Move over, “where do babies come from.”

A sex and relationships educator working with children for more than 30 years revealed the surprisingly grown up question she’s now asked most frequently by kids.

“Nearly every day,” Rowena Thomas recently told Australia’s ABC News, a curious youngster will quiz her: “What does the number 69 mean?”

Thomas explained that children hear the naughtiest number being giggled about on the playground, or being discussed by older schoolmates. Not wanting to seem out of step with their peers, children will often turn to their parents or trusted adult supervisors for an explanation.

The ribald reveal comes as children are being exposed to pornography and other sexually frank materials or media at increasingly younger ages, thanks to increased access to technology and a proliferation of explicit content has outpaced monitoring capabilities and regulation efforts.


About 15% of children report that they first saw pornography before turning 11, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported.
Getty Images

The majority of American children receive their first cell phone between the ages of 9-14, according to Statistica, and about 15% of children report that they first saw pornography under age 11, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported. From 20-38% of those aged 11 to 17 reported watching porn in the last year.

Thomas suggests that adults answer questions that arise calmly and matter-of-factly with age-appropriate information and validate the child’s curiosity instead of shutting down the conversation.

“Parents think that immediately they have to go into talking about oral sex, but that’s not what the kids are asking. The kids are just curious, the number 69, what on earth does it mean?” Thomas explained.

The expert did note that the term age-appropriate can vary by child. “But every child is definitely mature enough to be talking about this stuff, in an age-appropriate way, according to where you think your child is at,” she advised.


Experts advise that parents and trusted adult supervisors allow children a safe and tolerate space to ask questions to avoid them turning to the internet.
Experts advise that parents and trusted adult supervisors allow children a safe and tolerate space to ask questions to avoid them turning to the internet.
Shutterstock / burakguler

“We [also] need to be talking about the dangers of pornography, just like we talk about the dangers of swimming in a rip or riding a bike without a helmet,” Thomas advised.

“Parents aren’t talking about it because they don’t think that their nice child would watch pornography — very nice kids watch pornography because they’re curious.”

However, she did clarify that “not every kid is watching porn, but a couple of kids in the class are watching porn, you can tell in nearly every class.”

“They get shown stuff, they get air-dropped pictures, they’re maybe at a friend’s house … and they want to fit in.”

The AAP’s research noted that studies have shown teens with a more strained parent-child relationship or those with parents who have adopt an authoritarian parenting style are more likely to intentionally seek out porn.

UNICEF has warned that the international organization is “alarmed by the massive quantity of pornography available online, including increasingly graphic and extreme content that is easily accessible to children of all ages.”

 “As soon as a child gets access to the internet, we should be saying to them: ‘If you see a naked picture online, I would be so proud of you if you tell me’,” Thomas said.