives online. Instead of chastising and punishing them, some, like Emily Rothman, a professor at Boston University, think it's more productive to educate teenage boys about how to analyze the messages internet pornography is sending them.

Should You Worry About Your Son's Porn Habit?

Curiosity and experimentation are expected when it comes to sexual experience and teenage boys. There are concerns about watching porn online too frequently, though.

Some men develop erectile dysfunction due to too much internet pornography. One study showed that if boys grow used to masturbation for their sexual experiences, they can develop erectile dysfunction in healthy relationships. For the most part, this was only a problem for those with porn addiction, but the ease with which adolescent boys can access porn can create an ongoing problem that can lead to addiction.

From the study: "The research team defined porn addiction among their participants by using a specific validated cyberporn addiction score which consists of eleven questions. In the group below age 35, with a high porn addiction score, 45 percent had ED."

Other long-term concerns include:

  • Unrealistic expectations of what a woman's body will look like.
  • Inappropriate demands of women based on what they have seen when viewing pornography.
  • The loss of desire for a real-life sexual experience.
  • Sexual relationships that are unfulfilling.

Teaching Young Men About Sex and Life

Teaching About Sex

For those with younger teenage boys, begin sexual education sooner than later, preferably before he's had a chance to go down the online porn rabbit hole. If possible, it may be easier for adolescent boys to talk to another man instead of a woman, but whoever it is that has the conversation, they need to talk about the following topics:

  • Explicit material and how unrealistic it is
  • Healthy relationships and how they are not like pornography
  • Why masturbation is natural and age-appropriate
  • How porn addiction can be dangerous to their first-time and future sexual experiences
  • Why sexual content is usually based on fantasy and not reality

Keep in mind that teenage boys are bombarded with messages and unrealistic expectations about how they should look, behave, smell, act, and go through the day on social media and by peers, TV, movies, and so many other influences, both make-believe and real life. Young people have always needed a lot of space to figure out who they are and want to become as they grow into adulthood. While internet porn is usually just one part of their experience, viewing pornography can become a habit they find hard to quit for some adolescents. Keep the line of communication open so your son feels safe talking to you about his concerns.