Why parents should care that porn showed up on Ted Cruz's Twitter page

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The porn on Ted Cruz's Twitter feed reminds us that sexually explicit material is ubiquitous and easily accessible.

hardly makes me clutch my pearls.

Sure, it seems odd, given Cruz’s , in which he argued “there is no substantive-due-process right to stimulate one’s genitals.” But are we truly surprised when public figures’ sexual proclivities don’t square with their sexual politics?

We’re not.

What’s worth talking about — while we’re on the subject — is the ease with which we can access online porn. And by we, I don’t mean congressional staffers. I mean kids.

The American College of Pediatrics calls pornography exposure for children and adolescents Statistics are tough to nail down — kids are loath to admit watching porn; porn sites are loath to admit kids can gain access — but the 42 percent of internet users ages 10 to 17 view online porn in a year — with about two-thirds saying they arrived there unwittingly.

As the Cruz fiasco reminds us, people are curious. They type, they click, they — whoa! — watch. That’s especially true for adolescents, who may turn to Google with a question about some lingo or a body part and suddenly: Bam. Porn.

It’s one of the reasons we should be doubling down with comprehensive sex education in schools. Denying adolescents fact-based information about sex doesn’t quell their appetites. It simply sends them to the internet.

(Another reason is that to fewer teen pregnancies, lower rates of sexually transmitted infections and delayed initiation of sexual activity.)

Kids who glean their sex ed from porn can end up with an unhealthy body image and a warped impression of what a sexual relationship actually entails. And if porn is their first (and for a long time only) impression of sex, it can be a tough impression to undo.

A lot of experts recommend talking to your kids about porn proactively — i.e. not just after you catch them viewing it.

One of my favorite primers is in The New York Times, who acknowledges that a family’s individual values will dictate what such a conversation entails, but offers some clear guidance for getting started:

“There’s no harm in saying: ‘I know that a lot of kids are looking at porn online, but I’m hoping you won’t. Sex can be mutual, loving and fulfilling and it can be dark, offensive and destructive. What you see in pornography is almost always the wrong kind of sex, and I don’t want you getting the impression that that’s what sex is all about.’”

She also writes: “You may want to take up the unfortunate reality that many portrayals of sex — however distasteful or disturbing — can still be titillating. You might say: ‘There’s another reason I don’t want you looking at pornography. People often find that they’re turned on by stuff that they don’t feel good about watching. I wouldn’t want for you to be in the position of having your body react to something your head knows is wrong.’”

I’m also a big fan of Amaze’s animated video

is a nonprofit organization that offers sexual health information — often in the form of videos — for children, adolescents, parents and educators. The “Porn: Fact or Fiction” video is less that two minutes long but manages to pack in a handful of essential messages, including, “Porn might make you think that being sexual with another person has nothing to do with having an intimate, trustful or respectful relationship.” And, “Pornography often shows women as only existing to give men pleasure.” (Fair warning: The animation is fairly explicit.)

If there’s a key takeaway from porn showing up on Ted Cruz’s Twitter page, it’s that is the screenwriter behind two of “The Hangover” movies.

Just kidding. It’s that porn is never more than a click away and no amount of moralizing is going to reduce its ubiquity or its lure.

Adults can do with that what they will. But our kids deserve our help avoiding porn, and that means spelling out the downsides and offering fact-based, nondegrading information in its stead.

hstevens@chicagotribune.com

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