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Teens and Internet Pornography

Tips for Parents in Dealing with Pornography

  • The key is to remain calm (please refer to “Guidelines for Parents: CALM in the “Know Your Limits” column). Use a neutral and nonjudgmental tone in talking to teens, taking care not to lecture, yell, blame or shame them for their behavior or for hiding it. Prepare yourself in advance so that you can be in the right mindset for an open conversation.
  • Be frank and upfront. Do not lie or test them to see if they will confess the truth. Let them know you are aware that they have have been looking at some websites that can be confusing and harmful to children.
  • Explain the dangers. The dangers are:
    1. You can easily get addicted to viewing these images because they trick you into feeling pleasure and excitement. You may not realize it until it’s too late. Once you get addicted you feel compelled to keep doing it, aren’t in control, and it’s hard to stop.
    2. The images can be sexually exciting and that can make you want more and more. Eventually the things that would naturally create sexual excitement will no longer have that effect.
    3. Going to these sites can make you feel ashamed and bad about yourself, and then you have to hide this behavior from people,
    4. The images will mislead you. You won’t be able to tell what’s normal sexual behavior and what isn’t.
    5. Viewing these images repeatedly can have negative effects on development of healthy sexuality and that will affect your relationships in the future.
  • Educate teens about predators online. Inform them that teens are targeted by predators – “grooming” them by appealing to teens’ interest in and curiosity about romance, sex, and risk-taking. (Wolak et al., 2006). Predators disguise their age and identity – and use tricks that make them seem like they are your friend, in order to get you to you trust and confide in them, preparing to manipulate and use you.
  • Let them know that just like you have rules about where it is safe to go in the real world there are the same rules about the virtual world. Some places are dangerous and are especially dangerous because they pull you in and can make it hard to stop going there.
  • Explain that you will keep an eye on where they go online in order to protect them. Explain the rules they need to follow to be safe online.
  • Explain and answer questions that help them understand the basis for rules and guidelines. Don’t be mysterious or make the sites seem forbidden.
  • Don’t be controlling or authoritarian.
  • Avoid getting into a power struggle – you will ultimately lose. If teens comply to be obedient, to avoid punishment, or avoid disappointing you, they are more apt to rebel, go behind your back, or lie to you.
  • Show an interest in who their online buddies are, just like you are interested in their other friends.
  • Familiarize yourself with Internet safety guidelines for parents, including learning acronyms teens use when they text and IM each other.


Janis Wolak, Kimberly Mitchell, and David Finkelhor (2006). Online Victimization of Youth: Five Years Later. Alexandria, Virginia: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 1-96.

Teens and Internet Pornography

Lynn Margolies, Ph.D.

Dr. Lynn Margolies is a psychologist and former Harvard Medical School faculty and fellow, and has completed her internship and post-doc at McLean Hospital. She has helped people from all walks of life with relationship, family, life problems, trauma, and psychological symptoms including depression, anxiety, and chronic conditions. Dr. Margolies has worked in inpatient, outpatient, residential and private practice settings. She has supervised others, and consulted to clinics, hospitals, universities, newspapers. Dr. Margolies has appeared in media -- on news and talk shows, and written columns for various publications. Dr. Margolies is currently in private practice in Newton Centre, MA. Visit her website at

APA Reference
Margolies, L. (2018). Teens and Internet Pornography. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.