Online Porn Affecting teens

How young is too young?

By Jessica Bartsch

Like any business, the pornography industry’s sole purpose is to make money, whether their business comes from consenting adults, children or teens.

In fact, according to InternetSafety101.org, the industry uses many different marketing tactics to attract viewers and lure children. Most sites do not even request an age verification of their visitors and even offer free samples of pornographic images.

In a statistic found by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation in 2006, 7 out of 10 youths, ages 8–18, have accidentally come across pornography.

VAST spoke with President and CEO of Calgary Sexual Health Centre, Pam Krause, to get a better perspective on how those numbers correlate with a Calgary audience.

Calgary Sexual Health is affiliated with the Calgary Board of Education and has been teaching in CBE schools since 1975.

“The programs we offer are hugely focused on media literacy now. Youth are being sold things all the time and the reality that we are dealing with now is pornography,” said Krause. “Porn is very open and accessible. We are seeing 12-year-olds addicted to porn, so porn is working its way into the margins when back in the day, you had to go to extensive lengths to get porn and now, it’s so easily accessible.”

Krause continues and confirms that not only is pornography easily accessible but it is, in fact being marketed for teens.

“In the case of one 12-year-old, his father tells us that his son found porn through gaming.”

So, with all this newfound accessibility, how exactly is porn affecting our youth?

Krause says that in her experience of observation porn has always been used as a sex education but she worries that the plethora of porn is having a lasting effect on the developing brain.

Richelle Mottosky, an Alberta Registered Psychologist, weighs in.

“Watching porn has a risk of grossly distorting beliefs. Neurons that fire together wire together and porn is an active participant in influencing neurons firing together. This process influences stimulus-response which affects developing minds,” said Mottosky. “Also porn may influence atypical, unsustainable, and unrealistic expectations regarding intimacy, contributing to developing obsessions that are followed by compulsions that never complete or satisfy. As well, the easy access and anonymity increases risk of isolation and risks decrease in social skills development.”

Mottosky also mentions that other potential dangers for young teen boys watching porn may include an expectation to “make porn” not “make love”. They may unconsciously objectify their partner, minimize or disregard other’s boundaries, be unaware of others struggling, respecting ‘no’ as a true answer and having atypical beliefs about women’s wants and needs.

The influx of unsolicited porn is also an astonishing reality. According to TechAddiction.ca, 34% of Internet users have experienced unwanted exposure to porn either through pop-up ads, misdirected links or emails. With the average age at which a child first sees porn online being 11.

So, what should parents do if they find their child is watching porn?

“Address it. Talk about it. Offer alternatives such as good old-school magazine masturbation is a more passive way to stimulate sexual pleasure centres with less risk of addiction,” said Mottosky. “Discuss the benefits, limitations, advantages, and disadvantages. Normalize and validate age appropriate sexual identity exploration and offer guidance as well as privacy without which with contribute to decreasing their risk of developing a need for secrecy which leads to feeling shame and guilt.”

Krause suggests the same open dialogue, not only about pornography but also with sexual education in general.

“The ideology goes back to the basics of sexual education starting at home. As soon as the child learns how to communicate, it is important to teach proper terminology for the body parts and reproductive organs,” said Krause. “Give them proper tools to respect the issue and allow for the normalization of sexuality.”

Without proper communication, children and teens are left to their own devices for finding ways to educate themselves.

Research confirms that the multibillion-dollar porn industry is not going anywhere and even more shocking, the accessibility for children is only getting more prevalent. Therefore, the responsibility shifts to parents to educate themselves, and be prepared to have open lines of communication with their children in regards to pornography.

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