Citizen Times: Local nonprofit helps families have a tough conversation
August 2, 2021 | Chris Worthy
John Van Arnam, founder of The Third Talk, likens sex to driving. No one would expect a young person learn to drive by watching “Fast and Furious” movies. Van Arnam also knows they shouldn’t learn about sex by watching pornography. But access is everywhere – children have it on their phones – so he wants parents to talk with their children about it.
“Our purpose is to initiate the conversation between parents and their young people regarding avoiding the exposure of explicit adult material to young folks,” he said.
The conversation transcends religious beliefs, political opinions and more, Van Arnam said.
“This is about avoiding exposure to explicit adult material online and nothing else,” he said. “There are no ideologies. This is not sex education. This is information on how to initiate a very tricky and difficult conversation that candidly, all parents should have with their young people, and historically, just haven’t done so.”
For parents who think “not my kid,” Van Arnam noted that the average age in the United States for exposure to online adult material is 11. And parents can’t rely on filters to save the day.
“We are trying to make sure parents are the first people to introduce this concept,” he said. “When young people see this and they haven’t had any education or information about this and they don’t understand what they are looking at, they will watch it and dopamine is released in the brain.”
Van Arnam said the brain wants dopamine, so young people will continue to watch and sooner than parents may realize, it produces shame that can have an impact for a long time to come.
“Education is sunlight,” Van Arnam said.
Since most parents did not have the ever-present online access that many children have today, they also likely did not have this conversation with their own parents. As such, they don’t have a guide. Van Arnam is conducting seminars for schools and holding individual family coaching, as well as offering a parent starter kit. From his perspective, the answer is “an ounce of prevention versus the pound of cure.”
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