It is potentially one of the most awkward conversations you could ever have with your children.

It could be a teenager embarrassingly trying not to make eye contact as their parents talk about hormones and a changing body. Or it might be a parent fumbling their way through a clumsy conversation about the birds and the bees.

Either way, most of us have been through the dreaded sex talk. It's important to know if you avoid this conversation, there's a default setting that will 'teach' your tamariki – pornography. Gone are the days where teenagers secretly passed around their uncle's Playboy collection. Porn today is graphic, violent, degrading and easily accessible.

Like most social issues, we can't approach the topic with the idea of hiding or holding back information. It's probably too late to prevent young people from watching porn, the genie is well and truly out of the bottle.

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Porn today often involves extreme behaviour, including choking, gagging, physical violence and most important of all – a complete lack of consent. The porn narrative is sending all the wrong messages and teaching unhealthy behaviour from an early age.

It's not natural, there's no connection, intimacy or reciprocity. It creates a very dangerous norm of sexual entitlement, especially for our young men. Women are often mistreated, degraded and dehumanised.

Young women watching porn could easily be forgiven for thinking they should accept being wolf-whistled at, have their body parts grabbed and being objectified. Young men likewise think this is normal and treat women like that because that's what they saw on the porn video, and no one has told them any different.

As parents we have a social responsibility to have open, honest conversations with our kids. We have to have safe dialogue about how those messages make them feel emotionally, socially and eventually with their own relationships. If you don't, pornography will.

Here are some tips to approach the issue; talk early and often. You don't have to fit everything into one conversation. Listen and be ready to answer questions. What they ask can tell you a lot about what they already know.

Try using things that come up on TV, music or social media to start a conversation. Be honest about what you are feeling, if you are embarrassed or uncomfortable, it's okay to say so.

For more information and online tools check out www.keepitrealonline.govt.nz or www.netsafe.org.nz